Tandahara, Puri District, Orissa State – India
1) On Climate Change Frontline: territorial struggle
Tandahara is a coastal village in the Bay of Bengal, which precise location keeps on changing due to constant shore erosion and rising sea level. It’s 650 inhabitants live with and from the ocean, but precious traditional knowledge of adaptation and coping is getting overwhelmed by the increase in rapidity of global warming. Similarly, local capacities remain powerless witnessing the embankment progressively being eaten by sea and wind.
Staying home has become an everyday challenge. There is not safe place anymore: high tide has become the new clock in the village as men, cattle, fields and water sources are regularly washed into sea. Vareen, the Lord of the Sea seems to remain insensitive to prayers, while the World chooses to look away.
Unfortunately Tandahara’s case represents only one drop in the ocean of the ongoing global environment crisis. In India alone, 63 million people are living in the Low Elevation Coastal Zone, highly vulnerable and highly impacted. So many more villages, towns, cities and even countries across the world seem to be doomed to geographically disappear. The waves wash away communities.
2) On Climate Change Frontline: jeopardized resources
In Tandahara the main source of income is agriculture, primarily rice crops, along with stock-raising. However as the sea progressively infiltrates the soil: salinization makes the land unfertile reducing the cultivable surface, and ultimately shrinking the community’s starch food quantity as well as their livelihoods.
Villagers still manage to harvest once in a year (instead of 2 in normal conditions), but until when? Harvest season is such an important event in Tandahara! … Event that unfortunately coincides with the cyclone season. In case of crop failure, the community is left resource-less, as it already happened in the past.
There is no tap water in the village and freshwater sources are progressively also being contaminated by the sea progression. One remaining pound supplies the whole community, used together by inhabitants and cattle, for field irrigation, for cleaning, cooking, laundry and bathing: sanitary risks are obvious, but resilience never occurs in a safe context.
Tandahara people don’t have much of a footprint -most of the households don’t have regular electricity. Adaptation here is a matter of survival. However, this time, climate is changing too fast for them to adapt.
3) On Climate Change Frontline: disaster and everyday life
Climate change is not only silent and discrete, slowly reshaping our environment and questioning our ways of life. Climate change may also be brutal, violent and extreme, it can sweep away the environment and take away life within a minute. Climate Change have diverse faces, making it difficult to recognize, to identify.
Nature sends signals: anomalies. Anomalies exist in every system – but an increase in the frequency and intensity of such anomalies is always indicating that a major breakdown is about to happen.
People in Tandahara are witnessing these signals almost on a daily basis: twice a month during monsoon, the village gets flooded. Cyclones repeatedly hit the community such as in 1999 and 2013. According to scientists half of the weather disasters occurring nowadays in the world are linked to climate change. Most of these signals, these warnings, are being ignored or too slightly taken.
The “multipurpose shelter” in Tandahara is a symbol: used as a school, as a bike and motorcycle parking, as an assembly hall, as well as a wedding and ceremony venue… daily life must goes on while knowing the worse might be coming.