Handbook of Climate Change Adaptation || Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation of Vulnerable Coastal Communities of India

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  • Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation of Vulnerable CoastalCommunities of India

    Chinmai Hemani*Climate Change Consultant, Ahmedabad, India


    In the context of developing countries, climate change and variability poses a serious threat to thecoastal rural communities due to their poor adaptive capacities, weak implementation of develop-mental activities, and lack of technological solutions needed to address this challenge. In order toaddress the current vulnerabilities of these coastal communities where development initiatives areitself lacking, adaptation measures will play a crucial role in streamlining and collaborating withdevelopment initiatives. Literature review in Indian context suggests that there are no estimatesavailable of impact of climate change on coastal agriculture and fisheries and therefore on agricul-tural, pastoral, and fishing communities. This research addresses the aforementioned research gapwith a case study from Western India focusing on livelihood security and human well-being whileintegrating development plans to climate change adaptation. Based on vulnerabilities identified forthe study areas, adaptation plan consisting of goals with several measures were created which werelinked to existing national development schemes along with their co-benefits and barriers toimplementation. Development choices made today will influence the adaptive capacity of peoplein the future. Thus, there is an urgent need to undertake development activities and decision makingwith climate lens, and this research will be the first step in the process.


    Mainstreaming climate change adaptation; Adaptation plan and options; National and state devel-opment plans; Millennium development goals


    First time in the human history, a record was set when global concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2)measured at Mauna Lao lab crossed 400 parts per million (ppm) in May 2013 (National Geographic2013). The rise in CO2 levels is a result of an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions(GHG) leading to increase in the global mean temperature. Climate change projections for 2100suggest a best estimate of global average surface temperature to rise by 4 C (IPCC 2007). A 4 C risecould be potentially devastating leading to inundation of coastal areas, increased intensity of tropicalcyclones; unprecedented heat waves, exacerbated water scarcity; increasing risks for food produc-tion potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; and irreversible loss of biodiversity (The WorldBank 2012). Even if efforts are made to cap and mitigate the GHGs today, air and sea temperatures

    *Email: chinmayhemani@gmail.com

    Handbook of Climate Change AdaptationDOI 10.1007/978-3-642-40455-9_100-1# Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

    Page 1 of 33

  • will continue to rise as a result of past emissions. Thus, mitigation efforts alone will not work;adaptation is also needed in order to tackle increasing impact of climate change.

    Surrounded by Himalayas, with a coastline of 7,500 km and 70 million hectares of forest, India isone among 17 mega biodiverse countries in the world which is exposed to climate change onmultiple grounds. No country in the world is as vulnerable on so many dimensions to climate changeas India (INCCA 2010). Disasters caused due to increasing extreme events like the recentUttarakhand floods in June 2013 left thousands dead while severely damaging the infrastructureillustrate super imposing effect of an extreme weather event accompanied by poor mitigation,adaptation, and disaster management practices. Depending on the level of preparation by localand national institutions to manage the hazard, an extreme event can turn into a disaster; thus,socioeconomic systems play a vital role in regulating climate change impacts.

    India has nine densely populated coastal states comprising of 20 % of the entire population(INCCA 2010) with livelihood dependence on agriculture, fisheries, mining, petrochemical andother industries, ports, and various tourism centers. Increasing population and subsequent land usechanges have led to environment degradation, biodiversity, and freshwater stresses which wouldincrease many folds due to climate change.

    Literature review in Indian context suggests that there are no estimates available of impact ofclimate change on coastal agriculture and fisheries and therefore on agricultural, pastoral, and fishingcommunities which are expected to be significant (Revi 2008).

    This study attempts to address research gap mentioned above by studying vulnerabilities ofcoastal rural communities while addressing following research question:

    Table 1 Research area and support tools used

    Type oftool used


    Information onfuture climatechange scenariosused for futurevulnerability

    Climatechange sectorimpacts


    Linkingadaptation optionsto existingdevelopmentplans and policies

    Stakeholderanalysis ofoptions

    Economicanalysis ofoptions


    Partially ashere focus ison livelihoodand well-being

    x x






    Note: indicates task considered, x indicates task not considered for this research

    Handbook of Climate Change AdaptationDOI 10.1007/978-3-642-40455-9_100-1# Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

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  • What national and state development plans and policies are appropriate for more adaptationfriendly path in order to overcome the current vulnerabilities and whether they need to beleveraged to address future climate change?

    In spite of planned development path, the development challenges in India are quite high with29.8 % of population still living below poverty line (BPL) (Planning Commission of India 2012).With weak implementation of planned development, India is yet to curb the inequitable share ofresources. Climate change is likely to exacerbate these inequalities in turn increasing their vulner-ability, but if development goals are systematically considered and implemented by linking themwith adaptation options, enormous cost reductions can be achieved while trying to address devel-opment and climate change challenges.

    The complete research comprised of three stages: (1) identifying the problem (vulnerabilities),(2) exploring applicability of existing development policies and evolve inclusive adaptation options,and (3) reducing vulnerability by choosing adaptation options.

    Support tools used for methodology to derive climate change adaptation options for this researchare depicted in Table 1.

    The Need to Rethink Our Current Approach

    Humans over their evolution have been coping and adapting ex post to climatic variations. A newapproach suggests adaptation measures ex ante by incorporating future climate risk into policymaking. Integrating adaptation into development projects is an iterative process of incorporatingconsiderations of climate change into policy making, budgeting, implementation, and monitoringprocesses at national, sectoral, and subnational levels which entails working with a range ofgovernment and nongovernmental actors (UNDP-UNEP 2011). Figure 1 depicts comparison ofbusiness as usual development approach to an integrated approach which addresses developmentand climate change adaptation issues.

    - Projected development












    Climate information Climate ChangeAdaptation (CCA)

    - Use of Scientific information on climate variability and past disasters

    - Mainly climate impact /Sectoral focus

    - Mainly Technological solution implemented

    - CCA mainstreamed with development- Future climate risks considered

    - All stakeholders involved- Soft measures as well as technological solutions

    - Local/community knowledge climate information considered

    - Empowerment of vulnerable house holds

    - Bottom up approach and community driven majorly

    - Flexible planning- Strong institutional mechanism in place

    - Long term focus

    - Use of Scientific information on climate variability, past disasters and future regional climate projections

    - Precedence of climate information over Local information

    - Top down approach- Inflexible planning

    - Short term focus

    - Poor people participation

    Fig. 1 Integrated approach for climate change adaptation (Source: Adapted from Faulkner ( 2012))

    Handbook of Climate Change AdaptationDOI 10.1007/978-3-642-40455-9_100-1# Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

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  • For developing countries, where there is lack of basic infrastructure especially in the rural areas,increasing evidences of climate change impacts will increase the adaptation deficit unless adaptationprogram is incorporated into development initiatives. Such development projects would help buildreadiness in times of crises in context of proper shelter; food, water, and agriculture security; andlivestock protection to the target population so as to ensure increased adaptive capacity and reducedimpacts of climate hazards. Without focus on adaptation, climate change impacts would erodedevelopment gains and deepen the development divide between geographical regions (developedand developing) and sections of society which are marginalized, poor.

    In order to reduce vulnerability, efforts need to be made in the direction of good policies atnational and state level to be relayed into local-level action facilitated by the local