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Vulnerability and Climate Change: An Analysis of the Eastern Coastal Districts of India

Patnaik, Unmesh and Narayanan, K. (2009): Vulnerability and Climate Change: An Analysis of the Eastern Coastal Districts of India.

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This paper attempts to construct a picture of socioeconomic context of vulnerability by focusing on indicators that measure both the state of development of the region as well as its capacity to progress further. The first aspect is reflected through agricultural and industrial development, while the second through infrastructure and others. In this study, the climate change impacts are examined from agriculture, infrastructure and demographic characteristics. The analysis is carried out at the district level. Vulnerability of a particular district is measured by the frequency of occurrence of extreme events, in this case the occurrence of cyclones, storms and depressions. From the data on the frequency of occurrence of extreme events it is clear that the districts in the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh are highly vulnerable than the other states. The study aims to build a vulnerability index and rank the various coastal districts of these highly vulnerable states in terms of their performance on the index. The index tries to capture a comprehensive scale of vulnerability by including many indicators that serve as proxies. The analysis carried out in this paper points out that the clusters of districts of poor infrastructure and demographic development are also the regions of maximum vulnerability. Some districts exhibit very low rate of growth in infrastructure, alongside a high growth rate of population. Also these districts show a higher density of population. Hence any occurrence of extreme events is likely to be more catastrophic in nature for the people living in these districts. People living in absolute poverty [those who cannot afford US $2 a day] will not be able to cope up with the challenges posed by climate change. Therefore, the analysis carried out in this paper suggests that climate change policies have to be integrated with sustainable development strategies in general, and poverty alleviation measures, in particular.

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