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20th January 2024 (8 Topics)

India’s coastal future needs safeguarding


Reclamation, dam construction, sand mining, sewage disposal and human settlements have increased the rate of coastal erosion.


India's extensive coastline, spanning 7,500 kilometers and hosting 1,200 islands, is not only an economic powerhouse but also a strategic asset. However, the region faces multifaceted challenges, necessitating a comprehensive policy response.

Economic Significance of India's Coastline

  1. Economic Contribution:
  • India's coastline, home to nine coastal states and six Union territories, contributes significantly to the national GDP. Cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Surat, and Visakhapatnam collectively contribute nearly 25% to India's GDP.
  • The coast hosts major and non-major ports handling 1.4 billion metric tonnes of cargo, connected to robust freight and logistics infrastructure.
  1. Blue Economy Impact:
  • India's blue economy, supporting 95% of all businesses in the country through transportation, accounts for approximately 4% of the GDP.
  • The country is a major global exporter of fish, rice, coconut, fruits, pepper, and other coastal commodities, with a thriving fishing industry sustaining millions of livelihoods.

Climate Crisis and Coastal Vulnerability

  1. Climate Change Ranking:
  • India ranks third among the top 50 nations facing the most danger from climate change by 2050.
  1. Hazards and Economic Costs:
  • The coastal zones are exposed to land-sourced and marine hazards, including shoreline erosion, tropical cyclones, and storm surges.
  • Almost 5,700 km of India's 7,500 km coastline is prone to cyclones and tsunamis, leading to estimated economic costs ranging from $27 billion for Mumbai to $43 million for Baleshwar district in Odisha.
  1. Human-Induced Exacerbation:
  • Human activities such as reclamation, dam construction, sand mining, and sewage disposal have increased coastal erosion, raised flood risks, and led to land loss.

Policy Responses and Challenges

  1. Mission Sagarmala:
  • Initiated in 2015, Mission Sagarmala prioritizes port modernization, community development, and coastal tourism.
  1. Policy Framework for Blue Economy:
  • The Draft Policy Framework for India's Blue Economy, prepared in 2020, underscores seven priority areas, emphasizing the economic, ecological, and geopolitical importance of coastal zones.
  1. Coordination Challenges:
  • Overlapping jurisdictions among local, state, and Union governments, armed forces, and public sector enterprises hamper coordinated policy responses.
  • Mumbai's coastline exemplifies the complexity, with numerous agencies managing different parts, resulting in conflicts and poor coordination.

Way Forward: Coordinated Policies for Coastal Resilience

  1. Strengthening Mission Sagarmala:
  • Enhance the implementation of Mission Sagarmala by fostering port modernization, community engagement, and sustainable coastal tourism.
  1. Blue Economy Priorities:
  • Focus on the seven priority areas outlined in the Draft Policy Framework, addressing marine spatial planning, fisheries, aquaculture, logistics, infrastructure, and offshore energy.
  1. Coordinated Governance:
  • Address jurisdictional conflicts by establishing systematic engagement mechanisms among local, state, and Union entities, armed forces, and local communities.
  1. Climate Resilience Strategies:
  • Develop and implement climate resilience strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change on coastal infrastructure and ecosystems.

Way Forward:

India's coastline, while a critical economic and strategic asset, faces escalating risks from climate change and human-induced activities. Coordinated and comprehensive policy responses, as outlined in Mission Sagarmala and the Draft Policy Framework for Blue Economy, are imperative to ensure the resilience of coastal regions. Overcoming jurisdictional challenges and engaging local communities are crucial steps toward safeguarding India's coastal sustainability and economic vibrancy.

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