Examples of adaptation to climate change in deltas

examples of adaptation

Examples of adaptation

The DECCMA WP6 partners have been recording examples of adaptation that are in practice across our study sites. These examples, from literature and observation, are being collated into Adaptation Inventories for each area – a database of current adaptation practices that are being utilised to combat climate change in deltas.

For a sneak peak at some of the types of adaptation that have been recorded, see these illustrated examples:
Mahanadi Delta, India
Volta Delta, Ghana
Ganges Brahamputra Meghna Delta, Bangladesh
Indian Bengal Delta, India

The full Adaptation Inventories will be completed later in 2016.

Drones over the delta: Monitoring coastal protection structures along the shoreline of Ghana’s Volta delta using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Coastal erosion in the Keta district of the Ghana’s Volta delta is causing increasing problems by destroying property and infrastructure and displacing people. With erosion rates of up to 8 metres per year, proactive efforts are required to manage these impacts. Within the Keta Sea Defence Project (KSDP) various erosion control measures have been employed. These include hard engineering, such as groynes and revetments, and soft engineering, such as beach nourishment.

Since its establishment in 2004, there has been no sustainable scheme in place to monitor the effectiveness of the coastal defence structures within the Keta Sea Defence Project.
Traditional methods of monitoring the rate of coastal erosion include Differential Global Positioning Systems (DGPS), aerial photographs and satellite imagery – but these are expensive to buy, require specialist training to use, and can be time consuming. Although some satellite images are freely available, their coarse resolution (30m x 30m) mean that that are unsuitable for monitoring the KSDP.

Kwasi Appeaning Addo and his team in the Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences at the University of Ghana and the Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology at the University of Bremen, Germany are pioneering a new mechanism to monitor the rate of coastal erosion. Unnamed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or “drones” are relatively inexpensive to buy (less than US$1000) and easy to use (it takes only a day to train research assistants to fly the drone). In addition they allow flexibility in the monitoring process – the researchers determine the flight path and the altitude at which the drones fly, which results in much more relevant and reliable data. Being able to choose the height at which the drones fly means that clouds are not a problem as they can be in both aerial photographs and satellite imagery.

Dr Appeaning Addo and his team have been undertaking bi-monthly repeated surveys were undertaken using a drone known as DJI Phantom Series. They first established ground control points using a high precision differential GPS system in order to effectively guide the drone. The survey produce in high resolution aerial photographs which are then analysed and used to create 3D models of the earth’s surface. The models from each drone monitoring mission are then overlaid with the previous ones. In comparing them, it is possible to identify any changes over time and also the extent of change allows calculation of the rate at which the change was occurring. Since the drones produce photographs, it is possible to use them to investigate of what is causing the changes and whether they are permanent or cyclical, for example. The preliminary results from two months (May and July 2015) of drone-led field surveys showed that there was significant lateral and topographic changes in the beach system.

As drones provide more reliable data for scientists to analyse, they will be able to have a greater understanding of the nature and rate of coastal erosion in the Volta Delta shoreline. This provides a reference point to assess the effectiveness of the KSDP. It also provides important information for the government of Ghana to ensure that their attempts to address coastal erosion are well targeted and effective.

Drone footage of community flooding and coastal erosion in the Volta delta

On February 3rd 2016, the Daily Graphic, the main newspaper in Ghana, reported of destruction being caused by ocean waves in a number of communities within the Volta Delta, including Fuveme. In response to the news, the DECMMA Ghana team set out to verify the situation on 6th February 2016 and carried out a drone survey using DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone.

The video shows strong wave activities during high tide resulting in overtopping of the beach and flooding of the Fuveme community. Buildings were destroyed during the flooding, which rendered people homeless. Natural fish landing sites were also eroded. This has affected fishing business, which is the main source of livelihood in the community and resulted in migration from the community.

A Tale of two Cities

2015 saw an acceleration of DECCMA with extensive work on the development of Household Surveys across four study deltas in India, Bangladesh and Ghana, looking at the component role climatic change might play in migration and adaptation. This work has been substantially supported by the outcomes of a sister project to DECCMA in the form of ESPA Deltas. Both of these projects were represented at the AGU December 2015 in San Francisco at a specific session relating to Delta research, called Sustainable Deltas: Multidisciplinary Analyses of Complex Systems II, Global Environmental Change (Primary Convener Irina Overeem CSDMS/INSTAAR on behalf of Belmont Deltas), with cross-referencing between the talks demonstrating a continuity of learning and development. The following were presented:

Hutton C.W., & Nicholls, R.J. & Allan, A. (2015), Migration in Vulnerable Deltas: A Research Strategy. AGU, 2015, San Francisco, 14-18th December

