Coastal ecosystems, governance and poverty: A case study of managing the Brahmaputra-Ganges mega-delta in a changing world

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment


The ecosystem services of deltas often support high population densities - estimated at over 500 million people globally, with important examples in south, south-east and East Asia. As noted in the IPCC AR4 Assessment, deltas are one of the most vulnerable coastal environments and their ecosystem services face multiple stresses in the coming years and decades including (1) local drivers due to development (e.g., urbanisation) within the delta, (2) regional drivers due to changes in catchment management (e.g. dam construction), and (3) global climate change, especially sea-level rise, Understanding how to sustain ecosystem services and reduce poverty and vulnerability in deltaic areas requires consideration of all these stresses and their interaction. This Partnership and Project Development Grant (PPDG) aims to develop a larger proposal that will develop methods to understand and characterise these multiple drivers of change for the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, explore their implications for poverty and vulnerability of the delta residents, and develop management systems that are resilient in the face of the large uncertainties that exist for the 21st Century. The Ganges-Brahmaputra delta is selected as it is one of the most vulnerable deltas (embracing most of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India), but the methods that are being proposed will be transferable to the management of other delta systems in Asia, Africa and South America. This PPDG integrates across multiple scales of investigation that are often explored independently in different disciplines. Hence, integration of natural science, engineering and social science views is critical and this will be a key step which the PPDG will explore, building on existing experience in the project team such as within the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The PPDG aims to develop a proposal that integrates all the above issues for both the baseline and future conditions, using poverty or poverty-related outcomes as the key indicators. The proposal will also consider critical intervening factors such as governance and political will in tackling both corruption and the social and economic effects of climate change and other hazards. Poverty outcomes will be considered as a much wider spectrum of wellbeing than just money metrics, which may not be relevant in this setting. We will explore the effect of the scenarios on health, education, social capital and security as well as asset poverty and nutritional levels. Previous research will be developed in order to understand the effects of differing underlying resilience and vulnerability levels among the coastal populations. Particular interest will be focussed on possible thresholds of social capital and material wellbeing, after which the multiple stresses above would have catastrophic effects, including knock on effects such as mass migration. Analysis will occur at various levels - including effects on the individual, the household, the community, the wider area and ultimately the whole nation and delta. The PPDG will develop the research consortium across three countries (UK, Bangladesh and India) and refine the research questions identified to develop a proposal for the December 2010 submission. In particular, it will allow us to embed the research in the Ganges-Brahmaputra to facilitate take-up of the policy recommendations that would emerge if the full proposal was funded.


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Description This grant led to the successful award of the ESPA Deltas Project (NE/J002755/1).
Exploitation Route Findings can be taken forward through the ESPA Deltas Project.
Sectors Environment

Description The findings have been used for the successful application for the ESPA Deltas grant (NE/J002755/1).
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Workshop 18-19 October 2010, BUET, Dhaka, Bangladesh 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 1) Establish a knowledge base for workshop participants through the generation of key documentation by consortium members

2) Manage and implement a field trip & workshop in region to establish research criteria and policy impacts

3) Generate a consortium wide peer reviewed conceptual position paper highlighting key findings and implications of workshop

4) Generate a substantively reviewed and evidence based research proposal for the alleviation of Poverty through ecosystems services in the context of policy intervention for the ESPA

Workshop: October 18-19, 2010 Venue- BUET, Dhaka

Field Investigation: October 20-22, 2010 Venue- Sundarban, Khulna
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010