Addressing Coastal Vulnerability at the Village Level: The Role of Socio-economic and Physical Factors

Saudamini Das
JEL codes: 
Working Paper Series No. E/295/2009

Vulnerability to extreme events is usually addressed for macro units (districts or provinces) whereas the relative vulnerability of micro units may be more useful to a policy maker. The present study addresses the vulnerability of coastal villages to cyclones and storm surge risks and identifies the physical and socio-economic factors strongly impacting the vulnerability of the villages. Rather than using a composite or aggregative index, we define the vulnerability index as the probability of facing non-zero deaths due to severe cyclones and calculate the indexes from a cyclone impact (human casualty) function using both Logit and Poisson specifications. We use human casualty data of the Super cyclone of Oct 1999 in India and other geo-physical and socioeconomic data for the same year and study the 262 villages lying within 10 km of the coast in Kendrapada district, a highly vulnerable district in India. We find 112 to 132 villages qualifying as least vulnerable with a death probability of less than 0.1; 72-82 villages as moderately vulnerable with a death probability ranging between 0.1 and 0.3; 34-37 villages rated as more vulnerable with a death probability in between 0.3 to 0.5; and 21 to 34 villages displaying high vulnerability with a death probability greater than 0.5. In general, villages established in the mangrove habitat areas after cutting down the forest and the ones with a higher percentage of marginal workers were found to be more vulnerable while those with mangrove vegetation behind them and situated near a big river were seen as being less vulnerable. The results have important implications in identification of the vulnerable or the most vulnerable hotspots in an otherwise vulnerable area.