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Lakshadweep is slowly sinking, and here's why

The world is failing these islands. The Lakshadweep islands are facing a constant threat with coastal erosion and sea-level rise. Are we really gonna let Climate Change make beautiful destinations like this archipelago disappear?

What is Lakshadweep?

Lakshadweep is a group of 36 islands located in the Arabian Sea. The name means “Hundred Thousand Islands” in the Malayalam and Sanskrit languages. They are the smallest Union Territory of India and they have a total area of 32 sq. km. The capital of Lakshadweep is Kavaratti. The islands are known for their natural landscapes, their sandy beaches, the reefs in their crystal-blue waters, and the abundance of flora and fauna. If you are ever interested in visiting you should know permits are needed to visit since the tourism industry is very monitored to guard against negative environmental impact.

The rising sea levels in the islands.

The islands themselves are very low in elevation, the minimum elevation is 1 meter above the mean sea level. There was a study conducted by scientists at IIT Kharagpur that showed that 10 islands of the 36 in the archipelago are going to have more than 60% land loss in the next 30 years, this is because of the continuous rise of seawater level in the last 15 years. According to Prasad K. Bhaskaran, an expert on wave ocean dynamics, “even with a low greenhouse gas concentration scenario sea levels around Lakshadweep, are expected to rise to levels “dangerously close” to the global projections'' and this is by the end of the century. Sea level rise in the Arabian Sea since 1973-2010 has been about 1.72 mm/year, while for the Lakshadweep Islands since 1981-2005 there is data that indicates a sea-level rise of 0.5 mm/year. This difference between the sea and the archipelago is because of the density variations in seawater, ocean heat and its transport, and ocean circulation features.

Susceptibility of flooding.

All the islands show different levels of flooding in future sea-level rise scenarios and their susceptibility to flooding also differed. The amount of mm that the sea level will rise and land loss happens will differ by islands, but for an idea, the smallest islands in the archipelago will become strips. The sea-level rise can enhance the coastal erosion processes and lead to further loss of land. Coastal areas are easily eroded, and high sea levels can lead to increased inland migration of shorelines to expose the areas to damage, and Lakshadweep Islands are low in elevation so sea-level rise moves inward to cause more damage.

What are they going to do for the future of the islands?

There have been implementations of plans where there are “No Development Zones”, these zones are 50 meters from the High Tide Line where nothing can be made. As we know the regulation of industries and tourism is highly delicate due to the situation that their ecosystem faces. The government created a climate action plan in 2012, but only some of it has been carried out correctly. The environment department in Lakshadweep has not been active because of a lack of personnel. If you visit the islands the only effort that you see to combat the coastal erosion is the placement of concrete tetrapods in places where the sea is eating away the shoreline. These tetrapods are structures used to prevent erosion caused by weather and shore drift. Yet the researcher R.M. Hidayathulla from Calicut University says “This is the most unscientific way to control erosion,” says Hidayathulla. Bhaskaran and others have suggested immediate protection of the coastline mainly in the Bipra, Minicoy, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Agatti, Kiltan, and others, to save them from extinction. Controlling the erosion problem doesn't really stop the rise in sea level, so the government has to engineer a way to protect the islands. This has to be urgent in order to save this beautiful archipelago.

Written by Eunso Im