Social-economic-environmental trade-offs in managing the Land-River-Interface

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment

Abstract

Rivers and the land that surrounds them are focal points of economic activity and development in most countries. They are essential to humans for water supply, agriculture, transport and energy; hold significant importance socially and culturally; and have critically important ecological habitats that sustain high biodiversity. However, they are rarely managed in a holistic manner. Institutional boundaries, socio-economic drivers and barriers, and complex interactions in environmental processes limit severely our ability to integrate policies across the Land-River-Interface (LRI). As a result, management decisions often have unintended social, economic, cultural and environmental consequences locally and further upstream/downstream in the catchment.

The ecosystem services delivered by a holistically-managed LRI would support the attainment of multiple, interdependent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 1) No poverty - supporting rural livelihoods by mitigating soil erosion and flooding; 2) Zero hunger - sustainable food production, agroforestry, soil erosion; 6) Clean water and sanitation - pollutant trapping and bioremediation; 7) Affordable and clean energy - modern biomass and hydropower energy generation; 11) Sustainable cities and communities -risk reduction; safeguarding cultural heritage; 13) Climate Action - land-based climate mitigation, afforestation; 15) Life on Land - maintaining habitats and biodiversity.

The aim of the proposed project is to support the design of integrated and sustainable policy and practice solutions for the LRI that enhance multiple SDGs through investigation and modelling of the spatially-explicit social, economic and environmental trade-offs to LRI management under different socio-economic pathways and climate scenarios. The research is co-designed with the full range of key stakeholders (local farmers, water management boards, regional and national government) within the case study catchment, the Beas-Sutlej, a transnational river in the Himalayan region whose land, river and water drive the economy of the region (hydropower, irrigated agriculture). First, a set of research activities will be undertaken to characterise the social, economic, and environmental interactions operating in the LRI of the case study catchment. An institutional analysis will investigate the top-down barriers and enablers on integrated LRI management (Azhoni & Peng), and social research (interviews and surveys) will explore the bottom-up controls (Bala & Shankar). Then, this improved understanding will be employed to develop a whole systems representation of the LRI by merging terrestrial ecosystem service (Peng & Meersmans), catchment hydrological and water resource modelling (Holman & Shankar). The modelling will provide improved, spatially-explicit estimates of the land- and river-based ecosystem services that support attainment of the target SDGs, which will be used in the final set of activities to test policy and practice solutions (Grabowski, Bala, & Azhoni) under different future socio-economic and climate scenarios (Holman, Peng & Grabowski).

The LRI will continue to be a key area for economic development and intensification in the future. By understanding and predicting the nature and location of social-economic-environmental trade-offs to management, integrated solutions can be co-designed with stakeholders for its land, water and river resources to ensure future resilience and minimise unintended consequences in the human-environment system.

Planned Impact

Understanding the social, economic and environmental trade-offs in the management of the land that adjoins the river (i.e. riparian zone) and the river itself (i.e. Land-River-Interface, LRI) is essential for attaining elements of multiple, interdependent Sustainable Development Goals: 1) No poverty - supporting rural livelihoods by mitigating soil erosion and flooding; 2) Zero hunger - sustainable food production, agroforestry, soil erosion; 6) Clean water and sanitation - pollutant trapping and bioremediation; 7) Affordable and clean energy - modern biomass and hydropower energy generation; 11) Sustainable cities and communities -risk reduction; safeguarding cultural heritage; 13) Climate Action - land-based climate mitigation, afforestation; 15) Life on Land - maintaining habitats and biodiversity.

The LRI project will use an improved understanding of the spatially-explicit trade-offs in LRI management strategies in a strategically-importance transboundary river basin to inform the design of integrated and sustainable solutions that enhance multiple SDGs. As such the research will resonate with a broad range of beneficiaries and will build upon, but not replicate, the research and successful engagement activities within the SusHi-Wat project (part of the UK-India 'Sustaining Water Resources' programme).
At the strategic level, national organisations in India and China responsible for policy formulation and practice in relation to land and water management, rural development and food security will benefit from improved understanding of how policy planning can reduce the trade-offs within ecosystem services and SDGs associated with LRI management. These include the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, the Planning Commission (India), national and State Ministries of Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment and Forest, etc. At the State/Province level, the state Departments of Agriculture (provider of agricultural extension activities), Irrigation & Public Health and Urban Development will benefit from freely available tools for assessing social-economic-environmental trade-offs in LRI management, and fed into local planning in block development councils (Panchayat Samiti) via elected board members, which include parliamentary and state legislative assembly members (India). At the river-basin level, water and hydropower providers (SJVN, NHPN, Bkahra-Beas Management Board) will benefit from insights to support their environmental protection/ improvement and community service activities. Local rural farmers and landless workers will ultimately benefit through improved livelihoods resulting from increased availability of provisioning ecosystem services and improved welfare of women and families (Mahila Mandals).

