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Info Change India - Coastal communities

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Challenges of marine management

2,374 km of coral reefs, 700,000 hectares of mangrove cover, over 2,500 species of fish, eight species of sea turtles…This backgrounder by Sudarshan Rodriguez and Aarthi Sridhar describes the complexity of India’s coastal ecosystems and outlines the challenges to these systems from habitat destruction, ineffective fisheries management, over-exploitation of bio-resources, pollution and weak implementation of laws

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Ocean pollution

Nearly 250 million people live within 50 km of India’s 8,000 km coastline. Eighty-seven cities and towns located in these coastal areas together dump 5.5 billion litres of wastewater into the sea every day. Less than a tenth of this water is treated, making the scale of pollution of our coastal ecosystems daunting, writes Rahul Goswami

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Coastal refugees

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels in India are expected to rise at the rate of 2.4 mm a year; in 2050, the total increase will be 38 cm, displacing thousands. For nearly 25% of India’s population living along the coast, global warming is a question of survival rather than a scientific theory, says Richard Mahapatra

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The hungry tide

Cyclone Aila has snapped the fragile balance between man and nature in the Sunderbans, a mangrove-covered mud-flat where human settlement was enabled roughly 100 years ago by the construction of 3,500 km of embankments. An entire coastal ecosystem based on rain-fed sweet water perished in the deadly embrace of salt that came with Aila. Santadas Ghosh reports

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The sinking of the Nicobars

The earthquake that caused the tsunami of December 2004 has altered the topography and ecology of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands forever, writes Pankaj Sekhsaria. So far the impact of such marked changes in topography do not seem to have been taken into account by policymakers and government

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Porous borders, unsafe waters

The 3.5 lakh fisher people of the Rann of Kutch have been swept up in the gigantic brawl between India and Pakistan. After the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai they live in perpetual dread of being apprehended by the Pakistani maritime authorities for straying into their waters, and endless inquiries and detention by the Indian security forces. Anosh Malekar reports

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Saltpan city

Mumbai’s saltpans stretch over 5,000 acres, nine times the size of the defunct mill lands. Governments and the city administration have been eyeing these protected areas for commercial development, ostensibly to house the poor, writes Freny Manecksha. Environmentalists argue that these saltpans, with their thick mangrove forests, are Mumbai’s last defence against ocean flooding

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Tradition versus tourism

The unbridled growth of tourism in ‘God’s Own Country’ has wrought an ecological disaster along the Kerala coast and famed backwaters, writes Anosh Malekar. Some 2,000 houseboats spew sewage and kerosene into the backwaters that locals use for cooking and cleaning, the mangroves have shrunk to 1% of their original size, beaches are being privatised and local communities are being displaced and dispossessed of their livelihoods

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Fish wars in the Global South

By Anosh Malekar

Ten thousand tonnes of fish that would have been available for the common man are converted into fish meal to produce 1,000 tonnes of shrimp that only the rich can afford to buy, says Thomas Kocherry, who has for decades been organising coastal communities around the right to fish. In this interview he explains the challenges faced by 13 million fisher people in India who face displacement, the predatory practices of industrial fishing fleets, and pollution

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Social and communal tensions along the Kerala coast

For centuries, Kerala’s fishing communities shared the ocean’s resources and maintained close social and economic ties despite cultural and religious differences. In recent years however, explains N P Chekkutty, international subsidies, the stringent conditions of global trade, and intense competition from international fishing conglomerates have seen a sharp decline in profits. The resultant impoverishment, anger and discontent have opened the doors to communalism and violence

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Communities at the crossroads

The Koli fisher community and the Visvakarma Panchal artisans are amongst the earliest inhabitants of Mumbai. This article, by Sanjay Ranade, explores the contrasting impact of urbanisation, modernisation and globalisation on these two communities, with the Visvakarmas prospering and the Kolis increasingly facing loss of lands and livelihoods

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Perceived conflicts and real solutions

Marine Protected Areas such as Gahirmatha in Orissa are vital for the preservation of marine biodiversity and the maintenance of healthy ecosystems to help combat climate change. But regulation and enforcement will not work if they exclude fishermen, the most important player in our marine conservation efforts, writes Sanjiv Gopal

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Coastal regulations flip-flop

The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of 1991 was enacted to preserve the coastal environment by regulating land use all along the coast. But, says Kannan Kasturi, various interest groups have succeeded in pushing through amendments that ride roughshod over the rights of coastal communities to the lands and waters they have used for centuries as common property resources. Now, finally, the 1991 regulations have been reaffirmed

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Conservation beyond penalties and punishment

Conservation in India has been based on the reductionist principle of physically separating humans from wildlife, write Aarthi Sridhar and Kartik Shanker. The same approach is being adopted for marine conservation. But this style of conservation is completely unsuitable for marine socio-ecological systems, where flexible, socially appropriate and case-specific methods have been applied for the management of fishery resources by fisher communities

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