Restoring Life and Livelihoods of Coastal Communities with Nature-Based Solutions

The need
The Brahmaputra, Padma and Meghna rivers meet at their confluence in West Bengal, India, to form the mangrove habitat known as Sundarbans. This coastal region is subject to a number of threats that could result in land loss, such as soil erosion, damage to coastal infrastructure, salinisation of freshwater supplies, sea – water sulfate concentrations etc. It impacts the agricultural aspect of the region, affecting mangrove growth and thereby the communities inhabiting the region.

Due to climate change, the majority of the men in these communities have migrated for better employment opportunities, leaving the women with added responsibilities, including managing farms and ensuring the security of their food supply, for which they must prepare. Among them, the Self-Help Groups (SHGs), farmers and fishing communities remain at the forefront of climate disruptions and other disasters. With increasing frequency and intensity of disasters, it becomes difficult to recover and rebuild their lives as most of them are unprepared and lack knowledge of early warning systems.

How we helped
Under the project – Restoring Life and Livelihood of Coastal Communities in Sundarbans: Reviving Nature as Solution, SEEDS with support from NVIDIA aim to build the capacity of marginalized communities and promote nature-based solutions. Our future risk-reduction interventions focus on empowering vulnerable groups especially women by strengthening a sustainable livelihood and regulating the ecosystem for mangroves.

Nature-based solutions
Mangroves play a critical role in protecting coastal communities from climate change and reviving wetlands.  Their aerial roots hold sediments and prevent soil erosion, while the roots, trunks and canopy minimise the force of oncoming waves and storm surge, resulting in a barrier from floods.

In this regard, 25 villages in Patherpratima block of District South 24 Parganas have been identified for plantation of over 30, 000 mangroves. Thus far, 25, 000 mangroves have been planted. The initiative aims at preventing the saline river water from crossing the danger line and killing the crops in surrounding fields.

Along with plantation, mangrove nurseries have been set up, in cooperation with the Self-Help Groups of pre-identified villages. These nurseries will supplement the coastal communities with additional sources of income without the need for middlemen (or mediators), shielding them from all forms of abuse and exploitation.

In order to regulate the ecosystem by restoring water bodies, a team of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) experts identified five ponds in the region, which need restoration. Furthermore, our Geographic Information System (GIS) Professionals and Architects have facilitated GIS mapping exercises; and selected 15 most vulnerable locations near Sundarbans in West Bengal in order to stabilise the stream bank.

Capacity – building of coastal communities
The communities living near the coastal regions are prone to frequent disasters and livelihood losses. Their proximity to the waters make them vulnerable and hence, it becomes more crucial to strengthen their capacity and self-reliance.

We have started forming task force groups that will act as first responders during times of crisis in collaboration with gram panchayats, social activists, local mobilisers, SHGs, and trainers. The plan is to create a cadre of over 170 taskforce members (search and rescue, fire-safety and more) who can lead disaster response efforts as and when required.

Simultaneously, the development and strengthening of Self Help Groups, local youth clubs and community clubs have been incorporated as part of the capacity-building initiative.

Under the project, we aim to reach out to over 80, 000 individuals to foster disaster resilience and sustainable livelihoods so they are well prepared to build back better.

Case Story
Strengthening climate resilience of vulnerable communities with nature-based solutions
Women groups in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, who have survived cyclones like Aila and Amphan have now taken mangrove plantations to create green embankments. Besides cooking, sending their children to school, taking care of the family and keeping their mud huts tidy, they now get together to plant mangrove trees in the area to create a green embankment that would prove crucial not just to their survival but to their ecosystem as well.
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