Lakshadweep Islands At Risk of Losing Land Due to Rising Sea Levels: Study
The 35 islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago are at risk of land erosion and being inundated due to rising sea levels, according to new climate change projections.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, was published in the Regional Studies in Marine Science in May. It projects that almost 60% of the land along the shorelines of Kavaratti and Minicoy, two of the larger islands in the archipelago, will be lost by the end of the century.
Experts say the changes in sea levels are fuelled due to human interference and climate change. The islands, Kavaratti and Minicoy, are “particularly low lying and the coastal slopes are gentle. So sea-level rise can move inward much higher and cause more damage,” the study noted.
The Lakshadweep Islands are known for their delicate ecosystems — the habitat, a few meters above sea level, is already under considerable threat. Previously, a 2018 study, published in Science Advances, forecasted that “atolls,” islands supported and surrounded by coral reef structures in Lakshadweep and Seychelles, could become uninhabitable within three decades due to rising sea levels.
The current findings add to concerns over the future of the islands. Human activities such as commercial reef fishing and coral mining have interfered with natural processes along the shoreline, and have increased erosion. “In the case of Lakshadweep, erosion would hasten soon because of human-induced climate change,” said S. Abhilash from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) to Mongabay.
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Moreover, effects of climate change such as rising ocean temperatures, changing ocean currents, and cyclones are causing greater disturbances in the Arabian Sea, further pushing sea levels. These also threaten coral reefs, which protect the shoreline from waves and storms, further endangering the sustainability of the islands.
Land erosion will also wreak havoc for the community. “The projected inundation can be problematic for the islanders as the residential areas are quite close to the present coastline,” study co-author Aysha Jennath, Research Scholar, Department of Architecture and Regional Planning, at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, told Mongabay.
Previous regulations to safeguard the ecosystem include the creation of ‘No-Development Zones’ across the islands, within which no construction was permitted. Last month, however, a set of draft regulations known as the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) were brought in by the administration; these regulations were met with widespread protests as they paved the way for large scales development projects such as mining, construction, and building of roads, beachfront, and hotels, which could further threaten the fragile ecosystem.
“The proposed large-scale human interventions would aggravate climate change-related disasters in the coming days apart from eclipsing our livelihood possibilities considerably,” politician Muhammed Hambdullah Syed said.
The current study projects sea level rise by 0.78m in Lakshadweep; although this is less than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projection of 0.8-2.0m, “it does not imply that the islands are safe from rising sea levels,” Prasad K. Bhaskaran, a co-author of the study, said.
Experts, therefore, call for local conservation measures and nature-based solutions such as preserving mangroves trees, restoring coral reefs, along with “soft engineering” initiatives such as beach nourishment where sediments lost through erosion are replaced from other sources.
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