Communities along India’s 7500 km coastline have experienced extreme weather events in the last several years and are particularly vulnerable to future storms and rising seas. On the island of Maipith, 14-year old Sefali has made it her life goal to plant 35,000 mangroves. She is one of many students who have been trained to become environmental leaders through the careful guidance of Green Rhinos, a project of ASED. Safali understands that protecting mangroves is critical to the survival of the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world. The impacts of Cyclone Aila (2009) on fishing and farming continue to plague the area – salt water poisons the soil of rice paddy fields that many families subsist on. Migration is on the rise. In response to these challenges, The Sagar Island Women’s Collective is developing salt-tolerant rice seeds by germinating the seeds in salt water and cow urine. With the support of NEWS, they are developing plans for ecotourism and other economic alternatives. Leaders like Mangala Mondal are planting mangroves in areas that were damaged by the cyclone.

Cyclone Aila caused endless destruction but it also put remote locations like the Andaman Islands on the international map and the region has experienced an increase in tourism in the last ten years. Game fishing experts like Akshay Malavi are invested in balancing economic opportunities with sustainability. Educators like Krishna Ashor are helping communities understand the natural defenses of mangroves and coral reefs in the event of future storms. Coral reef ecologist Dr. Naveen Namboothri, sees environmental education as a key way to inform people about the threats to coral reef ecologies and has collaborated on two school books including ‘Sand in my Hands’ and ‘Treasure Island.’

STORIES FROM INDIA