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Advancing sea batters Odisha’s coastal villages: Displacement stares imminently at vulnerable residents

Meanwhile the climate change experts have sought for the constitution of a State-level taskforce for formulation of Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R & R) policy for the climate-induced displaced people in the coastal State.

Statesman News Service | Bhubaneswar |

The vulnerability of Odisha’s coastal hamlets to tidal ingress and sea erosion has grabbed the spotlight yet again with mighty sea invading the seaside villages on the State’s southern coast since past one week.

As the latest reports trickle in from affected pockets, smashing of tidal waves battered the vulnerable coastline in Ganjam, posing threat to several coastal hamlets in the district.

The sea at Ramayapatana coastal village, predominantly inhabited by traditional sea-going fishermen, has advanced menacingly towards human habitations, triggering damage to kutcha houses. The villagers are in a state of panic as swirling sea water has turned restive, steadily advancing towards the village.

With this, the scourge of sea erosion in coastal parts of the State has become a cause of bother for the disaster managers with safety of people living along the vulnerable sea-erosion-affected villages at stake. The coastline is alarmingly getting eroded almost every month. If this trend continues, the sea will eat up the entire village

“Sea is advancing rapidly towards us. Mighty sea waves have washed away houses. We are living on the edge. The government should come up with anti-erosion measures and draw up a plan to rehabilitate us in a safer spot”, said K. Ramana, a resident of Ramayapatna village coming under Chikiti block.

Apart from Ramayapana, the Gopalpur beach resort and seaside Aryapalli gram panchayat are also bearing the brunt of sea’s fury. These areas have also turned vulnerable with sea trigging erosion at periodic intervals every year, said officials.

The resettlement of erosion-affected people and permanent measures to arrest the sea erosion lies in the list of priorities of the government, added the officials.

Several villagers along Odisha’s 480 kilometre stretch coastline are gradually being pushed back by inundating sea mostly due to climate changes and human activities like the building of breakwater system and ports on the coast, said experts.

The clusters of villages in Satabhaya gram panchayat in Kendrapara district is the classic example of vagaries of human existence before Nature’s fury. With sea already gobbling up the villages and wiping out the geographical existence of these villages, the State government has rehabilitated the affected people in Bagapatia village in the State’s first ever rehabilitation project for the sea erosion affected people.

Residents living in Udayakani and Tandahara villages under Sisuo Panchayat in Astaranga block of Puri district are living on the edge because of the advancing sea. The invading sea has forced the villagers to relocate from the village thrice since 1999 Super Cyclone when the entire village went into the sea forcing people to move to their farmlands. During Phailin in 2014, they had to shift inlands again after the village underwent sand casting. The cyclone Fani in 2019 had triggered further sea erosion in both the villages.

Meanwhile the climate change experts have sought for the constitution of a State-level taskforce for formulation of Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R & R) policy for the climate-induced displaced people in the coastal State.

The State is slowly bearing the brunt of adverse effects of climate change. The sea is undergoing erosion and rivers are changing its courses, triggering displacement of people. At the backdrop of this sort of human suffering, a distinctive R & R policy to provide soccur to displaced people is the need of the hour, a study jointly conducted by experts from civil society groups- Water Initiatives, Aaina and Asia Foundation had earlier suggested.