ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Surviving on the Brink

A Tale from Satabhaya, Odisha

An ecosystem helps or hinders the livelihood of the people depending on it. Satabhaya is a village in the coastal belt of Odisha of Bhitarkanika National Park which depends heavily on the forest ecosystem for survival and at the same time the ecosystem is engulfing the village to the point of extinction. This article describes how they struggle to survive in this fragile ecosystem.

This study is a part of my PhD thesis at ISEC; I thank my supervisor Syed Ajmal Pasha, doctoral committee members (M V Nadkarni, R S Deshpande, M G Chandrakanth and B P Vani), panel experts and other referees for their comments and support. Subhashree Banerjee ( is a PhD student at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru.

The wide range of services and benefits that people derive from the ecosystem is an integral part of their livelihood systems. In this article, I use the example of Satabhaya (the land of seven brothers), a village in the coastal belt of Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha’s Kendrapara District, to show how an ecosystem is critical to sustaining livelihoods.

Villages in the region face a constant threat of sea ingression. Satabhaya is among the few settlements that has not been washed away by the sea. The number of households in the village has increased from 88—with 474 people—in 1951 to 255 —with 1,169 people—in the 2011 Census. However, when I surveyed the village, people from only 140 households were present. The threat of sea ingression had forced the others to migrate. I interviewed people from 35 households in April and May 2015. Satabhaya’s economy is dependent on the forest ecosystem and the villagers are either cultivators or belong to fishing communities. This article tries to describe the lives and problems of the people of the village, probably amongst the first climate victims in recent times.

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