Island Erosion and Afflicted Population: Crisis and Policies to Handle Climate Change

  • Tuhin GhoshEmail author
  • Rituparna Hajra
  • Anirban Mukhopadhyay
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


Environmental Refugees are unable to maintain a secure livelihood in their own habitat due to environmental hazards, with minor optimism to return. This category includes the people who are displaced due to the disruption in physical and/or social systems, and subsequent losses or degradation of ecosystem services. The impacts of sea level rise in combination with complex hydrodynamic conditions, have caused severe coastal erosion on islands of the Indian Sundarban. In a recent past, within the Hugli River (lower course of River Ganga) estuary, three islands namely Lohachahara, Suparibhanga and Bedford completely submerged and Ghoramara Island eroded significantly which resulted in a considerable population of environmental refugees. In 1991 there were 374 inhabitants in the Lohachara Island who became landless after submergence, and were compelled to move other places. Ghoramara Island is located between 21° 53′ 56″ N to 21° 55′ 37″ N latitude and 88° 06′ 59″ E to 88° 08′ 35″ E longitude within the Hugli estuary of western part of Indian Sundarban. The major occupation of local people is agriculture, fishing and prawn seed collection. Time series analyses using multi-temporal satellite imageries of 1975 and 2010 unfold the erosional pattern of this island. Some of the distinct villages of this island are already under water. Due to the displacement from their own habitat and also gradual loss in ecosystem services, increased rate of migration in this island has resulted. The poorer people who lost their homeland were compelled to move towards mainland areas like Kakdwip/Namkhana or comparatively stable islands like Sagar Island, with little or without any token compensation from the Government. Some of the economically stable people migrated to their other properties in the central part of the Island, hence ensuring their wellbeing. This people are often still paying land tax for their lost land, with little hope of becoming compensated by either cash or land, in the near future.


Erosion Refugee Migration Rehabilitation policy Ghoramara Island 


  1. Bate DC (2002) Environmental refugees? Classifying human migrations caused by environmental change. Popul Environ 23(5):465–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Black R (2001) Environmental refugees: myth or reality? Working paper No. 34, UNHCR, Mar 2001Google Scholar
  3. El-Hinnawi E (1985) Environmental refugees. United Nations Environment Programme, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  4. Ghosh T, Bhandari G, Hazra S (2003) Application of a ‘bio- engineering’ technique to protect Ghoramara Island (Bay of Bengal) from severe erosion. J Coast Conserv 9:171–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ghosh T, Sengupta SK (1997) Morphological changes of Ghoramara Island, West Bengal: documentation. Indian J Geogr Environ 2:64–65Google Scholar
  6. Hazra S, Bakshi A (2003) Environmental refugees from vanishing Islands. In: Bhattacharya P, Hazra S (ed) Environment and human security. Lancers’ Books, pp 219–227Google Scholar
  7. Hazra S, Ghosh T, Dasgupta R, Sen G (2002) Sea level and associated changes in the Sundarbans. Sci Cult 68(9–12):309–321Google Scholar
  8. Homer-Dixon T (1991) On the threshold: environmental changes as causes of acute conflict. Int Secur 16(2):76–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Jacobson J (1988) Environmental refugees: a yardstick of habitability. World watch paper, no. 8. World Watch Institute, Washington, DC, pp 46Google Scholar
  10. Jana A, Sheena S, Biswas A (2012) Morphological change study of Ghoramara Island, Eastern India using multi temporal satellite data. Res J Recent Sci 1(10):72–81Google Scholar
  11. Kellman I (2006) Island security and disaster diplomacy in the context of climate change. Les Cahiers de la Se′curit 63:61–94Google Scholar
  12. Lonergan S (1998) The role of environmental degradation in population displacement. Environmental change and security project report, Issue 4 (Spring 1998), pp 5–15Google Scholar
  13. McGranahan G, Balk D, Anderson B (2007) The rising tide: assessing the risks of climate change and human settlements in low elevation coastal zones. Environ Urbanisation 19(1):17–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Myers N (1993) Environmental refugees in a globally warmed world. Bioscience 43(11):752–761CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Myers N (2002) Environmental refugees: a growing phenomenon of 21st Century. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci. 357(1420):609–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Panda A (2010) Climate refugees: implications for India. Econ Polit Weekly xlv(20):76–79. Available at:, 15 May 2010
  17. Population census of India (1971) India Census Office, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  18. Population census of India (1981) India Census Office, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  19. Population census of India (1991) India Census Office, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  20. Population census of India (2001) India Census Office, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  21. Rajan SC (2008) Blue Alert. Greenpeace India society. Available at:
  22. Stojanov R, Novosák J, Opiniano JM, Emenne F, Siwek T (2008) Development, environment and migration, analysis of linkages and consequences. Palacký University, Olomouc, p 222Google Scholar
  23. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1993) The state of the world’s refugee: the challenge of protection. Switzerland, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  24. United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) (1998) Guiding principles on international displacement (E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2)Google Scholar
  25. Williamson C (1996) The immigration mystique. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Williams A (2008) Turning the tide: recognizing climate change refugees in international law. Law Policy 30(4):502–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tuhin Ghosh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rituparna Hajra
    • 1
  • Anirban Mukhopadhyay
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur UniversityKolkataIndia

Personalised recommendations