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Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning

Coping with Climate Change – The case of Fisherfolk along the Coromandel Coast of Tamil Nadu

TitleCoping with Climate Change – The case of Fisherfolk along the Coromandel Coast of Tamil Nadu
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsBhalla, RS
Conference NameInternational Conference on Climate Change Resilience, ICCCR-2015
Date Published10/2015
PublisherDepartment of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, School of Life Sciences, Pondicherry University and Indian-European Multi-level climate Governance Research Network (IECGN)
Conference LocationPondicherry

We used the livelihoods approach to quantify the coping strategies of artisanal fisherfolk to resource depletion and reduced access on account of shoreline change and extreme weather events. Our study covered 63 villages located along the Coromandel coast covering the districts of Villupuram and Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu and union territory of Puducherry.

Fishing communities in the region fall under the Parvatharajakulam and Pattanavar castes, both falling under the Meenavar or fisherfolk caste group categorised under the most backward castes in Tamil Nadu. This social vulnerability is compounded by economic vulnerability arising from a nearly total dependence on fisheries as a source of income by both men and women.

Fishing communities remain highly vulnerable to changes in shoreline and extreme weather events. Flooding remains a major threat in the deltaic regions of Cuddalore and was associated with an increase in water borne diseases. Villages north of Pondicherry are faced with severe shoreline change leading to erosion of beaches which were traditional boat landing sites and protected the settlements from cyclonic storms and squalls. These factors combined with declining fish yields, reduced fish landings in villages and changing markets have altered traditional sources of income forcing these communities to adapt and alter their livelihood strategies.

The absence of formal financial institutions and limited access to alternative livelihood has increased the dependence on informal sources of credit, often tied to sales of fish catch. A number of men now seek employment as crew members in mechanised craft and for ring seining operations, while women who have been squeezed out of traditional fish vending, attempt to set up small shops or remain unemployed.

Impacts of climate change on communities are often exacerbated by socio-economic vulnerability, poor development decisions such as hard structures for coastal defence and resource depletion due to habitat degradation and overexploitation. Fishing communities on the Coromandel coast are presently threatened by this combination of factors. Turning the tide, as it were, would require multiple interventions which restore natural coastal defences, habitats and resources, provide social security and enable them to diversify into livelihoods outside the traditional ambit.

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