A study conducted by ocean engineering scientists at IIT Kharagpur shows that 10 islands among the 36 islands of Lakshadweep archipelago might have more than 60 percent land loss in the next 30 years because of the continuous and extreme rise of seawater level in the last 15 years.
Lakshadweep, a group of 36 islands, is known for its exotic and sun-kissed beaches and lush green landscape. The name Lakshadweep in Malayalam and Sanskrit means ‘a hundred thousand islands’. India’s smallest Union Territory, Lakshadweep is an archipelago consisting of 36 islands with an area of 32 sq km. It is a Uni-district Union Territory and comprises 12 atolls, three reefs, five submerged banks, and 10 inhabited islands. The capital is Kavaratti and it is also the principal town.
The study published in the current issue of international magazine Elsevier (Regional Studies in Marine Science), has been posted by the Department of Science and Technology on its website. It was conducted on the ten most vulnerable islands of the archipelago and shows that there will be 70 percent to 80 percent land loss in eight of the ten islands by 2035. The other two islands will also have a land loss of close to 40 percent.
“The main problem in conducting the study was that there was neither any ‘Tide-Gauge’ or eWater level monitoring system’ in Lakshadweep and so we had to depend on the satellite data which was only available from 1993. We also used two best-performing climate models – the GFDL Model of USA and Miroc – a Japanese model. With these two models and with the available data we were able to determine the rise of the seawater level in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal,” Prasad K. Bhaskaran, a faculty member of IIT-KGP’s Department of Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture and the principal investigator of the project, told IANS over the phone.
“While doing our research we realised that while it had been indicated that the sea level at the 36 islands would rise between .8 mm to 2m by the end of the century, in most islands it had already reached the .78 mm mark. We have projected 70 percent to 80 percent land loss in many islands by 2035. There are many small islands in the archipelago that will be reduced to a strip almost. The worst affected will be Chatlat island, where the land loss will be over 82 percent,” Bhaskaran said.
The study mentions that the rise is much higher in the Arabian Sea than in the Bay of Bengal because the latter’s salinity is lower because of many freshwater rivers opening into it. Hence, the Lakshadweep islands are at great risk compared to India’s other archipelago, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
It also found that capital Kavaratti will be 70 percent affected. Deep signs of damage have also been noticed at the islands’ lone airport in the southernmost tip of Agatti, which has started getting dangerously inundated.
“We have suggested that the government take up immediate coastline protection measures by creating artificial barriers and embankments, especially in the Bipra, Minicoy, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Agatti, Kiltan, Chatlat, Kadmat, and Amini islands, to save them from extinction. Since Androth has been projected to be the safest with only a 30 percent loss to its landmass, the population can be moved there,” Bhaskaran said.
“But this is temporary because the structure can control the erosion of the coastline but it cannot control the rise of the sea level. Naturally, the central government will have to think of a new coastal defensive system — an innovative way to protect the islands from going under the sea,” he said, adding that many European countries and some places in the US have developed innovative coastline protection mechanisms and we can also take ideas from them.
The study has been conducted by Aysha Jennath, Athira Krishnan, Saikat Kumar Paul, Prasad K Bhaskaran, jointly from the Department of Architecture and Regional Planning and Department of Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture, IIT Kharagpur, with support from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India under the Climate Change Programme (CCP).