1.1m likely rise in sea levels spells disaster for Maharashtra’s 720-km coast

Mumbai, April 2 (IANS)
Amid all the gloomy predictions of the 2023 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the Maharashtra coastal areas are also on the caution list for possible disasters with global warming leading to rising sea-levels, experts warned.
The western Indian state has a straight coastline of 720 km from Palghar (bordering Gujarat) to Sindhudurg (bordering Goa), and with a likely increase of 1.1 metres (3.7-feet) in the Arabian Sea levels, coastal communities will be gravely threatened, warns Dr. Anjal Prakash, Research Director of Indian School of Business.
He, along with other experts was the Coordinating Lead Author and Lead Author of two of the six reports of IPCC-2023 in the 6th Assessment Cycle synthesised.
Dr. Prakash cautioned that important cities and hundreds of villages dotting the coastal districts of Palghar, Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, and other infrastructure dotting the seashores, could be at higher risk of floods, coastal erosion and other onslaughts by the turn of the century as the Earth warms.
“Maharashtra will witness higher temperatures with more heat waves leading to major health problems, severe water scarcity for agriculture, industries and homes as the state depends largely on the monsoon. Flooding will be a common occurrence, agriculture could be hit in many ways with serious implications for crop yields and food security owing to changing temperature-rainfall patterns,” said Dr. Prakash.
He said that the IPCC-2023’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate has looked at two interconnected systems – the oceans and the cryosphere (frozen zones of the world and glacier systems).
“Due to global warming, we are seeing that oceans have warmed up to a level of 0.8 degrees Celsius in the past around 175 years, or since the pre-industrial era (1850). Due to this ocean warming, it has given rise to an active water cycle leading to an increased frequency and severity of cyclones,” he explained.
Here he cited a recent study of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, which has documented and indicated that there has been “a substantial rise in the number of cyclones and associated extreme weather events along coastal areas as compared to previous years”.
Though this is very recent phenomenon – like the Cyclone Tauktae (2021), Cyclone Nisarga (2020) – they have caused havoc and will continue to have a devastating impact on Maharashtra, especially the Konkan coast including Mumbai, the creeks estuaries, nearby islands, big and small ports, forts and other monuments, with more like a nuclear power plant and a petrochemicals complex in the offing.
These extreme weather conditions along with more pre-and-post monsoon cyclones in the Arabian Sea will hit the state’s coastal populations more severely in the coming decades, and impact over 40 crore (400 million) Indians, said other experts of Association for Scientific & Academic Research (ASAR).
“For instance, the IPCC’s global statistics show that there has been a decline in fish production due to the effects of climate change, and the consequences for coastal communities are significant and must be considered,” Prakash pointed out.
On the possible steps to counter the impending calamities, the expert offers certain short-term and other long-term measures.
“The short-term measures include a Climate Adaptation Plan to address problems at the sub-district level, meaning we need to comprehend the impacts of climate change within Maharashtra’s districts, downscale the climate scenarios for each district and sub-districts, and then determine what interventions are needed. It must be a bottom-up strategy in which we assess adaptation and mitigation plans after analysing the effect of climate change on people’s livelihoods,” Dr. Prakash said.
On the long-term measures, he feels it must include a top-down strategy in which climate scenarios and predictions at the global scale are brought down to the local level, at the very least to the sub-district level.
“An overall comprehensive plan is needed as a long-term measure, with the next 15 years in mind at least, to consolidate short, medium, and long-term planning in order to guarantee climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts,” Dr. Prakash added.
ASAR experts said the recent bouts of unprecedented unseasonal rain in different parts of India, was predicted by IPCC reports and climate models, and point out how massive rains just before crop harvesting was “never expected”.
This has resulted in huge crop losses for farmers who need to be compensated and such extreme weather events play havoc with the lives and livelihood of people dependent on climate-related agriculture or similar jobs.

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