Identifying priorities for climate change adaptation

Photo: Elena Mirage /

Identifying priorities for climate change adaptation

Kerala stands first in the UNDP’s Human Development Index for Indian States (Planning Commission, 2002; Council for Social Development, 2008). The State is well known for its unique development, emphasising high human (social) development over and above economic growth.

Kerala is a fragile ecosystem, which presents both threats and opportunities for sustainable development. It has one of the highest state population densities in India (Kerala: 858 people per km², India: 382 people per km² (Census 2011)). This contributes to acute food insecurity, with reliance on imported grains, and a lack of available land for housing, which results in encroachment into forests and low-lying wetlands.

The coastal area, which covers the entire western boundary of Kerala (590 km), has a particularly high population density. According to the 2011 population census, there are more than a million fishers in Kerala, and of these 771,000 live in coastal areas, with 231,000 living inland. Their livelihoods are directly dependent on the sea, coast and wetlands and, consequently, they are the most vulnerable section of the population. The Kerala State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC), approved in 2014, identifies increased coastal erosion, inundations, persistent storm events, shifts in wetlands and the incursion of seawater into freshwater aquifers as possible effects of climate change. Coastal erosion will particularly affect agriculture and fisheries in the coastal zone.

The public healthcare system in Kerala plays a major role in the health sector, especially for surveillance, prevention and curative services. The State is going through a phase of health transition, via a combination of demographic, epidemiological and healthcare transitions. People living in coastal regions, water-logged areas and hilly areas are all particularly vulnerable in different ways. Clear analysis, data, information and systems are required in order to take appropriate measures to reduce the climate risks faced by vulnerable groups.


Our approach

ACT provides flexible and responsive technical assistance for climate change adaptation interventions to the State’s Departments of Environment and Climate Change, Fisheries and Health, as well as local governments, other relevant departments and stakeholders.

Following consultations with government and other stakeholders during 2015, ACT identified three main areas of support. The first objective is to develop approaches and strategies to protect the coast, together with adaptation options through livelihood enhancement in fisheries. The second aim is to improve the response of the health sector to climate change. The third is to develop an institutional coordination and governance system for climate change adaptation. ACT’s three interrelated focus areas are consistent with the State Government’s development objectives and the SAPCC.

Protecting the coast and fishery livelihoods

The first focus area supports climate-resilient coastal protection and livelihoods in fisheries sector planning. Working with the Department of Fisheries, local self-governments and communities, ACT is supporting the development of programmes and provides inputs for policies for the overall protection of the coastline, fisheries and wetlands. For example, ACT offers technical support in preparing local sub-plans for coastal protection measures and livelihood options for fishers.

Preparing the health sector for climate resilience

The second focus area involves developing a more climate-resilient health sector. ACT supports the interventions needed to strengthen the overall health system’s capacity to manage and adapt to climate-sensitive health risks. These include an initial analysis of temporal and spatial morbidity and mortality data, to assess vulnerability due to climate change. This will be followed by technical assistance in the development of a strategy, systems and action plans to improve surveillance, forecasting and preparedness in the context of climate. It will then be possible to create models to identify vulnerable geographical locations facing increased health impacts due to weather extremes, and hence identify vulnerable populations and high risk areas requiring specific intervention.

Institutionalising climate change reform

The third focus area involves working directly with the State Government to strengthen institutional coordination systems and mainstream climate change adaptation. ACT is supporting the mapping of various institutions, departments, agencies and organisations working on Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) activities in Kerala. This mapping is complemented by a framework for integrated actions by relevant stakeholders under the leadership of the nodal department. Such actions would include coordination and the analysis and dissemination of data by the agencies to relevant stakeholders. During this process, ACT supports the nodal department in developing a framework and terms of reference for a Climate Change Cell and a Knowledge Management Strategy. This includes support in identifying data, information and knowledge requirements for climate change assessments by the relevant departments, agencies and institutions.

Partnership building

The main partners in Kerala are the State’s Departments of Environment and Climate Change, Fisheries, and Health, plus local self-governments, other relevant departments and non-government stakeholders. The intended indirect beneficiaries include communities in the coastal areas, Panchayati Raj Institutions (local self-governments) and sectoral departments.

Nirmala (Mariamma) Sanu George, Team Leader
ACT Kerala
T: +91 94 4770 3399 | +91 99 9543 9611

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About the series

The ACT on location series focuses on ACT's work in nine locations across South Asia. Each leaflet synthesises the extensive work ACT has been carrying out to improve climate resilience and combat the effects of climate change in Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and six Indian states: Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Odisha.

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Identifying priorities for climate change adaptation

Two-page leaflet detailing ACT’s work on climate finance adaptation in Kerala.

Date of publication: July 2016

Published by: Action on Climate Today

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