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Introducing Salt Tolerant Species and Preparing for Disasters

Submitted by Dirk Rolker 5th April 2013 5:53

The mainstay of the economy in the Indian Sundarbans is agriculture, supplemented by fishing and fishery-related activities. Agriculture is dominated by paddy cultivation, which is made possible by raising embankments along the periphery of the inhabited islands to check saltwater inflow.

The project region of Mousuni Island faces acute problems in the form of accelerated coastline erosion due to extreme weather events such as storms and floods, which have led to the breach of embankments. Since 1969 coastal erosion has reduced island area by one sixth: at the same time the population has tripled. Since severe storms are likely to become even more frequent, and since the sea level is expected to rise, the threat of damage to agricultural lands, property and human and animal life will increase. With breaches in the embankment, saline river water flows into farmland areas and damages crops. When land is entirely flooded or when flooding makes it uncultivable, small-scale farmers either turn to fishing or migrate as unskilled labourers, thereby accepting a lower quality of life.

The project responds to the increased vulnerability of the population of the Sundarbans. It enables communities to adapt to climatic changes, e.g. by identifying areas that are especially prone to flooding and introducing suitable salt-tolerant paddy and fish varieties there. It also helps the population prepare to cope with extreme climatic events and disasters. Especially on Mousuni Island climate change adaptation can significantly reduce poverty, since around 70% of the island's families depend on rain-fed agriculture and live below the poverty line – that is, on less than USD 1.25 per day.

Implementation

This project is a joint undertaking of the project Climate Change Adaptation in Rural Areas of India (CCA RAI), the West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences (WBUAFS) and The World Wide Fund for Nature, India (WWF-India).

CCA RAI is jointly implemented by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and the German development organisation Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.