The aftermath of Aila-The lingering effects of a tropical cyclone in the Indian Bengal delta

by Katharine Vincent and Sumana Banerjee

When a tropical cyclone hits, the loss of life and destruction of land and property is immediately evident. But the effects of such extreme weather events can endure for years. In a new photostory  “THE AFTERMATH OF AILA. The lingering effects of a tropical cyclone in the Indian Bengal delta”, Katharine Vincent and Sumana Banerjee reflect on how, nearly a decade after it occurred, cyclone Aila still has an impact on the lives and livelihoods of island residents in the Indian Bengal delta.

Dulki village, Gosaba block, Indian Bengal delta (photo: Katharine Vincent)

Deltas: present and future-new infographic from DECCMA

DECCMA has released a new infographic that summarises what we know about deltas in the present and future. Deltas are already exposed to sea level rise, coastal erosion, flooding and salinisation. In the future climate risk will increase beyond 2050, but the particular nature of hazards differs between deltas. In the Volta in Ghana, for example, erosion and flooding is driven by waves and sea level rise; whereas the future of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna is more dependent on sediment input than other deltas.

Deltas are already important contributors to national economies. In the future agriculture will become less significant in economies due to land degradation and erosion, but models show a slight increase in the productivity of brackish fisheries.

People in deltas are already mobile but in future mobility will be exacerbated by the effects of climate and environmental stresses on livelihood options.

Adaptation is already taking place, but more will be required in future. Infrastructural adaptations, such as dykes and embankments, are required, as is effective planning, such as the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100. Policy frameworks should be revisited to enable gender-equitable adaptation and support for internally displaced persons. Migration also provides opportunities for adaptation.

Report on DECCMA and Delta Alliance-convened session at Adaptation Futures 2018 “Adaptation practice and experience in deltas in the global south”

by Katharine Vincent and Peter van Veelen

DECCMA and the Delta Alliance recently co-convened a session on 21st June at Adaptation Futures 2018 in Cape Town on the topic “Adaptation practice and experience in deltas in the global south”. The session included presentations from both DECCMA and Delta Alliance members.

Ricardo Safra de Campos presents on “Migration as an adaptation”

DECCMA PI Robert Nicholls chaired the session. Katharine Vincent from Kulima Integrated Development Solutions presented research on observed adaptations in deltaic Ghana, India and Bangladesh and Ricardo Safra De Campos from the University of Exeter presented the first research findings of the DECCMA project on “Migration as an adaptation”. The presentation showed that households in deltas employ a variety of adaptation strategies in the face of environmental and climate risk, including migration.

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The Delta Alliance Egypt and Ghana wing coordinators presented experiences in delta planning and management. Professor Mohamed Soliman from the Coastal Research Institute presented innovative ways to create natural flood defenses and sand dunes along Alexandria’s coast to stop recurrent coastal flooding. Ken Kinney from the Development Institute in Ghana, presented the challenges of the Volta delta and the process of establishing a network of knowledge institutes, governments and local communities to work on integral land use planning. Both presentations showed that a holistic coastal management plan is needed that integrates coastal management with economic and land use planning.

As with all sessions at Adaptation Futures 2018, DECCMA and the Delta Alliance were invited to provide three “takeaway” points for consideration by the authors of the IPCC 6th Assessment Report. The points were:

  1. There is a growing body of literature highlighting the potential future of deltas under climate change, taking into account sea level rise and sediment flux, among others.
  2. Hard adaptations such as embankments are critical to protect infrastructure, lives and livelihoods in deltas.
  3. There is evidence of a variety of household adaptations in deltas, which include in situ adaptations and migration.

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Book Presented to Dr Nazmul Haq

William Powrie (Dean of Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton) presents a copy of the new book “Ecosystem Services for Well-Being in Deltas: Integrated Analysis for Policy Analysis” to Dr. Nazmul Haq (University of Southampton) to whom the book is dedicated. Nazmul greatly facilitated this research in its early days and helped to build a strong consortium that continues to contribute to fundamental research on the future of the delta that also informs policy in terms of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 and related strategic planning and development of the country.

New book published “Ecosystem services for well-being in deltas. Integrated assessment for policy analysis”

A new book “Ecosystem services for well-being in deltas. Integrated assessment for policy analysis” has just been published open access by Springer. The book is an output of a predecessor project to DECCMA, ESPA Deltas. Chapters include analysis of ecosystem trends and projected futures under climate change, governance analysis, poverty and social-ecological systems analysis, and the linkages between poverty and ecosystem services in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta in Bangladesh.

