Young Indians help revive coastal towns reeling from climate change

© Murali Krishnan

Chilika Lake, the largest brackish water lagoon in the Indian state of Odisha, is a prominent biodiversity hotspot along the east coast with thousands of migratory birds visiting from different parts of the world every year.

But over time, this wetland has been exposed to changing environmental conditions, impacting the livelihood opportunities of the local people – especially fishing.

Climate extremes in coastal Odisha are predominantly rapid-onset events such as cyclones, floods and storm surges that happen on a regular basis.

“Since there were no jobs or alternative livelihoods in many coastal villages especially on the northern banks of the Chilika, many youths left for other cities in the country for employment,” Stalin Nayak, director of the Pantiss group of non-profits, told RFI.

“But things are changing now. We have mobilised the youth to undertake initiatives to strengthen livelihood opportunities for themselves and the community and prevent migration for work.”

Eco-tourism drive

A raft of initiatives in the last three years has seen interventions focused on water protection, rejuvenation and rebuilding livelihoods.

The UN agency, Unicef’s Youth4Water, has mobilised local youth in Mangalajodi town, on the northern banks of the Chilika lake, in activities that strengthen ecosystem resilience.

The town has a population of 10,000 people, mostly engaged in work around the wetlands.

“It is proving a success. Ecotourism is on the rise and the youth are also training the local people to become tourist guides and drivers,” Anwesa Dutta, a coordinator for Youth4Water, told RFI.

“We have a deep family-like bond with the birds and the ecosystem here.”

Read more on RFI English

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