Come and hear more about DECCMA research at Adaptation Futures 2018

DECCMA researchers will be participating in the following sessions at Adaptation Futures 2018 in Cape Town:

Monday 18th June

Robert Nicholls will participate in S80 on “Adaptive coastal planning-sharing techniques, tools and experiences”, run by Deltares (parallel session 2, 1500-1700, room 2.64).

Tuesday 19th June

Ricardo Safra de Campos will participate S39 on “Early experiences with managed retreat”, run by Stanford University (parallel session 4, 1415-1600, room 1.43).

Wednesday 20th June

Katharine Vincent will give a presentation “Gendered adaptation in deltas: Who decides, who benefits, and who loses?” in S64 “What enables adaptation of women in climate hotspots?”, run by IDRC (parallel session 6, 0915-1100 room 1.63).

Katharine Vincent will give a presentation “The process of developing adaptation policy trajectories in the DECCMA project” in S200 “Evidence-based guiding principles for developing adaptation pathways to inform adaptation policy and practice in the context of development”, run by Wageningen University  (parallel session 7, 1415-1600, room 2.41).

Katharine Vincent will give a presentation “Changing attitudes and behaviours among members of a consortium” in S195 “Research for Impact: Dynamic approaches, experiences and lessons on research uptake” (parallel session 8, 1630-1815, room 1.42).

Thursday 21st June

Kwasi Appeaning-Addo will give a presentation on the DECCMA project in Ghana in S180 “Towards an adaptive climate proof freshwater supply in salinising deltas and possible solutions for deltas worldwide: examples from The Netherlands, Ghana, Vietnam and Bangladesh”, run by Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management  (parallel session 11, 1415-1600, room 1.62).

Robert Nicholls, Katharine Vincent and Ricardo Safra de Campos will participate in a joint DECCMA-Western Indian Ocean Deltas Exchange Network (WIODER)-Delta Alliance session “Adaptation practice and experience in deltas in the global south”. Robert will chair the session, Katharine will make a presentation “Documenting observed adaptations in deltaic Ghana, India and Bangladesh” and Ricardo will make a presentation “Migration as an adaptation” (parallel session 11, 1415-1600, room 1.64).

DECCMA gender outputs published in India’s Economic and Political Weekly

by Katharine Vincent

The issue of India’s Economic and Political Weekly published on 28th April 2018 features two papers from DECCMA researchers. Asha Hans from DECCMA and Nitya Rao from ASSAR penned a piece “Gender and climate change. Directions for research, policy and practice” that introduces various articles that interrogates a statement in the Indian National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) that states that “the impacts of climate change could prove particularly severe for women”. “Adapting to climate change-induced migration. Women in the Indian Bengal delta” is by the late Asish Kumar Ghosh, Sukanya Banerjee and Farha Naaz. It highlights how climate change-induced migration by men after cyclone Aila left women with the burden of running households – but the positive role of self-help groups in enabling empowerment.

Fish drying technology used by women’s groups (photo by Sumana Banerjee)

A tribute to Dr Asish Ghosh by Andrew Allan and Christopher Spray

Following the passing of Dr Asish Ghosh, two of his colleagues on the governance and stakeholder engagement work package, Andrew Allan and Chris Spray from the University of Dundee, pen a personal tribute to him.

Dr Asish K. Ghosh, 1938-2018

“Our respected colleague, Dr. Asish Ghosh, sadly died on the 2nd of April. He was the lead researcher in India on governance and stakeholder engagement for the DECCMA Project, and a tenacious advocate for those affected by environmental change. His work on the project took up only a relatively small part of his time – but he worked energetically on many different issues right up to the end of his life. He led the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) in Kolkata for over 20 years and contributed regular articles for the environmental journal, Down to Earth, writing his last only in February shortly before his 80th birthday.

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For those of us who worked with him on the DECCMA project, he was a man of forthright views and a wealth of expertise informed by over 50 years of experience in environmental and biodiversity-related issues. The range of his experience was not always evident: his extensive consultancy and research work was acquired only after he had retired from his post as Director of the Zoological Survey of India in 1996.

We often had long and fascinating conversations about British and Indian history, about which he was passionately interested. He had a wicked sense of humour and British staff remember being recipients of many jibes related to that history – always delivered in good humour with a grin.  He was also very modest.  One of our historical discussions involved mention of T.N. Annandale, the first Director of the Zoological Survey, who had grown up near to us in Edinburgh. Asish never mentioned the fact that he had been one of Annandale’s successors.

He was a staunch defender of the interests of the researchers at the CED and worked diligently for the DECCMA project over the past four years. He will be greatly missed.