A range of impact activities are scheduled, including:
(1) Stakeholder engagement through a project website and social media that will link the research team and key end users in India and China and act as a focal point for the outreach and networking activities. This will be supported through pre-existing relationships and those established through the WP1 engagement activities with national and state policymakers, agencies and farmers;
(2) Production of short non-technical summaries and policy briefs (in English, Hindi and Mandarin) will be disseminated to LRI-interviewees (from WP1); TASE programme participants and wider national/international initiatives/projects/commissions
(3) Workshops- we will carry out 3 workshops with farmer organizations, central and state government agencies and agricultural extension advisers at the start, mid-point and end of the project.
(4) Education and Extension Education - the research will feed into the taught undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD short courses, and extension education programmes.
Full details of activities provided in the pathways to impact

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Case study for MSc teaching
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The NERC project has been used as a case study for the MSc course in Advanced Water Management. It illustrates how a systems approach to land and water management and policy can help to maximize synergistic benefits, minimize unintentional impacts, and support the attainment of sustainable development goals. Through a series of interactive workshops, the students learned how to apply these principles to other catchments, including back in their home countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.
 
Description MSc thesis (Cranfield University): Mapping priority areas for SDG attainment in the Land-River Interface (case study: Sutlej-Beas catchment)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The work supported training and educational developments for a postgraduate student (research skills, topic specific knowledge)
 
Description MSc thesis (Cranfield University): Vegetation dynamics along the Sutlej-Beas river system
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The work supported training and educational developments for a postgraduate student (research skills, topic specific knowledge)
 
Description "Guardians of the Rivers" and the future of Earth Law: towards a new Legal, Ecological and Participatory (LEAP) model for Environmental Humanities?
Amount £73,389 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/V00574X/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2020 
End 09/2021
 
Description Collaboration with University of Liege (Belgium) on Land use change modelling 
Organisation University of Liege
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have collaborated with Prof. Jeroen Meersmans and his students at University of Liege (Belgium). Being expert in the research catchments and its dynamics, we have supported a group of students in their work and provided feedback.
Collaborator Contribution As part of a group project, the students have collected data on our study catchment and developed a model to estimate future land use changes in our study area. This was done under the guidance of Prof. Meersmans, who has expertise in this field of research.
Impact The outputs of the research will be directly integrated with other components of our research, leading to a joint publication.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Annual Conference of the River Restoration Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A poster presentation was presented during the online annual conference of the River Restoration Center, which introduced part of our research. The poster contained our contact details so that delegates of the conference can contact us for more information on the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Blog on Cranfield University site 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of World River Day, the PDRA on the project, the PDRA wrote a blog about the international, collaborative research project and the kickoff meeting we held in Hamirpur, India in Sep 2019. She described the importance of the research to help better understand the interactions between environmental, social and economic processes operating in and around rivers and how they affect the ecosystem services. According to the blog site, 93 people have read the blog. Many of the people that read the blogs are prospective postgraduate students, a significant proportion of which (>50% in the Water programme) are international.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://blogs.cranfield.ac.uk/environmental-technology/rivers-connecting-countries-and-people-in-ind...
 
Description Invited seminar at Brighton University, School of Environment and Technology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Delivered a 45-min talk to postgraduate students and academics in the School of Environment and Technology, which led to conversations with an academic about aligning our work in natural flood risk research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Invited seminar at Coventry University, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Delivered a 1 hr long talk on the project to current postgraduate students and academics in the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, which was externally advertised.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/about-us/research-events/2020/human-environment-interactions-in-...
 
Description Invited seminar at Unviersity of Leeds, Department of Geography 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Delivered a 45-minute presentation on the NERC project, focusing on human-geomorphology interactions in the case study river systems. The talk lead to a follow-up meeting with a postgraduate student about their Masters by Research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Invited seminar speaker at King's College London, Department of Geography 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The PI was invited to deliver a seminar to the Department of Geography, Kings College London on 13 November. He gave a 1 hr lecture on researching across physical and human geography topics, using the NERC project to illustrate. The audience was composed predominantly of research students in the department (PhD and MRes), and prompted a lively discussion afterwards about the challenges of interdisciplinary research and achieving impact from natural science research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Poster at Waters without Borders event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PDRA presented a poster entitled 'Mapping socio-economic-environmental interactions and trade-offs to sustainably manage the land-river interface: a fluvial geomorphologists' perspective' at the international event on 28 November in Brussels, Belgium. She spoke with numerous people about the project, most of whom were representing NGOs in the sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://uclouvain.be/en/research/louvain4water/events/water-without-borders-linking-belgian-stakehol...
 
Description Press release at start of the projec 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The PI wrote a press release to help make the general public aware of the new project and its important potential impacts to the attainment of sustainable development goals, which the university issued on 27 Feb 2019. I am not aware of how many people have read the press release, but it has generated interest. Since the press release, the PI was contacted by two current international PhD students that would like to conduct related research at Cranfield. They stated that they learned of the project via search engines and the press release. Both students are seeking external funding to support research trips to Cranfield
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/press/news-2019/how-can-better-river-management-help-meet-sustainable-de...
 
Description Talk to professional association (British Hydrological Society) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The postdoc was invited to give a 30 min presentation about the project as part of a monthly seminar series run by the Southeast section of the British Hydrological Society. The talk was given at the Institute of Civil Engineers in Westminster on 20 September 2019. The audience was composed equally of people working in the water sector and postgraduate students from univeristies in London and the Southeast.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Workshops in Himachal Pradesh, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project partners in India from CSKHPKV / HAREC Bajaura delivered advice and education workshops on farming at four villages in the upper Beas valley. The workshops occurred on the same day as interviews for the study but were opened up to a wide audience, allowing a larger number of villagers to attend.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021