Nicholls, et. al. (Hutton, C.W) (2015). Ecosystem services and livelihoods in deltaic environments (Invited). AGU 2015, San Francisco, 14-18th December

Lazar, A. et. al. (Hutton, C.W) (2015). An integrated framework to assess plausible future livelihood and poverty changes in deltas: an application to coastal Bangladesh. AGU 2015, San Francisco, 14-18th December

Payo Garcia, A. & Hutton, C.W. (2015). Assessing the time scale response of Health, Livelihoods, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation in Populous Deltas. AAG, Chicago 2015

The presentations within the session were wide ranging and thought provoking with examples of papers and posters from highly developed contexts to regions of the developing world under extraordinary stress from environmental degradation and climatic changes. One common thematic approach that might be drawn from the session was the diversity and complexity of the social interaction across these landscape scale features with competing requirements for industry and food production as well as the socio-economic and cultural needs of the people who occupy the lands including the complex drivers of migration and urbanisation. The meeting was followed by a meal in down town San Francisco where, Profs Overeem and Nicholls lead a discussion on possible collaborative efforts that have continued from this meeting.

Drawing on a specific component of this discussion, namely that of land and water and the relation to food security, The DECCMA project was also presented as a case study at the Land and Water Days, November 2015 in Rome where a conference was jointly convened by FAO, IFAD and WFP as part of efforts aimed at reaching effective and lasting impacts for land and water actions on the ground. The event is presented as an opportunity to review policies, technologies and approaches to secure sustained improvements in support to activities on the ground; and foster exchanges of experience between countries and regions. The University of Southampton presented a detailed study of DECCMA in the “Land and Water assessment for identifying vulnerabilities and sustaining rural livelihoods” session entitled; Deltas, Vulnerability & Climate Change: Migration & Adaptation: Assessing vulnerability of populations to land and water shocks, with elements of the lessons learned in ESPA Deltas as an example of how remote sensing can be used to extract both social and biophysical data of relevance to planning in food security and livelihoods. The talk was well received and as well as ongoing established links with FAO (specifically John Latham NRL) has spawned some discussions and potential collaboration with WFP.

Migration: A complex phenomena which defies simplification

Climate change, poverty and the nexus of socio-environmental drivers that drive or influence migration has emerged as a challenging issue to a wide group of researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Recognised in Paris and the Sustainable Development Goals alike (SDG 10, which sets out a target for “facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies) the issue has made it in where it had not in the MDGs 15 years earlier. However, when we drill deeper into these phenomena it becomes clear that unlike say poverty, social injustice or the disease burden, migration describes a social phenomenon to which it is disputed as to whether it poses a threat or an opportunity to society, or as seems more likely, sits as some complex connective tissue between the two.

What is responsible migration and who is the beneficiary? Within the experience of the DECCMA project, the universal tacit response has been that Migration is generally a bad thing, a port of last call, a sign of decline. However, discussions with communities and local policy makers nuance this picture and mark the requirement for a far more subtle understanding of this multi-stranded process. Whilst It is clear this is a complex process with many different sub-phenomena occurring we perhaps need to ask ourselves whether it might be helpful to explicitly differentiate between types of migration in our common lexicon (as is common in the literature). Could we use the word commute for shorter periods of activity with migration reserved for more extensive periods only? Or introduce a typology of migration with type 1, 2 and 3 where type 1 represents weekly migration and type 3 permanent. The reason this might be suggested is that migration is sometimes handled, particularly by decision makers, as a single phenomenon requiring a single policy response.

Perhaps even more pressing is the need to recognise that there really is no consensus on, if and when different types of migration might be a benefit and to whom. It seems reasonable to say that as a component of livelihood diversification it provides input to the overall resilience of a society, allowing communities to respond to shocks and stresses by offering an alternative income (the classic example being the temporary rickshaw puller dispatched by a family to supplement income), but what of more permanent migratory behaviour? On the one hand this can pick at the fabric of a community with the generation of women headed households where the burden of work and family care falls to women alone and migrators being isolated from family and community. However, it is also apparent that such migratory behaviour underpins elements of developing and emerging economies. Indeed, we might ask ourselves where the West would be if migration to industrial centres had not occurred?

In a development context we often conflate economic growth with a decline in poverty (although the relationship is in fact more complex) but are we then, de facto, really saying cheap labour from the rural areas is often the fuel of competitive industry. A thought inducing example of this that has been recognised in the ESPA Deltas project (www.espadeltas.net) is that salinity ingress to the delta is associated with shrimp production. Plausibly this might be seen as a reasonable adaptation to a climate related phenomena, however the process induces large-scale loss of livelihood which can be associated with migration. This in turn generates cheap labour forces with supressed wages in urban environments. In both cases, GDP will be benefited but the distribution of that wealth is of grave concern. Further to this, it is possible to see that policy perspectives in this area can also be rather simplistic with economic investments designed to retain people in their region of origin potentially mobilising people to move. It is perfectly plausible to see investment in agriculture providing better incomes, which in turn allow for migration, which is a costly business in itself. These subtleties became substantial phenomena when considered across the populations for which migration is a potential option. As such we need to work towards an understanding of this phenomena, before establishing policy strategies.

