Assessing coastal island vulnerability in the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve, India, using geospatial technology

Mehebub Sahana, Haoyuan Hong, Raihan Ahmed, Priyank Pravin Patel, Priya Bhakat, Haroon Sajjad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rising sea levels and the increasing intensity of storm surges and tropical cyclones due to climate change and the resulting dynamic shifts in shoreline positions have dramatically increased the exposure risk and vulnerability of local communities inhabiting the ecologically sensitive deltaic tracts of the Sunderbans in India. The impacts arising from such hazard events on this fragile ecosystem need to be gauged to ameliorate the lives and livelihoods of these residents. This article examines the spatial distribution of vulnerability to coastal hazards within the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve (SBR) in India. For this, we have utilized several structural and process variables, which were integrated to construct a coastal vulnerability index (CVI), using the square root equation. The coastlines of the islands located within the SBR were overlain by 543 grids, each of 2 × 2 km dimension, to assign the risk rank for each considered variable. This revealed that of the total shoreline length (754 km), nearly one-fourth was very highly vulnerable, followed by highly vulnerable (27.8%), moderately vulnerable (27.9%) and low vulnerability (18.8%). Of the total islands located in these grids (27), the coastline of eleven islands was found to have very high vulnerability, five experienced high vulnerability, eight recorded moderate vulnerability while only three had low vulnerability status. The ambient geomorphological characteristics, coastal area slope, the rate of shoreline change and sea level rise were significant variables that accorded high and very high vulnerability to the islands. The CVI helped in identifying islands that require immediate attention for lessening the impact of climate change induced hazards in the SBR and also aided the assessment of the physical and coastal vulnerability conditions of these islands. This approach can be effectively utilized for assessing coastal vulnerability and for creating a holistic approach towards coastal conservation and management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number304
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number10
Early online date10 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Coastal islands
  • Coastal vulnerability index (CVI)
  • Geospatial techniques
  • Structural and process variables
  • Sundarban Biosphere Reserve


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