Inequality and adaptation to Sea Level Rise under RCP4.5 until 2100: a study of adaptation strategies for vulnerable communities in India’s Ganga Delta
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This research focuses on adaptation strategies for vulnerable communities in the Indian Ganga Delta against projected sea level rise (SLR) under RCP4.5 until 2100 and how adaptation strategies can be designed to reduce SLR-related inequalities for these social groups. In general, societies can adapt to SLR-related threats in three ways: planned migration, managed retreat, accommodation, and “hold the line” through structural, non-structural or ecosystem-based adaptation approaches. Although these can be combined, sometimes choices have to be made between multiple options. Landless people, who are predominantly agricultural labourers, are likely forced to migrate due to tidal erosion of mud embarkments and land degradation by saline water intrusion. For these people, SLR poses a significant risk, and it is already happening today. Other social groups such as women and older adults also tend to have higher vulnerability to hazardous events. SLR shows how an environmental threat can have an uneven impact in terms of severity and urgency on certain groups and how it can cause certain livelihoods to become even more precarious than they already are. For this reason, it is important to see which measures have been adopted in the past, what the current situation is, what the drivers behind SLR-induced inequalities are and how adaptation strategies can be designed to prevent or reduce this. Hence, the main research question is the following: “What are the adaptation strategies for vulnerable communities in the Ganga Delta in India for projected Sea Level Rise under RCP4.5 until 2100 and how can it reduce potential SLR-induced inequalities” By looking at a mean SLR of 0.55 meter (which is the IPCC’s intermediate projection under RCP4.5) combined with storm surge sea level heights of 4,5 and 6,5 meters, this study has applied geographic information systems (GIS) to map which areas in West Bengal India will be affected by SLR. These maps show critical flood- prone areas in and around the Sandurban region, including urban hotspots near the banks of several large rivers. Furthermore, this research did a review of recent literature on SLR-induced inequalities. It identified several corridors that increase vulnerability and inequality by reproducing exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities. Subsequently, the LASI wave-1 survey dataset from 2018 was used for a vulnerability indicator assessment of women, older adults and landless agricultural groups. Lacking geo-codes of the respondents (which are yet to be released) limited this analysis, as it prevented an integration of geospatial vulnerability variables. At last, a literature-based analysis of recent and potential future adaptation strategies was done, which concluded that a mix of soft and hard approaches while incentivizing long-term migration will potentially protect vulnerable communities the most.