The north-western maritime state of Gujarat, located on the Arabian Sea, has India’s longest coastline of 1,600 km. Gujarat is characterized by semi-arid climatic conditions, with two-thirds of its population dependent on agriculture and its allied activities. The ecological importance of Gujarat could be ascertained by the presence of two gulfs viz. Gulf of Kachchh and Gulf of Khambhat, of which the former holds the country's first marine national park, while the latter one is celebrated trade centre since ancient times. Apart from abundant floral and faunal diversity, the coast is well known for its rich maritime history,commerce-inflected social structures, and cultural heritage.
The traditional livelihood activities like fishery and agriculture in the olden days got gradually replaced by industrial skills during the twenty-first century. The new liberalized policy and foreign investments brought prosperity along the state but also carried environmental stress. Amidst the rapidly changing economic order, an increase in anthropogenic activities lead to ecological and environmental shifts in the coastal region of the state.
Though many researchers documented the vagaries in the bio-physical, geological, cultural, social, and developments, a comprehensive study of the area by following a holistic approach was lacking. An integrated multidimensional approach was required for rationalizing the development through sustainable goals and conserving the ecosystem to ensure livelihood security, social and economic sustainability.
Keeping this in mind and taking the pioneering steps in the field, the Gujarat Ecology Society (GES) in 1998 has carried out a study to document essential environmental aspects of the entire Gujarat coastline. The study covered biological aspects, land features, and social characteristics, reflecting the nature and magnitude of environmental changes that took place along the coastline before 1998, including impacts on the economy and human settlements. The study was the first of its kind in the state and was published by the GES in four volumes: Gulf of Kachchh, Saurashtra coast, Gulf of Khambhat, and South Gujarat that served as the baseline information.
The present work is a progression over the previous study where the coastal dynamism has been ascertained over 23 years along four sections. Each coast compiles relevant information, comparison, and digitization of past and present changes and presents it in a user-friendly manner.
The "Gulf of Kachchh" reports growth in saltpan workers, shifts in agricultural pattern, increase in sea surface temperature (SST) and rainfall. Impacts of which are also seen on coral reefs ecosystems. Port-based development activities close to coral reef and mangroves habitats made them vulnerable through sedimentation and PHC content in water and sediment. Industrialization and urbanization has increased putting pressure on groundwater along with increase in solid waste generation and sewage generation. The social structure shows a clear migration pattern, skewed sex ratio along the industrialized talukas, and a decline in a tribal population. The greener picture depicts more efforts towards mangrove conservation, collective responsibility of environment protection, ease and access to goods and services, and improved health and education facilities. The presence of blue flag beach i.e "Shivrajpur" shows the degree of awareness and steps initiated for sustainable developments by the government.
The "Gulf of Khambhat" the “golden corridor” reports a shift from an industry dominated to urban and infrastructure development. The exhilarating industrialization and urbanization along the coast have altered the traditional economy as well as socioeconomic facet, by commencements of gigantic projects like Dahej- GPCPIR, Dholera SIR, Aliyabet SIR, and Kalpasar. With this, even today agriculture has remained one of the major occupations in the region. Though bringing economical prosperity, these projects have triggered the debate on the decline in agriculture by conversion of cultivable land to industrial and human settlements. The commencement of major dams has severely impacted the prized Hilsa, Bombay duck, and giant water prawn fishery along the region. Migrations, settlements of immigrants, and dilution of the native culture are visible along this part of the coast
The "Saurashtra coast" reports declining fishery due to environmental dynamism. Salinity ingression, depleting groundwater levels, and shift in agriculture patterns form a common sight along the coast. The sparse corals reported along the stretch of Dhamlej, Sutrapada, and Porbandarneeds protection against the developmental activities. Increased pressure on groundwater has led to salinity ingress and high fluoride in the coastal regions affecting agriculture and human health
South Gujarat coast highlights the paradox of mangrove diversity along with the high pollution load along the estuaries. Additionally, the presence of heavy metals from the marine biota above the prescribed limit of WHO serves as an alarming signal for the deteriorating environmental conditions along the region. The poor water quality has adversely impacted fishery in the region. Urbanization, increased population density, skewed gender ratio are some of the main highlights of the humanscape. The management measures suggested in the book are tailored made for each coast and deserve integration in the future policies pertaining to sustainable goals along the Gujarat coast.