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May 2014

Traditional Wisdom to the Rescue in Cyclone Season

By Malini Shankar

PORT BLAIR, Andaman Islands, India, May 12 2014 (IPS) - May and November bring the most vicious cyclones to the Bay of Bengal rim countries in Southeast Asia.

Local governments must scramble disaster mitigation measures, including food storage, cleaning cyclone shelters, stocking up water supply, sanitising infrastructure, and evacuating people to safety in all the regions bordering the bay.

“Going by economists’ definition of supply and demand forces of the market, the Jarawas live in opulence." -- Prof. Anvita Abbi
The cyclones are the harbinger of the monsoons that play out in various densities for months on end across the subcontinent, often putting lives and livestock at peril.

Risking rejection of culture-insensitive food distribution to the evacuees, the governments generally resort to survival rations that stress shelf lives and transportation logistics, often ignoring the native wisdom in nutrition balance and distribution that complements local agro-meteorological and hydro-geological conditions.

For example, in times of cyclones or unseaworthy weather, “the Great Andamanese resort to hunting and gathering,” said Anvita Abbi, a professor at the Centre for Linguistics, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University,who has deciphered the language of the Great Andamanese in the Andaman Nicobar Islands.

“When a particular bird sings a song, they know it is time to go turtle hunting on the beach instead of fishing in the sea,” Prof. Abbi told IPS.

10 Percent of Odisha Coast Prone to Erosion, Reveals Study

By Siba Mohanty - BHUBANESWAR Published: 09th May 2014 09:17 AM Last Updated: 09th May 2014 09:51 AM

At least 10 per cent of the 480-km Odisha coast is highly erosion prone and the stretches near Puri, Chandrabhaga, Gopalpur, Satabhaya and Pentha are most vulnerable, the first ever Regional Coastal Process Study (RCPS) has revealed.

The study, conducted as part of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) of the State, states that the Odisha coast is subject to a strong littoral drift. The process accompanied by the sediment movement has led to a constant change in the shoreline. The creation of a new mouth of Chilika and change in profile of several estuaries along the coast are caused by this phenomenon, the report stated.

The study, the first such assessment in India under the World bank-aided ICZMP, estimated that annually 0.90 million cubic metre littoral drift takes place from south-west to north-east direction during the south-west monsoon.

The return drift takes place during the winter monsoon.

The dynamic sediment movements have, over the years, resulted in constant changing of the shoreline. As a result of the sediment transport and creation of manmade structures, coastal erosion has been seen mostly near Puri, Chandrabhaga, Gopalpur, Satabhaya and Pentha.

“The high demographic pressure and associated development activities within the coastal stretch have compounded these issues and called for an integrated approach for sustainable management,” the report added.

Barring the vulnerable 10 per cent, the study observed, rest of the shoreline is fairly stable offering a good opportunity for sustainable planning and management of the coast. It also revealed that seabed in the southern part is steeper than the northern coast of the State while formation of good sand dune system along southern coast provides a good defence against erosion.

Dams responsible for South Asia’s sinking deltas

 Seven of South Asia’s river deltas, including the Ganga-Brahmaputra, the Krishna and the Indus, are sinking faster than sea-level rise because of dam construction upstream

Sunderbans ganges delta
Non profit group WWF said migration is happening in the Sunderbans in West Bengal, as families living close to the riverbanks experience the effect of sinking land. 

One or two people leave their homes in the Sundarbans forests of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta each day, perhaps never to return. It’s but a small vignette of a larger tragedy being played out across South Asia’s delta regions where land is fast sinking as the sea waters rise, leaving millions of people vulnerable to disasters like cyclones and floods.

The mouth of the Ganga-Brahmaputra mega-delta in Bangladesh, the largest in the world, is dotted with 139 small islands called polders. An embankment protects each polder from daily tides. Every year, as embankments are breached and repaired several times over, the embankments rise higher and higher.

Local communities know they have little hope of seeing their families thrive in this land, said Anurag Danda, head of the climate change and Sundarbans landscape programmes of WWF-India. Every family in the Sundarbans, for instance, that can afford it sends its able-bodied members away. “They understand that they can’t be here for all time to come… Migration on a daily basis is already happening.”

The heartbreak and hopelessness finds echo across large swathes of South Asia. According to studies, the deltas of the Ganga-Brahmaputra in Bangladesh, the Indus river in Pakistan, the Krishna, the Godavari, Brahmani and Mahanadi in south India and the Irrawaddy in Myanmar are sinking faster than the rate of sea-level rise. The main reason for the deltas disappearing is the presence of hundreds of dams along the lengths of these rivers.

Sinkholes Opening Up After Tsunami

 Malini Shankar

CAR NICOBAR, India, May 2 2014 (IPS) - While the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is sparing no effort to fill a rapidly widening sinkhole in Florida since Apr. 23, India’s Geological Survey has closed its field station in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where sinkholes have sprung up all over as an aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami.

The administration in this popular tourist destination in the Bay of Bengal may be prepared for another tsunami. But it seems clueless about these holes in the ground that can sometimes cave in or lead to other geological events like hot springs, water spouts, natural gas emissions or even cracks in the subterranean magma chambers.

They have accounted for the disappearance of human beings, livestock, rivers, buildings and vehicles.
Islanders told IPS that sinkholes have appeared all over Nicobar. Whether that is also the case with the Andamans remains a matter of speculation as there is no official documentation of it, nor did the administration facilitate this writer’s photo assignment to visit the geologically volatile islands.

IPS discovered and photographed sinkholes in three Nicobar Islands – Car Nicobar, Kamorta and Campbell Bay.

“Car Nicobar is full of sinkholes after the tsunami. Even though I grew up here, our parents are now petrified of us swimming near the beach,” says Dr. Christina Rossetti, a local of Car Nicobar who works at a government-run hospital here.

Indian Air Force officers at Car Nicobar documented a water spout in April 2013 which shot up from a sinkhole to 1,000 metres in the sky over the Bay of Bengal.

Tsunami survivors in Car Nicobar also told IPS about water spouts that injured their eyes during the disaster.

Sinkholes Opening Up After Tsunami

 Malini Shankar

CAR NICOBAR, India, May 2 2014 (IPS) - While the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is sparing no effort to fill a rapidly widening sinkhole in Florida since Apr. 23, India’s Geological Survey has closed its field station in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where sinkholes have sprung up all over as an aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami.

The administration in this popular tourist destination in the Bay of Bengal may be prepared for another tsunami. But it seems clueless about these holes in the ground that can sometimes cave in or lead to other geological events like hot springs, water spouts, natural gas emissions or even cracks in the subterranean magma chambers.

They have accounted for the disappearance of human beings, livestock, rivers, buildings and vehicles.
Islanders told IPS that sinkholes have appeared all over Nicobar. Whether that is also the case with the Andamans remains a matter of speculation as there is no official documentation of it, nor did the administration facilitate this writer’s photo assignment to visit the geologically volatile islands.

IPS discovered and photographed sinkholes in three Nicobar Islands – Car Nicobar, Kamorta and Campbell Bay.

“Car Nicobar is full of sinkholes after the tsunami. Even though I grew up here, our parents are now petrified of us swimming near the beach,” says Dr. Christina Rossetti, a local of Car Nicobar who works at a government-run hospital here.

Indian Air Force officers at Car Nicobar documented a water spout in April 2013 which shot up from a sinkhole to 1,000 metres in the sky over the Bay of Bengal.

Tsunami survivors in Car Nicobar also told IPS about water spouts that injured their eyes during the disaster.

Disputes swamp India’s port sector

 P. Manoj.