Contributors include DECCMA PI Robert Nicholls, Co-PIs Craig Hutton, Stephen Darby, Andrew Allan, Neil Adger, Susan Kay, Sugata Hazra, Tuhin Ghosh, Munsur Rahman and Masfiqus Salehin, as well as DECCMA researchers Helen Adams, Anisul Haque, Paul Whitehead, Sally Brown, Shahjahan Mondal, Fiifi Amoako Johnson and Attila N. Lázár.

DECCMA researcher selected to take part in international summer school on environmental changes and migration

 

DECCMA India PhD researcher Shouvik Das has been selected to participate in the EDGE International Summer School on environmental changes and migration.  The 5 day summer school is the third to take place within the Horizon 2020-funded EDGE programme, a collaboration between three European partners: Sciences Po in France, the University of Economics in Bratislava and the University of Liege in Belgium. It will take place in Liege in September. Shouvik’s PhD topic is “Environmental change and migration in the lower delta plain of West Bengal, India”.

Shouvik Das (photo: Klaus Wohlmann)

DECCMA Bangladesh provides contributions to the design of a new adaptation project funded by GEF and UNDP

by Saiful Alam

DECCMA Bangladesh team members were invited to participate in a consultation to formulate a project addressing climate change risks in selected Agro-Ecological Zones (AEZs) in Bangladesh. The project is likely to be funded to the tune of $8 million by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and will benefit five pilot areas in Bangladesh: Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts, dryland, floodplain and haor (wetland ecosystem).

The stakeholder consultation was organized by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on 5 July 2018 at Pan Pacific Sonargoan Hotel, Dhaka. Dr. S. M. Munjurul Hannan Khan, Additional Secretary, MoEFCC presided over the consultation meeting. Mr Abdullah Al Mohsin Chowdhury, Secretary-in Charge, MoEFCC and Dr. Sultan Ahmed, Director-General, Department of Environment (DoE) contributed as Chief Guest and moderator respectively.

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DECCMA, Bangladesh members Dr. Md. Munsur Rahman, Dr. Mohammed Abed Hossain and Saiful Alam attended the meeting, and provided comments on the approach and methods proposed. They also shared feedback on possible adaptation measures, informed by DECCMA’s adaptation research in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta.

Summing up the findings from the consultation, Mr Abdullah Al Mohsin Chowdhury, Secretary-in Charge, MoEFCC, proposed taking into account DECCMA’s adaptation inventories so as to not unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. Dr. Sultan Ahmed, DG, DoE, further suggested referring to DECCMA’s findings on hotspots of climate change risk in Bangladesh.

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New insights on climate change, migration and adaptation in the Mahanadi and Indian Bengal deltas

by Sumana Banerjee

DECCMA has released two new briefs that outline the latest findings on climate change, migration and adaptation in the Mahanadi and Indian Bengal deltas. Among the highlights are the relationship of migration to climate stress (with most stressed locations sending more migrants in both deltas), the barriers to policy implementation (particularly relating to embankment (re)construction), and lack of gender-sensitive adaptation policies.

The briefs provide an update to our earlier delta briefs (for the Mahanadi and Indian Bengal deltas).

DECCMA Ghana shares research findings from the Volta delta during a student exchange workshop

by Prosper Adiku

In mid-May, Professor Kwasi Appeaning Addo of the University of Ghana shared findings from the DECCMA project during a student exchange workshop on the Volta delta organised by TU Delft and Delta Alliance in the Netherlands.

Speaking on “Shoreline change in the Volta delta and implications for coastal communities” as part of a scientific seminar in the Faculty of Architecture (13-18 May 2018), TU Delft, Prof. Appeaning Addo, Co-PI for DECCMA Ghana, highlighted the key factors responsible for change in the Volta delta. He highlighted key findings of DECCMA research in the assessment of migration as an adaptation option in the delta under a changing climate to deliver policy support on sustainable gender-sensitive adaptation.

He noted that findings from DECCMA project cut across issues regarding policy implementation, assessment of biophysical hazards, land cover change and migration and these requires the management of the Volta delta to be viewed as an integration of coupled biophysical and socio-economic systems.

Participants at the seminar included Ghana government delegation of the Volta delta mission, the Dutch government, director of Delta Alliance and members of the Ghana – Netherlands Students collaboration programme.

