On July 7, 2015 DECCMA Researchers from Jadavpur University and Centre for Environment and Development, Kolkata, India interacted with local residents of Satjelia island of Gosaba block (sub-district), of the Indian Bengal Delta for a focus group discussion (FGD). Attended by 15 men and 10 women, the discussion was conducted in local language (Bangla) in two separate male-female groups.
Prof. Sugata Hazra introduced the objectives of DECCMA. Although Satjelia does not face the risk of erosion as faced by some other islands of this delta, the responses from this FGD were important to understand other stresses experienced by the people of this region.
The following themes were discussed:
Perceived Climatic Changes: Imbalances in climatic conditions have become more prevalent since the occurrence of Cyclone Aila in 2009. These changes include unpredictable weather, untimely setting in of seasons, erratic rainfall, increase in temperature, floods and cyclones and saline water intrusion.
Effects on Livelihoods: Whiplash of environmental stress is being faced by all age groups, across all livelihoods. Farmers are worst affected followed by the fishermen, honey and crab collectors. Not only are the people shifting between livelihoods but also competing to carry those out in limited available space.
Coping and Adaptation strategies: Adaptation measures include successful cultivation of salt tolerant rice varieties. Development initiatives include introduction of solar power since the island has no electricity. The villagers are also adopting coping mechanisms to survive by constructing temporary mud embankments which are unreliable.
Migration as a response to the stresses – People are mostly migrating to the nearest urban and peri-urban areas to work in bags, hosiery manufacturing units and tanneries. Young people are migrating seeking education. A lot of women who have school education are now going to Kolkata to work as care-givers for patients.
Migration successful or unsuccessful?: Success for these people is a very grey area. Migration is ushering in economic success but the pitfalls include diseases. Family as a social unit is getting disrupted at the cost of economic gains. Exploitation at the hands of middlemen hardly makes migration successful.
Impacts of migration: Households are devoid of men, women and young people. The social structure is thus getting affected with mostly the elderly being left behind. The island is gradually becoming home to trapped population.
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