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DECCMA India and CARIAA partners release policy brief on migration

DECCMA India and the two other CARIAA projects that work in country, Adaptation at Scale in Arid and Semi-arid Regions (ASSAR) and Himalayan Adaptation Water and Resilience (HiAWARE)  have released a joint policy brief on migration. The policy brief synthesises research findings from across the projects, and was officially launched in Delhi on 4th May. Evidence from the three climate change hotspots (deltas, glacier-fed river basins and arid areas) shows that most migration is internal, undertaken by men, and to urban and peri-urban areas. Most migration is for economic reasons, and remittances from migration are important sources of income in migrant-sending areas. Environmental change is leading to displacement in some cases (e.g. from the eroding land in deltas), and in others contributes to the economic stresses that drive migration.

DECCMA team members reflect on the experience of working in an international and multi-disciplinary consortium

by Katharine Vincent

The DECCMA team comprises an international, multi-disciplinary consortium all working together to achieve the common goal of evaluating migration as an adaptation in the context of climate change in deltas. In this short clip we outline some of the highlights and challenges of working as part of a consortium, and some lessons learned for future consortium projects.

New short film-Sustainable livelihoods in the Volta delta, Ghana

by Katharine Vincent

The Volta delta in Ghana is a challenging place to live. Since the construction of the Volta dam at Akosombo, the regulation of downstream river flows have affected fish spawning and migration patterns, and the reduced likelihood of flooding affects the suitability of floodplain land for agriculture. Mangrove cultivation and harvesting is being promoted by the government as a sustainable livelihood for delta inhabitants. The wood is traded, used for construction, and popular for smoking fish. A new short film, produced by Klaus Wohlmann with the DECCMA team, outlines this activity.

Mangrove forestry (photo: Klaus Wohlmann)

What Drives Government Decisions to (Not) Support Resettlement? New blog on by DECCMA researchers

by Colette Mortreux, Ricardo Safra de Campos and Neil Adger

[Reposted from]

Sea level rise, floods, and tropical cyclones are affecting the very land on which coastal and delta populations live. Loss of houses, infrastructure, and agricultural land prompts governments to consider options to fulfil their role in protecting their citizens. Planned relocations of people from one place to another are often politically controversial. However, whilst the pros and cons of resettlement decisions are often debated, less attention is paid to the consequences of not intervening.

International protocols exist to guide resettlement and planned location, but within individual states the decision is often political. In the Indian Sundarbans delta, the living conditions have become so precarious that communities are requesting government intervention, increasing the legitimacy of the resettlement. However, taking the example of three communities facing similar levels of threats, the response by government has not been correspondingly similar. So the question is – what determines whether or not governments take action, and the nature of that action?

Developing a model to explain government (in)action

In a new paper in Global Environmental Change we propose a conceptual model that is designed to explain government action or inaction with regard to planned relocation of vulnerable communities.

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The model takes into account three main factors: what a government wants to do, what it is obliged to do, and what populations demand from them. The model suggests that decisions to act or not act on relocation initiatives (as shown in section B) are driven by underlying political determinants (section A), leading to outcomes for the populations involved (section C). The pathways in the figure demonstrate the diversity of government responses, and what drives them, as well as the implications this can have on the communities affected by environmental change.


Figure 1: Conceptual model of planned relocation

Different approaches to relocation in the Indian Sundarbans delta

In the Sagar block of the Indian Sundarbans, there is a history of significant environment- displacement from coastal flooding, storm surges, erosion, and salinization. The number of people displaced since the 1970s is estimated to be around 4,000 from Ghoramara and Lohachara. Various resettlement programs have been used in the past. Recently, the communities of Ghoramara, Beguakhali and Dhablat have all demanded action, yet government responses to displacement have been diverse. In Ghoromara, there has been sustained government action to formally settle those displaced by erosion. In Beguakhali, the government has not formally resettled displaced households, but has invested in large-scale coastal embankments to protect the community. In Dhablat, the government has taken no action.


Figure 2: Location of the communities in the Sagar block, Indian Sundarbans delta

Planned resettlement from Ghoromara

Resettlement from Ghoromara began in 1977 after the government of West Bengal declared it a “no man’s land” because of the high rates of erosion. The recently elected communist government of West Bengal declared a relocation policy in which land, and sometimes housing, were provided to resettled communities. But resettlement was not without problems. Some of the allocated land was saline and useless for farming. There was also tension with host communities in Sagar island, who resented the support provided to the former-Ghoromara residents.

Avoided resettlement: constructing an embankment to protect communities in Beguakhali

In Beguakhali the government has had a very different response to environmental pressures on the land. A coastal embankment was built and disaster relief provided in cases of breach, for example, after the major cyclone, Aila, in 2009. However, the embankment construction was primarily motivated by the government of India’s decision to develop a deep-sea port in Beguakhali for the transport of coal and iron – although this has not yet started.

