Tsunami-proofing South India's Coast From Grassroots Up
Current efforts to protect people living along South Asian coasts from another devastating tsunami do not necessarily entail high-tech, governmental schemes. In fact, it is now concerned local populations who are getting involved in the conservation of natural buffer zones such as mangroves and sand dunes, which have been shown to absorb much of the damage. Along the coast of the southern state of Kerala, locals are now actively engaged in community conservation initiatives to preserve these areas – in the district of Kannur for example, the manual planting of 100,000 saplings by one farmer has inspired the local youth and forest department to expand the project to several acres among the backwaters. Other similar NGO schemes have also popped up over the last few years, all working towards restoring tens of thousands of acres along the coastline.
Nevertheless, these natural safeguards are under threat from reckless real estate development along the coast (sprawling resorts, concrete mansions fuelled by ex-pat salaries from the Gulf), coupled with indiscriminate mining of the sand dunes for their minerals and ecologically-destructive aqua-farming.
It is clear, though, that with global warming comes a mounting number of extreme weather events: the warming of troposphere (the lowest portion of the atmosphere) increases the moisture content and as a result, leads to a greater number of severe rainfalls.
A December 2006 study completed by Bangalore’s Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Science showed that there was a rising trend in severe rainfall events from 1951 to 2000 in central India, indicating the "enhanced risks associated with extreme rainfall over India in the coming decades."
As these incidents rise, it is becoming obvious in places like Kerala that using local grassroots action and awareness to protect mangroves, sand dunes, coral reefs will be the most successful measure against the stormy ravages brought on by development and climate change.