Anticipatory action to cope with sea level rise: Prof M S Swaminathan
Chennai, May 21, 2016: According to recent reports, nearly 40 million Indians will be at risk from rising sea levels by 2050. Mumbai and Kolkata will be the worst affected. In this context, I wish to recall that following a lecture I gave in Tokyo in 1999 on preparing for sea level rise, the Government of Japan made available funds to MSSRF through the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) for starting such work. This project initiated in 1990 had 3 major goals. First, to revive and strengthen mangrove bioshields which can provide protection against coastal storms. Infact during the tsunami of December 2004 and the super cyclone in Odisha of 1999, the mangrove bioshields saved many lives and livelihoods. Learning from that experience, coastal families started protecting the mangrove forests and also increasing their area.
A second area initiated after my Japan lecture is the cataloguing of genetic resources in mangroves in various parts of South and South Asia and West Africa. The study showed that Bimaru in Papua New Guinea and Bhitarkanika in Odisha have the largest genetic resources of mangroves. Steps were taken to conserve them and utilise them effectively. A third area which was attended to as part of the anticipatory research programme was promoting below sea level farming and conservation of salt tolerant halophytes. A genetic garden of halophytes was established at Vedaranyam and also an International Centre for Below Sea Level Farming was set up by the Kerala Government at Moncompu in Kuttanad area.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.