South Asia has one of the most bustling coasts with densely populated habitations on its 12,000 km long coastline.
Numerous urban centres dot the South Asian seaside, buzzing with anthropogenic activities like industrial, commercial, and tourist. At the same time these coasts are also ecological treasure-troves with the Sunderbans in Bangladesh, corals in Sri Lanka, turtles in Pakistan and the abundant and endangered marine life of Maldives.
The last few decades has seen massive degradation of coasts across the region – from loss of habitat for coastal communities to endangering of marine species. Coasts are under tremendous pressure – from population, pollution, wastes, industrial activities and tourism.
To add to the woes, climate change induced natural disasters like cyclones, tsunamis and sea level rise only aggravate the crisis displacing populations and wiping pout marine life.
Under the second CSE Media Fellowship programme for the South Asian region, Centre for Science and Environment selected nine journalists to study, investigate and report on the pressures, conflicts, impacts, actions and inactions that are being played out on their coasts.
Applications accompanied by their resumes, samples of work and letter of support from their editors were received from across the Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. A total of 52 applications were received out of which 25 were shortlisted for final selection.
A jury comprising of senior media professionals was constituted to select the fellows. The jury members were
• Nalaka Gunawardene, Sri Lanka
• Khalid Rehman, Pakistan
• Mostafa Kamal Majumdar, Bangladesh
• Sachidanand Murthy, India
• Vipul Mudgal, India
• Sunita Narain, India
The parameters for assessing the candidates included originality of ideas; grasp of issues covered; relevance of the issues covered; range of the issues covered; analytical skills; writing skills; and initiative. The jury was requested to finalise the selection of journalists for the fellowship, enrich proposed story ideas with fresh perspectives and suggest ways to make future fellowships more challenging and meaningful.
Here are the 9 fellows :-
Mashiur Rahaman Shaon
Reporter, The Financial Express
Area of study: Environmental impacts of increasing ship breaking/building industries; increased soil salinity due to shrimp cultivation; ecological imbalances in Saint Martin’s Island; impacts of increasing tourism on the coast; loss of mangroves and resultant increase in soil acidity. Mashiur published four stories in The Financial Express about the emerging ship breaking yards on the Sitakundo beach, the rising sality and acidity eroding the coasts, hampering its fertility tourism in St Martin Island and its effect
Senior Reporter, The New Nation
Area of study: Impacts of tourism on the Bangladesh coast. Syful Islam published six articles in The New Nation as a series on the impacts of climate change and tourism on the coastal districs of Bangladesh.
Jasim Uddin Sarker
Staff Reporter, Amar Desh
Area of study: Livelihood challenges of coping with climate change and natural disasters in the coastal Bhola district.
Mohammad Imran Hossain Ansary
Senior Reporter, Diganta TV
Area of study: Coastal communities, their habitats, and displacement due to climate change.
Contributor, The Hindu and The News
Area of study: Importance of island ecosystems for the preservation of species and their habitats, and their protection from the impacts of climate change – Buddo and Bandal Islands
Rina Saeed Khan
Area of study: Protection of Dharan and Astola beaches for turtle conservation; whale conservation off the Makran coast; mangrove plantations in Karachi; eco-tourism in Kakapir village; and energy-efficient and cyclone-resistant housing in Karachi. Rina published three articles on the low cost housing, cyclone resistant housing in Thatta and Badin and the mangrove covers around Karachi in The Dawn.
Hemantha Anuradha Alahakoon
Freelancer, The Nation
Kolonnawa, Sri Lanka
Area of study: Post-civil war coastal habitat conservation vis-a-vis the tourist boom in Sri Lanka. Anuradha published three articles in The Nation. His stories covered post war tourism ear and its effects in the Hikkaduwa beach and Pasikuda Beach, specificallyon the impacts on coral reefs which surround the area.
Environment journalist, The Sunday Times
Dehiwala, Sri Lanka
Area of study: Human actions versus fragility of various ecosystems and the impacts on life forms, the success story of the solar lamps by fisher folks,unsustainable fishing practices with special focus on Manta Ray, Sharks, sea horses and sea cucumbers, and the actions undertaken to prevent them, mangroves and their role in climate change. Malaka published six articles in The Sunday Times along with a piece in Sinhala about 'Chank Fishery'. Additionally, he published two articles under the "Year of Biodiversity for Kids' series.
Senior Editor / Producer, E TV
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Area of study: Tourism and its impacts on Sri Lanka's coast and its ecology