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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted a global sea level rise of about one metre by AD 2100. What would be its impact in India and the other countries in the Indian Ocean region?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has forewarned about a global sea level rise of approximately one metre by AD 2100, primarily due to melting ice caps and thermal expansion from global warming. This projected rise will have profound repercussions, especially for India and its neighbouring countries in the Indian Ocean region.

Impact on India:

  1. Coastal Erosion: Regions like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal will witness accelerated coastal erosion, leading to loss of habitat and biodiversity.
  2. Loss of Wetlands and Mangroves: Vital ecosystems such as the Sundarbans mangroves, which act as natural barriers against cyclones, might face severe degradation or complete loss.
  3. Agriculture: Saltwater intrusion in the coastal areas will render vast tracts of agricultural land infertile, impacting food security.
  4. Economic Repercussions: Major cities like Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata, with their economic hubs, may face frequent flooding, leading to economic losses.
  5. Population Displacement: Coastal areas, especially in states like Odisha and West Bengal, may witness significant population displacement.

Impact on Indian Ocean Region Countries:

  1. Existential Threat to Island Nations: Low-lying island nations such as Maldives, Seychelles, and Mauritius face existential threats. Entire populations might need to migrate if adaptive capacities aren’t strengthened.
  2. Threat to Coastal Cities: Cities like Male (Maldives), Colombo (Sri Lanka), and Dhaka (Bangladesh) will experience enhanced vulnerability to flooding and cyclonic events.
  3. Fishing: Changes in ocean temperature and acidification might affect fish breeding grounds, negatively impacting the primary source of income for many in these countries.
  4. Water Security: Freshwater resources in many of these countries may get contaminated with saltwater, making them unsuitable for consumption or agriculture.
  5. Cultural and Heritage Loss: Many historical and cultural sites in coastal regions could be inundated, leading to irreversible loss of heritage.

The predicted sea level rise poses grave challenges to both India and the Indian Ocean region countries. An integrated regional approach, focused on adaptation and resilience-building, is imperative to mitigate the impacts. Collaboration in areas of technology, infrastructure development, and policy formulation will be crucial in the upcoming decades.

April 2024