Coastal zones: focus of multi-disciplinary studies

Crucial:Coastal zones sustain 50 per cent of the world’s population.— Photo: Vivek Bendre

Crucial:Coastal zones sustain 50 per cent of the world’s population.— Photo: Vivek Bendre  

The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), at Anna University is developing a huge database to map coastal resources, including offshore wind resources to identify things like sites for offshore wind energy. The scientists are also identifying particularly sensitive coastal ecosystems such as Chilika Lake in Orissa.

Chilika Lake is an important source of biodiversity, but it is affected by problems such as over fishing, excessive nutrient loading from fertiliser runoff, and coastal flooding. The NCSCM has identified desired conditions that should be aspired to, as well as scientific methods for assessing overall ecosystem health.

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change sanctioned Rs.180 crore to Anna University for setting up the NCSCM and related research into land ocean interactions in the coastal zone (LOICZ). This is part of the Rs.1,055 crore granted to various projects involving coastal zones in India clubbed under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) initiative.

The move gains significance and importance given the fact that coastal zones around the globe are crucial for a number of reasons.

They are places of enormous ecological, cultural, social and economic significance sustaining about 50 per cent of the world’s population. About 46-48 per cent of global economic activity is generated in the coastal zone. The coast contains unique and sensitive eco systems of great natural and economic value and is home to numerous endangered species.

Along much of Earth’s coasts, a warming climate and sea level rise are already negatively affecting natural ecosystems and human communities.

The impacts

The impacts of global change such as these are intensely felt by small island states, along Arctic coasts, at river mouth deltas and in urbanised coastal zones.

The LOICZ project previously recognised the need to focus attention on these hotspots of coastal vulnerability and to produce policy relevant tools and information such as seminal assessments of coastal seas as net source or sinks of atmospheric CO2, river discharge to the oceans and guidelines for coastal resources assessment and biogeochemical modelling.

Dr. Valerie Cummins , Joint Chair, LOICZ was in Chennai recently to attend a workshop hosted by the LOICZ South Asia Regional Node at Anna University, Chennai.

Commenting on her experience at the workshop, she told this Correspondent: “It was fantastic to get an insight into the South Asia Node, and particularly to see and hear first-hand what is happening along the coast of India, and to learn how it is being managed by tools developed in the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), hosted at Anna University.”

Building on LOICZ project’s war against coastal degradation is the Future Earth-Coasts, a new global initiative that seeks to enable the scientific community to build knowledge through collaborative processes to better understand and address the profound and urgent changes occurring in vulnerable coastal zones.

According to Ms. Cummins, Chennai will be representing South Asia and will be one of the regional nodes (RNs) that will shape, coordinate and promote Future Earth-Coasts science. The Future Earth-Coasts will have stakeholders comprising of groups across government, industry, academia, funding bodies and civil society at global and regional levels.

“The challenge is to balance stakeholder interest, usually expressed at the local and regional levels, with the need to create more effective inputs into the development of relevant research at the global level to better deal with coastal degradation,” she said.

Dr. Cummins says: “The Future Earth-Coasts vision is to support transformation to a sustainable and resilient future for society and nature on the coast, by facilitating innovative, integrated and impactful science.”

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