Exploring the Intersection of Climate Change, Livelihoods, Gender and Well-being in and around Pulicat Lake

This project aims to capture and understand the various phenomena and dimensions namely livelihoods, climate, socio-economic, finance, power and gender interplay at various levels in the Pulicat region.

Located between Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in South India, Pulicat is the second-largest brackish lake in India. Pulicat’s rich biodiversity and estuarine features support several thousand fishing families that depend on it for their livelihoods. As a low-lying area, the lake and the people inhabiting it are vulnerable to the multidimensional impacts of climate change, in the form of sea-level rise, coastal erosion, intensifying cyclones/storm surges, and salinization of aquifers. Moreover, local environmental changes and a gradual decline in fish availability raise important concerns about the community’s access to and control over natural resources and the fragility of the lake’s ecosystem.

Against this backdrop, the lake provides a befitting setting to study the long-term implications of climate change on coastal areas, particularly on the socio-economic context and livelihoods of inhabitants; and the implication of gender and power relations on access to resources and spaces. A new collaborative project between LEAD, our gender initiative IWWAGE, and faculty and experts from Krea will examine these issues, through an intersectional lens. 


The project has the following key research components:

  1. As a first step, a socio-economic survey is being planned in 2022, to map baseline information about the lake ecosystem and its inhabitants. The findings from the research and outreach initiative will not only inform policy and programmatic efforts within the Pulicat region, but also provide a framework for approaching similar complex and unique ecosystems.
  2. The second element of the study comprises mapping and understanding the fish supply chains, and capturing the strong and weak links in the supply chain. This will be mainly executed using probabilistic sampling to identify locations for the mapping exercise and mixed-method techniques. 
  3. The third component, finance, is in the preliminary stages of conceptualisation and aims to understand the awareness, access and use of financial services such as savings, credit and others by inhabitants. 
  4. Examining power relations: There are significant variations in the management of natural and fish resources in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. While examining the power dynamics in the lake ecosystem, some key questions include how intersectionalities influence marginalisation: Who is allowed to do what economic activity (historical lineage)? What kind of equipment, who accesses the market needs to be looked into? 
  5. From a gender perspective, the project offers an opportunity to examine themes such as the impact of climate change on women’s labour force participation in areas that are dependent on labour practices that are intrinsically linked to variations in climate. 

Thematic Area

Institutions and Society,

Small, Growing Businesses and Employment

Project Leads

Sharon Buteau, Debdulal Thakur, Bharath Sundaram, Sona Mitra


Tamil Nadu