Professor Robert Nicholls delivers presentation on “Delta Vulnerability and Climate Change: A Systems Approach”

DECCMA Principal Investigator Professor Robert Nicholls from the University of Southampton presented project findings in Paris this week at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (National Institute of Agricultural Research). The presentation, entitled “Delta Vulnerability and Climate Change: A Systems Approach” incorporated findings from DECCMA and sister project, ESPA Delta. It was as part of the 7th workshop of a prospective study on “The consequences of sea level rise at horizon 2100” conducted by the Alliance Nationale de Recherche pour L’environnement (French Alliance for Environmental Studies, AllEnvi), which started in June 2017 and should be concluded by the end of 2018. The workshop considered the scenarios produced to date by its working group of experts, comprising 25 people.

Embankment erosion in the Indian Bengal delta (photo: K Vincent)

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)

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 TransRe.org by DECCMA researchers

by Colette Mortreux, Ricardo Safra de Campos and Neil Adger

[Reposted from www.transre.org]

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.

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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.

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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 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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DECCMA and HI-AWARE jointly convene stakeholder workshop with WARPO to disseminate Bangladesh research findings

by Saiful Alam

A joint stakeholder workshop was arranged by DECCMA and HI-AWARE to present Bangladesh research findings. The meeting took place at the Water Resources Planning Organisation (WARPO) in Dhaka on 17th January 2018. Attendees included the Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Forest and the Environment, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning, Housing Authority, Local Government Division, and UNDP.

DECCMA Bangladesh Principal Investigator, Professor Munsur Rahman, and Co-Principal Investigator, Professor Mashfiqus Salehin, made a joint keynote presentation on ‘Adaptation and Migration in GBM Delta, Bangladesh’. HI-AWARE Bangladesh Principal Investigator, Md. Abu Syed, made a keynote presentation on ‘Climate resilience and adaptation in Teesta sub-Basin of Brahmaputra Basin’.

Stakeholders provided inputs to highlight their particular areas of interest in DECCMA findings. Among the key themes were an understanding of the reasons for migration, quantifying negative and positive impacts, and projections for the future-to add to those already outlined in the Delta Plan 2100. There was also interest in modelling the impact of climate change on the economy, as is being undertaken within DECCMA, led by the Bc3 Basque Centre for Climate Change, and supporting the use of models at local (upazila) level.

“An environment for wellbeing: Pathways out of poverty”-learning from the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation programme

Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) is a global interdisciplinary research programme that began in 2009 with the aim of giving decision-makers and natural resource users the evidence they need to address the challenges of sustainable ecosystem management and poverty reduction. The programme was developed by the UK government in response to the findings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that substantial gains in human well-being in recent decades have been achieved at the expense of high and often irreversible levels of ecosystem degradation.

This short film highlights some of ESPA’s findings on the role of ecosystem services in diversifying livelihood options for vulnerable people, the contribution of sustainably managed ecosystem services to national wealth (and related poverty reduction), and insights into how to better manage ecosystems to deliver sustainable, green and inclusive growth. It features insights from ESPA Deltas and ECOLIMITS, looking at the ecological limits of poverty alleviation focusing on smallholder coffee farmers in Ethiopia, and cocoa farmers in Ghana.

“Migration always good? There’s no straight answer” published on thethirdpole.net

by Rituparna Hajra and Tuhin Ghosh

A piece by Rituparna Hajra and DECCMA Co-PI Tuhin Ghosh entitled “Migration always good? There’s no straight answer” has been published on the website thethirdpole.netThe Third Pole is a multilingual platform dedicated to promoting information and discussion about the Himalayan watershed and the rivers that originate there. The article explains how climate change is forcing people out of the Sundarbans, and 75% of those left behind depend on remittances, while they face labour shortages in their own farms.

As agricultural productivity flounders in the Sundarbans, unskilled labour is all the residents have to sell (image by Mike Prince as published on thethirdpole.net)

 

“We need to give our citizens a safe place to stay” How government is relocating coastal communities affected by loss of land in the Mahanadi delta, India

by Sumana Banerjee, Sumanta Banerjee, Dr R N Samal and Dr Tuhin Ghosh

Separated by thousands of miles but united by a common environmental fate, like the Pacific island nation of Kiribati which is facing the risk of being engulfed by rising seas, the Satavaya Gram Panchayat within India’s Mahanadi Delta has lost eleven villages to the sea. Recognising the threats to their citizens, the state government of Odisha has taken a pioneering and “humanitarian approach” to relocation, providing new homes and ensuring that appropriate livelihood support is available in the places where displaced communities are resettled.  Read more in a new photostory.

Encroaching sands threaten houses in Satavaya Gram Panchayat

ESPA Deltas project publishes short film on creating a sustainable future for climate-vulnerable deltas

The Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Delta Project has just published a short film that highlights its findings in Bangladesh. The project was concerned with assessing health, livelihoods, ecosystems and poverty alleviation in populous deltas to provide knowledge and tools to enable policy-makers to evaluate the effects of policy decisions on people’s livelihoods.

A multidisciplinary and multi-national team of policy analysts, social and natural scientists and engineers collectively used a participatory approach to create a model to formally evaluate ecosystem services and poverty in the context of the wide range of changes that are occurring. In the film, DECCMA Principle Investigator Professor Robert Nicholls and researcher Dr Helen Adams talk about the environmental and social stresses facing delta populations, from salinity and subsidence to poverty and marginalisation.