Published On: Wed, Aug 17th, 2016

Impact of climate change in the Satabhaya region of Odisha coast

copia“Locals believe that when Varun, the Lord of the Sea is annoyed, the sea level rises and encroaches the habitation. Many also worship Laxmi, the daughter of Varun, with the hope that this would help appease the sea God. Somehow this belief has proved immensely apt as when the whole world is crying foul about the climate concerns here is the Satabhaya region in Odisha coast which is almost at the neck of losing its geographical mark. An in-depth report from Ananta Prasad

Bhubaneswar: They say the sea ate our villages. These metaphoric statements may not sound that serious, till you hear the unheard stories of missing villages of Odisha. An eastern coastal state in the Indian subcontinent, known for the natural resources and religious beliefs is now much in news for being the victim of acute climate change and the forceful geographical adaptations.

Once called the rice bowl of the state, whole of the coastal Odisha spread across 480kms is now affected by the climate change and disasters.
Story of Satabhaya – Missing Villages of Odisha :
Satabhaya, meaning a group of seven, was an area of 320 sq km near the port town of Paradip in 1930. By the end of 1999-2000 the area has been shrink to 155 sqkm with five of the seven villages being swallowed by the sea, as they villager refer it hungry sea eating away the villages. This has led by now, over 3000 people of the cluster have been displaced from their original villages and over 10000 people have been severely affected as most of their livelihood support components like lands and vegetation have been eaten up by the violent Bay of Bengal.
The first to be ‘eaten’ by the sea were Govindpur, Mahnipur and Kuanriora villages in the early 1980s followed by two more villages Kharikula and Sarpada during mid-1990s and Satabhaya and Kanhapur are counting their days. Kanhapur Village has shifted itself thrice leaving its original location some 1 km inside Bay of Bengal. Besides Satabhaya and Kanhapur, about twenty other villages on this coast are at high risk of submergence. People of those villages have lost around sixty percent of their land in the sea.
By now, over 3000 people of the cluster have been displaced from their original villages and over 10000 people have been severely affected as most of their livelihood support components like lands and vegetation have been eaten up by the violent Bay of Bengal. Even, they are unable to fish as the sea behaviour doesn’t remain stable or predictable.
Most people who have shifted to escape the wrath of the ocean are now living as daily wage labourers or have again migrated to distant places in search of jobs.In the recent past this village has shifted itself thrice leaving its original location a kilometre inside the Bay of Bengal. Besides Satabhaya and Kanhapur, 20 other villages along the coast are at high risk. Most have lost around 60 per cent of their land to the sea.
The villagers of these missing villages just have the names of their villages in their memory. Some old folks still sit at the sea side gets nostalgia as the first generation of the victims they have seen the worst.

The Coastal Odisha is in threat now
1998 summer – Atmospheric temperature went up somewhere close to 50 degree Celsius in coastal Odisha and 100s of people died of Sun Stroke. Terrible super cyclone of 1999 took over 10000 lives and shattered the economy of coastal Odisha. 2000 onwards – Coastal Odisha has been regularly visited by flood almost every year.
Once a proud long coastline of 480kms, the people of Odisha are now under threats of regular and massive disasters. Over 100kms out of the State’s 480km long coastline is also facing erosion. Many villages have been the victims of the fury of the ocean, almost at regular intervals and continuously. This has caused few villages going missing and losing its existence. These missing villages now symbolises the wrath of climate change impact in the state and creates concerns on the resilience.
The sea coast and the people residing nearby have been the victims of several cyclones and high tides. And yet as if being regularly battered by cyclones wasn’t enough, the rise in sea level and the unusual expansion of the Bay of Bengal has caused several villages to be lost to the sea and snarled locals’ capacities to live along the coastline in the State.

It is so dramatic that every year with the sea-level rise, the coastal systems in the districts of Kendrapara, Puri and others experience increased levels of inundation and storm flooding, accelerated coastal erosion, seawater intrusion into fresh groundwater and encroachment of tidal waters into river systems.
“Unstable and violent behaviour of sea has caused severe damage to coastal economy as it often destroys agriculture along the coast. This has serious implications and the way forward lies in minimising the carbon emission and massive plantation in the state. This will at least decrease the temperature to a level and sea coast won’t be volatile like now”, said Mr BasudevMohapatra, environmental reporter, Odisha.
In 2008 July, sea crossed over 300 metres and reached the marine drive road that connects Puri and Konark – two towns of tourist importance. It’s just few years back, tidal waves washed away half of the beach road and gushed into the town of Puri. Tourists who had visited the holy town for JagannathDarshan and were staying in sea side hotels were shifted on emergency basis.
Rising sea level has also posed the threat of complete submergence of Asia’s largest inland lagoon Chilka. If such heavy inflow of saline water to the lake continues, the ecological pattern of the lagoon would get disturbed and the lake would have to lose its under-water treasure including variety of fish species. Inflow of sea water in large volume would also force the lake to submerge in the sea.
The southern end of Odishan coast is also not free from the violent aggression of Bay of Bengal. The fishermen Village Podampeta in Ganjam is already submerged in the sea wheres Garampeta village is just awaiting complete submergence.
‘Such violent behaviour of the Sea is believed to be the impact of global warming that resulted in climate change across the east coast and rise in sea level’, apprehends noted geoscientist Prof. Nanda Kishore Mahalik
Way forward :
It’s high-time for the policy makers to give a serious thought to the issue. A little delay in taking control measures would allow the sea to go more violent and take many more coastal villages and towns into it causing serious livelihood problems across the coastal area. The massive use of thermal power and fossil fuel is causing all natural imbalances in the state.
Looking at the problem statement of coastal Odisha which is pretty famous globally for tourism purposes are now in danger so as the people residing nearby. The government and non-government is now needs to be keen on limiting the loss to a greater extent. More than the adaptation, the resilience is important now.

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