This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Athira R.S. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Is It Too Late To Save Marine Livelihoods In Kerala From Climate Change?

More from Athira R.S

The state of Kerala is situated along the south-west coast of India. It stretches along the Arabian Sea and is separated from the rest of the sub-continent by the steep Western Ghats. Kerala has a 580-kilometre-long coastal line and these coasts cover around 10-15% of its total area. Almost 222 fishing villages depend on this marine coast in terms of livelihood. Oceans have had an influence on the history of the state and people’s way of life in Kerala since ancient times.

Trade, through sea, was seen even in earlier centuries of the first millennium BC. Kerala has had frequent maritime interactions with the regions around Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Agriculture is considered the main source of livelihood in the state. However, marine fisheries and trade has also been a major sector of livelihood and economy since ancient times. In short, one may say that the economy of Kerala is based primarily on agriculture and marine products. Kerala has a unique development track and been ranked first in the UNDP’s ranking of states, the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index for India’s States, UNDP, 2019. Fisheries have a major role in the unparalleled development trajectory of Kerala.

The UNDP Human Development Report, 2007-08, shows that developing nations near the equator are much more vulnerable to a rise in the sea level. This means that coastal areas in India are more vulnerable to a sea-level rise. The role of climate change is more clear in this scenario and if it is left unchecked, it will severely affect those who are living near the sea and depending on the sea.

Climate Change In Kerala

Climate change in Kerala has caused a variety of impacts on agriculture, human health, biodiversity, coastal areas and water crisis, and vary from region to region. Kerala’s ecosystem is a closed and fragile one. The emission rate of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the state is comparatively low. However, the shifting pattern of monsoon over the last decade is enough to prove the role of climate change in Kerala. The Arabian Sea on the western border of Kerala is getting severely affected by climate change and global warming. From 1904 to 1994, an increase in temperature by 0.5°C was observed on the surface of the Arabian Sea. Since 1995, the increase has been unprecedented.

There is ample evidence to show that the increase in surface-level temperature of the Arabian sea is due to the influence of carbon-related global warming and climatic change. A study conducted by ITM (Institute of Tropical Meteorology), Pune, on the increase in temperature between 1901 and 2007 in the north of Kerala (Calicut region) and the south of Kerala (Thiruvananthapuram region) asserts that there has been an increase in the annual average temperature of these regions in the last 100 years.

The average annual temperature in the north has increased by 1.02°C and in the south, it is 1°C. The increase in temperature during the last three decades is almost 0.4°C. Statistics by the Indian Meteorological Department indicates that there has been an increase in temperatures by 0.64°C over the last five decades across seven centres in Kerala. The increase in global temperature in the last five decades has been 0.7°C. This shows that the increase in the temperature level in Kerala has a similar pattern as that of the global increase in temperature.

In the case of rainfall pattern, there was a decline in rainfall from 1901 to 2007. The changes in rainfall along the western coast of Kerala has increased by 6-8% in the past five decades. The flood that occurred in 2018 in Kerala was an outcome of this increase in rainfall. By 2030, an increase of 8% can be expected in the months of June, July and August, and 19% the decrease in rainfall is expected in the months of November, December and January.

Climate Change And The Vanishing Coast

The change in physical ocean parameters, such as seawater temperature and current flows affect the number of marine fishes and the distribution of marine fish stocks. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that as sea temperature changes, the quantity of fish will change and the fish will move to different areas — some species would go extinct in particular areas, while some predators and prey in the food chain would move to different areas.

This would lead to a disruption in food chains. Wetlands and other low lying habitats where fish reproduce will be drowned by the rising sea and the inconstant weather may stop fishers from going to the sea altogether (Adger et al., 2003). The shifting pattern of EL Nino, due to climate change and the degradation of mangrove forest along the coastline, is a major threat to the marine environment of Kerala. The western side of the Arabian Sea is most vulnerable to cyclones. However, climate change, in the recent decades, has made the eastern part of Arabian sea vulnerable to cyclones as well.

The Ockhi cyclone of 2017 on the southern districts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu led to a degradation of many marine ecosystems. Representational image.

The Ockhi cyclone, which happened in 2017 on the southern districts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, bears witness. Migration of fish species, the degradation of many marine ecosystems and the disappearance of the Ridley Turtle’s breeding sands were the aftermath of this cyclone. In Kerala, most of the fishing communities use the direction of wind, waves and the sight of flock birds for fishing. They observe nature and this traditional and local knowledge has given a strong foundation for the sustainability of their livelihoods. They are familiar with paru (rocky reefs) under the sea and the ecosystem present there. A change in climate can shift the pattern of wind and waves and the route of migratory birds. Nowadays, unpredicted climate can lead to the cyclones that gobble up coasts, houses and numerous species of fish, disrupting the existing ecosystems by newly migrated species.


These unpredictable events have made a severe impact on marine ecosystems, nature and commercial fisheries. In Kerala, most of the artisanal fishers are extremely poor, and socially as well as politically marginalised communities. Their capacity to adapt is poor and the small-scale (often migrant) fishers are highly vulnerable to climate impacts. This leads to a situation where fisher communities are suffering in terms of their income and social standards.

Due to climate change, vulnerability has emerged in the community. Vulnerability, as defined by IPCC, is a condition where the internal ability to cope, recover and adapt to climate stress lacks. According to the IPCC 2001, “vulnerability is the extent to which climate change may damage or harm a system it depends not only a system’s sensitivity but also its ability to adapt to new climatic conditions. The major impacts of climate change in marine fisheries are the changes in habitat brought about by the rise in sea-level, the frequency of extreme events such as cyclones, erratic catch and erratic revenue.”


Marine livelihoods are always the most affected by climate change. The strategies used to ‘combat’ climate change are technology gimmicks — they’re costly and do not take into account the vulnerabilities of the fishing community in Kerala. These methods create uncertainties in the ecology as well as livelihoods, and cast doubts on oft-proven data. This doesn’t pave recovery channels for these fishing communities. This keeps them locked in their contexts of vulnerability. The long term impacts of climate change on marine livelihoods have not been realised yet, to the horrifying extents they can be. Improvement in the primary stakeholder’s awareness by involving them in disaster-preparedness, management and mitigation planning can resolve these problems to an extent.

You must be to comment.

More from Athira R.S

Similar Posts


By Sheeva Yamuna

By Charkha features

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below