Finding Thanos (from Avengers: Infinity War) in a climate change research project

by Sumana Banerjee

Bitten by the Marvel bug, I wasted no time to catch a showing of Avengers: Infinity War before the spoilers started filling my social media timelines. This post obviously does not contain any spoilers-but rather shares how a cool movie like Avengers made my brain think of some research project oriented lessons.

(photo: Lylesmoviefiles.com)

Working for DECCMA has trained me to be attuned to the mention of themes related to environmental change, sustainability, and resource use. So when Thanos shared his grand vision of salvaging the universe from overpopulation which leads to resource scarcity, I was all ears for this Marvel villain. The SDGs started flashing in my mind as some could be realised by his grand vision (after some thought I feel at least these would apply – 2 for Zero Hunger, 12 for Responsible Consumption and Production and 13 for Climate Action).  Before I could finish counting the SDGs, Thanos revealed his strategy to implement his vision, which was to kill half the universe! It goes without saying that our proposed strategies in DECCMA are very different to his…

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This was clearly playing on my mind, and it was much later when it struck me that I have encountered glimpses of Thanos in people when it comes to teamwork and the linkages between grand visions and implementation plans. I surely do not mean that the team members wanted to kill off half the universe-or the team for that matter. But in the real world of research projects, teams must manage competing priorities, worldviews and disciplinary training of their members in order to build consensus on how to achieve common goals. In other words – the grand vision is achieved by collectively defining the implementation plan.

Effective teamwork and leadership often have the “five C’s” where character, competency, chemistry, compatible vision, and capacity feature. All these C’s are integral to any kind of teamwork and external efforts can improve these, with the exception of character.  For a change in character, it has to be internally-motivated and enabled. Since research teams often have young researchers, it may be worthwhile to share good practices which can help build the character necessary for effective (and enjoyable!) teamwork. It is important for leaders and senior researchers to instill in the young members the importance of the following –

Communication

Talking, and more importantly listening, will help in exchange of perspectives, problem-solving, and generation of new ideas. Scheduling formal or informal meetings, depending on the work culture, amongst researchers can facilitate better work. As researchers it is important to understand that the concept of “hearing all voices” and gender sensitivity should not be limited to talking to more women in a stakeholder workshop. Just like charity begins at home, it is important to apply these principles in the team environment, providing a space that welcomes and actively encourages all voices within the team irrespective of sex, seniority, background and profile.

Acknowledgement

It is a good practice to acknowledge the support of anyone who has positively contributed to help your work. Academic papers are the core currency of research careers, and authorship should reflect contributions. In DECCMA we follow Vancouver rules, which state that people should only be named as authors when they have contributed substantively to the conceptualisation and research design or execution and at least some part to the writing.  Vancouver rules partly address implicit norms in some research environments, where there is an expectation that being senior in age and position warrants being named as an author, regardless of (lack of) contribution.  It may be good to keep in mind that naming authors in outputs is not akin to signing a greetings card where everybody’s name should be there!  Instead acknowledgements are there to appreciate efforts that enabled the work to happen without direct inputs – for example funders are usually (gratefully) acknowledged.

Publications are the end of a research process in which acknowledgement is also important, and often overlooked. For example it is good practice to acknowledge the support of people who enabled fieldwork and research to take place – which includes those involved in organisation as well as those interviewees and survey participants that provided the data to analyse.  It is also important to understand the difference between support and contribution.

Dealing with disappointment

Working in teams often involves many members applying to the same conferences but not all who applied get selected. In such cases, researchers should put aside any individual disappointment and rather be glad for the recognition that comes from being part of the team whose research is profiled.

Addressing Differences

Teams are composed of people with different backgrounds and, increasingly, from different countries – such that interdisciplinary teams are often an eclectic mix. This creates exciting opportunities for appreciating different worldviews and expertise.  However, the flip side of this is that conflicts can arise relating to the respective norms and behaviours that are constructed in different contexts. It should always be kept in mind that everybody has something to offer and the more we try to learn from the positives, the more we grow as individuals. If a conflict over an issue carries on, it is best to let it rest for a while and then come back to it with a fresh perspective.

Without this getting too preachy, I would like to end this on a positive note. Thanos had concerns which echo the reality of our current world, but what made him the bad guy was his proposed way of implementing his vision, not the vision itself. The thought of killing half the universe just because he acquired the power was not only autocratic and heinous also the easiest thing to do. How I wish Peter Parker could tell him – “With great power comes great responsibilities.” In research teams we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to come up with more effective implementation plans for the same vision of a better world.

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