Coastal vulnerability assessment of Puducherry coast, India, using the analytical hierarchical process
As a consequence of change in global climate, an increased frequency of natural hazards such as storm surges, tsunamis and cyclones, is predicted to have dramatic affects on the coastal communities and ecosystems by virtue of the devastation they cause during and after their occurrence. The tsunami of December 2004 and the Thane cyclone of 2011 caused extensive human and economic losses along the coastline of Puducherry and Tamil Nadu. The devastation caused by these events highlighted the need for vulnerability assessment to ensure better understanding of the elements causing different hazards and to consequently minimize the after- effects of the future events. This paper demonstrates an analytical hierarchical process (AHP)-based approach to coastal vulnerability studies as an improvement to the existing methodologies for vulnerability assessment. The paper also encourages the inclusion of socio-economic parameters along with the physical parameters to calculate the coastal vulnerability index using AHP-derived weights. Seven physical–geological parameters (slope, geomorphology, elevation, shoreline change, sea level rise, significant wave height and tidal range) and four socio-economic factors (population, land use/land cover (LU/LC), roads and location of tourist areas) are considered to measure the physical vulnerability index (PVI) as well as the socio-economic vulnerability index (SVI) of the Puducherry coast. Based on the weights and scores derived using AHP, vulnerability maps are prepared to demarcate areas with very low, medium and high vulnerability. A combination of PVI and SVI values are further utilized to compute the coastal vulnerability index (CVI). Finally, the various coastal segments are grouped into the 3 vulnerability classes to obtain the coastal vulnerability map. The entire coastal extent between Muthiapet and Kirumampakkam as well as the northern part of Kalapet is designated as the high vulnerability zone, which constitutes 50% of the coastline. The region between the southern coastal extent of Kalapet and Lawspet is the medium vulnerability zone and the remaining 25% is the low vulnerability zone. The results obtained enable the identification and prioritization of the more vulnerable areas of the region in order to further assist the government and the residing coastal communities in better coastal management and conservation.