NATURAL DISASTERS AND COPING STRATEGIES

OF THE POOR IN THE SUNDARBAN DELTA OF INDIA

Dr. Santadas Ghosh Associate Professor in Economics Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan (India) & Research Associate South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE)
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Contributions of the study

•Estimating the incidence of poverty in a specific ecological area

• Analyzing household’s observed coping behaviour after a disaster-related livelihood loss (CC threats)

Sundarban: Location

• 48 forested islands
• 54 populated islands • 1.5 million people on islands (estimated)

Features of Populated Islands
• Not a typical ‘coastal’ population • Bordering a strictly guarded Reserve Forest • Surrounded by deltaic rivers (open access): saline water • Remote, no electricity, no power-driven industry • Recent settlements, smaller proportion of landless HH • Limited livelihood options

Livelihood

Poverty Estimates
Data source: Primary survey covering 618 households from 31 villages over 2 administrative blocks Survey Estimates & Comparison
Rural India: 2004-2005 Sundarban Islands: 2010 % of population below

Poverty Line % of Poverty Line (Rs.) population (Rs.) below

National $ 1.25 (PPP adjusted) $ 2 (PPP adjusted)

356.3 585 936

28.3 41.6 75.6

576.7 882.7 1412.3

21.4 40.3 66

Climate Change Threats
• Long term: Sea Level Rise (SLR)

• Short term: predicted increase in the frequency of cyclones and super-cyclones

Cyclone Aila: May, 2009

Broken Embankments

Saline water on agricultural fields

Lost agriculture

Effect on the mangrove forest and ecology: NIL

Effects on Livelihood: Major observations
• Loss of agriculture and related labour jobs • Increase in the number of daily labourers • Substantial increase in number of migrant workers • Migration of the whole family rarely taken place • Forest and river exploitation shows marginal decline

Effect on livelihood across two groups of villages
Villages which Villages which reported total reported partial loss in agriculture loss in agriculture 13 18 24 100 -27 13 58 7 21 -3 2 13

No. of villages Average number of days of saline water intrusion % of households reporting no agriculture after Aila % change in the number of households earning from agricultural labour % change in the number of households earning from daily labour % change in the number of households earning from migrant labour

Who Migrates?
Landholding classes (Land unit = hectare) 0 -0.01
% of households (study estimate) % of households having migrant labourer (after Aila) Average household size

0.020.20 36 34 5.0

0.210.40 20 35 5.3

0.41- More than 1 1.00 ha 15 33 5.5 4 36 6.4

25 44 4.5

Long term coping strategy (Govt.)
• Announced plan to build bigger and stronger embankments
• Announced plan for land acquisition along river fronts for this purpose

Observations: • No work has yet been started at ground level: One and half
year after the cyclone • The project estimate involves huge costs

Concluding Observations
• CC threats are real even in the short run • Threat is mainly to the livelihood of the poor (not to ecosystem) • The most efficient coping strategy of the poor: migration • Announced coping strategy (govt): in situ livelihood preservation

Policy Implication
Help the poor to migrate/relocate (from some of these islands) • Initiate dialog with stakeholders
• Undertake cost/benefit analysis for such relocation for each of these islands