Most at risk

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Coastal areas don’t mean only beautiful beaches and tourist destinations, as most of the people think. Climate changes have triggered most dangers in the coastal areas. When sea becomes turbulent, only the people living in coastal areas know the danger of it. They are painfully aware of the risks that climate change brings on them. In fact, climate scientists regard coastal communities to be among those that will be most at risk, whether in terms of rise in sea level, increased seashore erosion or higher risks from cyclones. What is more, the poorer communities with their fragile shelters and threatened livelihoods are at greater risk, a situation made worse by several injustices from which they have increasingly suffered. Coastal areas have always constituted ecologically important and sensitive zones. This sensitivity has increased in recent decades of climate change and pollution as well as immense biodiversity loss in oceans and coastal areas. On the one hand coastal areas are exposed to more destructive disasters due to climate change related factors. On the other, several changes in coastal areas can also increase their vulnerability to disasters. The people of coastal areas including fisherfolk are the most adversely affected by all this, but the poorer and more vulnerable among them are also threatened by a complex set of economic and related technological changes that seek to marginalize them. Much before climate change became a big issue, several studies had documented that non mechanized traditional fishing communities were suffering a loss of livelihood due to the steady advance of mechanized and capital-intensive fishing. In several inter-related ways, the powerful forces which threaten the more vulnerable people are also responsible for inflicting environmental harm, threatening biodiversity, and increasing the exposure of coastal zones at a time when disasters like cyclones are becoming more destructive due to climate change and related factors. Hence a kind of vicious circle has trapped several weaker sections, and they need to be helped to come out of this. They have very good knowledge of coastal areas. Several of these brave persons routinely save tourists from drowning or other risks. In disaster situations, they perform courageous rescue actions in a way others are not capable of. Clearly their knowledge and skills should be better used but they face increasing neglect and marginalization. At the same time, various governments are taking up important protective programs such as the construction of cyclone shelters, improved warning systems for adverse weather and disasters including tsunamis and planning better rescue efforts. When cyclone comes, mostly poor people living in coastal areas die. For example, if a series of dam projects taken up in upstream rivers can greatly reduce the inflow of freshwater at and near its meeting point with the sea. This can result in saltwater intrusion in coastal villages and settlements. There can be serious adverse impacts relating to several expressway/highway projects, ports, big shrimp farming projects as well as changes in fishing technology and systems which have been widely discussed in recent times and sometimes led to opposition movements, small or big. Tourism can be linked in thoughtful ways to promoting livelihoods without causing serious environmental harm, but often such concerns do not get adequate attention with the result that several poorer coastal communities have suffered harm due to distorted forms of tourism. Particular, their work and living places are eyed by big tourism operators for their hotels and resorts. At times, even relief and rehabilitation projects have been implemented in such ways as to result in longer term harm to poorer coastal people.