The question “Comment on the resource potentials of the long coastline of India and highlight the status of natural hazard preparedness in these areas." was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 1. Let us look at the model answer to this question.
Answer: India has a coastline of 7,517 km, including the mainland and island territories. This offers immense opportunities for livelihoods and economic development through the sustainable harnessing of coastal and marine resources.
Resource Potentials of Coastal Regions
- Food Resources:
- Fisheries: Coastal areas are rich in fisheries resources, providing a significant portion of the world's seafood supply that contribute to global protein intake. 25% of total production comes from Marine fisheries (includes Coastal & Deep sea fishing).
- Energy Resources:
- Offshore oil and gas exploration in Krishna-Godavari and Mumbai High basins contribute substantially to energy needs.
- India has also made advances in offshore wind energy, with a potential capacity of 70 GW.
- Coastal regions are also suitable for solar, tidal and wave energy projects.
- Khambhat coast is the largest tidal energy-producing area in India.
- Mineral Resources: India's 2.37 million sq km (EEZ) has significant mineral potential including placers, aggregates, phosphates and hydrocarbons.
- Trade: Multiple ports that handle over 95% of India's external trade by volume and 70% by value.
- The Sagarmala project aims to double coastal shipping and port capacity by 2025. This can reduce logistics costs and boost exports.
- Tourism: India's beaches, backwaters, marine parks, coastal heritage etc. attract both domestic and foreign tourists.
- As per the CII report, Coastal tourism contributed about 1.8% of India's GDP.
- The coastal circuit under the Swadesh Darshan scheme focuses on developing theme-based infrastructure in India’s coastal areas.
- Natural Barrier and Climate Regulation
- Soft Protection Structures like coastal green belts with mangroves, protects from coastal erosion
- Coastal ecosystems act as carbon sinks, helping in climate regulation.
- Rich biodiversity and marine ecosystems, providing valuable ecological services: Coastal ecosystems facilitate nutrient cycling, supporting marine food webs.
- Salt Production: India is the 3rd largest salt producer globally, after China and USA.
- Gujarat produces over 70% of India's annual production of about 30 million tonnes.
- The coastline provides ideal conditions for salt farming which supports livelihoods.
However, coastal areas are also prone to natural hazards like cyclones, storms, floods and erosion.
Status of Natural Hazard Preparedness
- Cyclones are a major natural hazard faced by India's coastal areas, especially the east coast. Around 10% of the world's tropical cyclones occur in the northern Indian Ocean.
- Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are especially vulnerable. Major cyclone events like the Odisha Super Cyclone (1999) and Cyclone Phailin (2013) caused severe damages.
- Advance cyclone warning systems are in place now with the IMD and INCOIS using technology like Doppler radars, automated weather stations, cyclone detection radars etc.
- Odisha has developed detailed disaster management plans and shelters/evacuation systems which greatly reduced casualties during Cyclone Fani (2019). Other states are also working on improving preparedness.
- Coastal states like West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu etc. routinely face flood disasters in the monsoon season due to low lying coastal terrain.
- Early warning systems for storm surges, real-time inundation models and community preparedness efforts are still works in progress.
- Mangrove restoration and shelterbelt plantations are being promoted as bio-shields to reduce impact of surges and saline ingress.
- Coastal Erosion:
- Due to natural factors like wave action, sea level rise and human activities like ports, dams etc. significant coastal erosion is happening in Puducherry, Kerala, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh etc.
- Steps like beach nourishment through sand bypassing, planting shelterbelt species like casuarina etc. are being taken but a comprehensive shoreline management plan is still pending.
- There is a need to regulate activities like groundwater extraction and dam construction which accelerate erosion.
- Tsunami Preparedness:
- After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, India has improved its tsunami warning systems and disaster response.
- Example: The Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC) in Hyderabad issues timely alerts
Thus, while the seas and coasts provide bountiful opportunities for sustaining India's growth across fisheries, ports, energy, tourism and livelihoods, the heightened risks from natural disasters and climate change also underscore the need for 'blue economy' planning that balances economic utilisation with conservation, community participation and disaster preparedness. Integrated coastal zone management is imperative for India to leverage the full potential of its coasts in a sustainable manner.