Keta – Point of no return

Coast in the Volta delta

Coast in the Volta delta

On 26 July 2015, the DECCMA team visited the district of Keta on the coast of Ghana as part of a field program. The first stop was Fort Prinzenstein on the Gulf of Guinea. Fort Prinzenstein is one of several ‘point of no return’ locations for the slaves who were transported across the Atlantic. It is hard to fathom the thought of those unfortunate souls who were looking at the far away ocean while passing through this ‘point of no return’.

Whilst inside the fort, it was difficult to hear the heart wrenching story of enslavement and the debasement of humanity during the time of slave trading. Fort Prinzenstein has stood for hundreds of years as a reminder of our inhumanity.

Now, half of the fort is gone to the raging sea which is trying to engulf the fort as if to erase our shameful past. In front of half of the fort, a line of sea defence has been erected to protect Keta from further erosion. I could not help but ponder to myself whether, we as mankind, have reached another kind of ‘point of no return’ and this time another human folly – climate change.

The defence is impressive and appears to be impregnable. It took 15 million cubic meters of sand and one million tonnes of granite to build this steely defence. Coming from Bangladesh, I could not help but gaze at this impressive defence with envy, but will it hold against the rising sea? Will it prove to be a successful adaptation to climate change or turn out to be a maladaptation in the end?

Such ‘hold the shoreline’ defences are now necessary given the current threats, but how have we reached this stage? A major cause of increasing sea erosion is the loss of sediment nourishment due to the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River. Research by our Ghana colleagues shows that this sea defence is causing down drift erosion, transferring the risk downstream. The defence is itself at risk due to bottom scouring. Our Indian colleagues informed us that in their part of the Mahanadi delta in Odisha, sand dunes are being looked at more favourably as a better natural defence than hard structures.

For a developing country like Bangladesh, we know how difficult it is to maintain such structures. The construction and maintenance of the sea defence are of much better quality, indicating a better governance system in place in Ghana than in our delta. What makes it tick in Ghana? Can we translate these to our part of the delta where we have to frequently engage armed forces to ensure quality and time of construction?

During the next 4 to 5 years we will have more opportunities to evaluate this impressive defence as an adaptation measure. We intend to learn from it and transfer the learning to our delta. We hope that it will stand its guard. Till then – looking at you Keta!

by Rezaur Rahman, DECCMA Bangladesh

Projecting fish production under climate change: A comparative analysis across three vulnerable deltas

projecting fish production

Work flow between Step 1 (data collection and comparative analysis) and Step 2 (modelling).

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) will be conducting a comparative analysis on the importance of fisheries for food security in the three deltas/regions: Volta (Ghana), Mahanadi (India) and Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (Bangladesh) and how climate change could potentially influence marine ecosystems productivity. Deltas communities are strongly dependent on coastal fisheries including shallow wetlands and other semi-enclosed bodies of water. In these three countries fishery is a very important sector and contributes between 4-5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Despite its importance for the local economy there are marked differences amongst countries, for example, the average per capita consumption (per year) of fish products varies with Ghana consuming the highest amount (25kg) followed by Bangladesh (14kg) and India (8.2kg). Delta communities are ranked amongst the poorest in the world and as a consequence potential impacts of global and regional climate change on the marine ecosystem productivity could have dramatic impacts on their economy and food security.

For the DECCMA project data will be collected from available database and literature to give information about fisheries (e.g. commercial species, time series data of catches, fishing and natural mortality, division between subsistence, artisanal and commercial fisheries) and socio-economic structure (e.g. number of fishermen, type of vessels, incomes/trades, consumption, livelihoods) in Ghana, Bangladesh and India. This part of the work will be conducted in liaison with local partners who will supply PML with local data whenever possible. This information will be summarised for the project report(s) and in published paper(s). The data collected and the information gained from the comparative analysis will support ecosystem modelling also carried out by PML. A model of water circulation and energy transfer (Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory Coastal Ocean Modelling System – POLCOMS) will be coupled with a model of the low trophic levels (the European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model – ERSEM) and fisheries models (size-spectrum and species based). The output from this framework will be fish production potential under climate change scenarios across the three delta/regions. Finally these results will inform other work packages in the DECCMA project (migration, integration, economics and adaptation).