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Climate Change, Sea Level Rise and Protecting Displaced Coastal Communities: Possible Solutions

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Climate change and sea level rise are realities that are upon us and which will profoundly impact the lives and basic rights of millions of coastal residents all over the world. As the law stands both at the international and at certain national levels, the basic human rights of the climate displaced are not adequately protected. This paper identifies two possible displacement scenarios, based on the continued availability/non-availability of land in the face of sea level rise and other climate change impacts; namely, the sinking Small Island Developing States phenomeon, where land disappears and there is no surplus land to support habitation, and all other cases, where the coastal land is battered severely but it can be re-utilized through appropriate adaptation measures or even if coastal frontage land disappears there is still land available inland. On this basis, the paper proposes three possible solutions: (1) bilateral or regional treaties to facilitate resettlement of the inhabitants of sinking Small Island Developing States, (2) appropriate coastal climate change adaptation implemented via integrated coastal zone management and (3) creation of new arrangements under the international climate change regime to provide financial assistance and technological support to respond to both situations. Even though the primary focus of this paper is on coastal communities in South Asia, the lessons that it offers are relevant to other coastal contexts as well.

Affiliations: 1: LL.M. (Kerala University, India), LL.M. (Dalhousie University), M.Phil (National University of Juridical Sciences, India), Presently PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar


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