Date: 15 Nov 2012

Linking global drivers with local and regional change: a social-ecological system approach in Chilika Lagoon, Bay of Bengal

Abstract

Global scale drivers such as international markets for shrimp can trigger large changes at local and regional scales. But there is also a poorly appreciated reverse process, operating from the bottom up, with potential for triggering changes at higher scales. Thus, effects of drivers can be seen as a two-way process in which global drivers and local and regional drivers can potentially impact each other. Here, we argue that not only can global drivers impact the sustainability of local and regional social-ecological systems, but sustainability at higher scales can also be impacted by changes at the scale of local and regional social-ecological systems. Using Chilika, a large lagoon on the Bay of Bengal, Odisha State in India as a case, we show that traditional small-scale capture fisheries supporting 150 fisher villages with some 400,000 people were marginalized by aquaculture development for tiger prawn and by state-driven hydrological interventions, with impacts on the ecology of the lagoon. These changes, in turn, contribute to global poverty and food insecurity, making it difficult for India to meet international targets such as millennium development goals. The marginalized fisherfolk become part of environmental justice and other social movements. With large parts of the lagoon converted into a virtual monoculture for the production of tiger prawn, changes in Chilika (a Ramsar site) contribute to wetland habitat loss at the global scale, and biodiversity losses, possibly including IUCN red-listed species.