Dhablat: no government action to environmental pressures

In Dhablat, 10 kilometers east of Beguakhali, the government provided disaster relief after successive embankment breaches.  However, unlike Beguakhali, there has been no commitment to rebuild the embankment nor, as in Ghoromara, support for relocation. One resident explained that flooding can leave them waist deep in water in their house. Many that can afford to do so have migrated out, leaving a small ‘trapped population.’

Linking to the model: reasons for different government responses

Tracing the model back from the different outcomes in each community highlights the interplay of different factors that led to the action/inaction.  In Ghoromara, the newly-installed communist government was keen to show commitment to land redistribution and social welfare, creating a powerful incentive for government action.

This political change likely played a big role in overcoming the risk aversion and reluctance for action that often characterizes government response. This risk aversion was more evident in Begukhali, where embankment reconstruction also served the additional purpose of enabling the port construction, thus fitting with broader development goals.  In Dhablat, the remaining trapped population are highly marginalized and lack sufficient voice to hold government accountable for inaction.

Implications for relocation elsewhere

Climate change will exacerbate the environmental pressures that create cause for relocation. To date, the focus on relocation action by government overlooks inaction. Our model provides a mechanism to analyze these decisions.

Ultimately, inaction on resettlement can give rise to other public policy issues. As shown in Dhablat, for example, lack of response by government tends to lead to migration of individuals and households of their own accord – thereby altering the requirements for public infrastructure and services in their new locations. However, the capacity to migrate is dependent on resources, which means that trapped populations become concentrated in marginal and risky environments. Here they are likely to require regular disaster relief and measures for poverty alleviation.

For further information:

DECCMA researchers present at European Geophysical Union annual conference in Vienna

by Robert Nicholls and Attila Lazar

A number of DECCMA researchers participated in the recent European Geophysical Union’s annual assembly in Vienna. It is one of the largest conferences in Europe with about 15,000  participants. The focus is on the physical sciences, but it has increasingly cross- disciplinary sessions involving economics, social-sciences and demography.

Attila Lazar from the University of Southampton presented a paper on “Migration and adaptation under climate change in deltas”, discussing a method and the resulting Bayesian network model on the household adaptation (including migration) decisions for male- and female-headed households in Bangladesh, India and Ghana.

Attila Lazar’s presentation to EGU

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DECCMA PI Robert Nicholls co-convened a session on deltas with Steve Darby, Ester Stouthamer (Utrecht) and Hans Middlekoop (Utrecht). Presenters included Frances Dunn (University of Southampton) on present and future sediment fluxes to deltas worldwide, including the DECCMA deltas; Tuhin Ghosh (Jadavpur University) on plausible future aquaculture expansion in the Indian Bengal Delta; and Attila Lazar on possible development trajectories for coastal Bangladesh (based on work funded by the REACH Project).

A large number of posters were also presented, including an overview of the DECCMA project and a lot of work on subsidence in deltas.

The meeting was a good foundation for exchange.  DECCMA researchers discussed future meetings with Dutch colleagues, at EGU and elsewhere, to extend collaboration on  multidisciplinary delta research.

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DECCMA Bangladesh PI leads seminar on how sediment load affects the nature of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta

by Institute of Water and Flood Management

DECCMA PI Professor Munsur Rahman led a seminar on ‘Recent sediment flux and its implications for river and delta management in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna system’ on 3rd April at the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Sediment flux is the mechanism that creates the nature of a delta, and thus is essential for river and delta management. The physical sustainability of the river and delta environment is very  sensitive to the volume of water and sediment that arrives from rivers upstream. In most of the planning documents in Bangladesh, the total sediment flux is assumed to be a constant value of around 1 billion tones per year. Recent models shows that, under climate change, there is likely to be an increase in sediment flux. However, this contradicts historical time series data, that shows a decreasing trend of sedimentation.

Courtesy of the Institute of Water and Flood Management

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Studies on the total sediment load in the Ganges and the Brahmaputra show that the quantity transferred along the bed of the river is decreasing more rapidly than the sediment that is suspended within the water. A reduction in sediment within the system reduces the scope for  offsetting future sea level rise, and thus has implications for subsidence and loss of land.

Recognising the importance of sediment quantity and flows in thus essential to manage the delta. The seminar concluded by emphasising the need for discussion and negotiation on sediment flux and water sharing to reduce the effect of dams upstream within Bangladesh and neighbouring countries. Along with the faculty members of IWFM guests from relevant organisations were also present, including Bangladesh Water Development Board, the Directorate of Bangladesh Haor and Wetland Division, Local Government Engineering Department, Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Systems and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority.

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