The coastal wetlands in India are in an extremely vulnerable condition. The expected loss of wetlands in India is 84 per cent with a sea-level rise of one metre, says a World Bank study.
The policy research working paper of World Bank, “Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Wetlands: Impacts and Costs”, was published in November 2012.
The study states that wetlands in 76 developing countries, including India, are vulnerable. According to a study, 50 per cent of wetlands in the world was lost in a span of 100 years. But in India, around 38 per cent was depleted in 10 years. In Kerala, wetlands reduced from 2.32 lakh hectares in 2004 to 1.61 lakh hectares in 2011.
“The computation indicates that the total economic value of wetlands at risk associated with a one metre SLR amounts to approximately $735 million per year.
The global wetland loss will be 32 per cent and 44 per cent by 2080 for a 50 cm and one metre rise in sea level between 1990 and 2100, respectively,” the World Bank report said.
According to the study, approximately 64 per cent of freshwater marsh, 66 per cent of global lakes and wetlands and 61 per cent of brackish/saline wetlands are at risk globally.
A large per cent of the loss would be shouldered by East Asia and the Pacific, and the Middle East and North Africa.
V S Vijayan, chairman, Salim Ali Foundation, said that the impact of wetland loss would be high in India and particularly in Kerala.
“The paddy fields in Kerala in 1975 were spread over eight lakh hectares. In 2011 this reduced to 2.34 lakh hectares. If we build airports by filling paddy fields, there would be a huge environmental impact,” said Vijayan, former chairman, the Kerala State Biodiversity Board.
At the global-level, the results are extremely skewed, with a few countries severely affected. In East Asia, China and Vietnam would bear maximum losses. In the Middle East and North Africa, Libya and Egypt would bear the brunt.