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UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

GCRF Living Deltas Hub

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Project Data Last Updated: 27/08/2020

IATI Identifier: GB-GOV-13-FUND--GCRF-NE_S008926_1

Description

River deltas comprise only 1% of global landscapes, yet support over half a billion people. Deltas are tightly coupled social-ecological systems (SESs), but human exploitation, environmental degradation and threats from climate change increasingly threaten these delicate interfaces between land and water. The intractable development challenge addressed by this bid is how to avoid the collapse of South and SE Asian deltas as functioning, highly productive social-ecological systems in the face of human development and the projected consequences of climate change. The proposed Living Deltas Hub focuses on the delta SESs of three major rivers in South and Southeast Asia: the Red River and Mekong (Vietnam) and Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM: Bangladesh, India). Deltas form part of wider river basins and so the Hub will also engage with other riparian country researchers, in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. The stakes for the project are clear: 70% of the Mekong delta is highly vulnerable to flooding with 7 million people at risk. Sea level rise in Bangladesh could displace between 3 and 13 million by 2100. SE-Asian mega-deltas produce 88% of the world's rice, but the 98cm of sea level rise predicted under IPCC AR5 (2014) would render 16% of arable land in Bangladesh and 25% in Vietnam unusable by 2100. Upstream damming and sediment retention is also a major threat, with resulting delta subsidence putting 12 million people in 23 Asian cities at risk from water inundation. As human impacts increase, the need for locally-rooted sustainable development strategies underpinned by traditional knowledge becomes ever greater. The GCRF Living Deltas Hub will co-develop the transdisciplinary frameworks needed to understand delta SESs, and will work with delta-dwellers and policymakers to develop solutions that can help realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in delta contexts. The Hub is novel - no other existing or previous international delta initiative has specifically addressed the SDGs by co-creating new natural and cultural heritage understandings of deltas. It is timely, as it addresses the crucial challenges of SE Asian delta degradation early in the lifespan of the SDGs and so contributes to the development of SDG monitoring and planning - globally and regionally, as well as in country contexts. The Hub is innovative as it emphasizes transdisciplinary integration of the earth and life sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts, to address these common challenges The Hub will operate on a model of 'equitable partnership', involving delta-dwellers and the research community in developing knowledge and policy for better delta futures. The Hub comprises six innovative work packages co-developed with Global South partners and research institutes addressing specific in-country and delta-scale needs. Its new knowledge will serve to build capacity and shape policy at local, national, regional and global levels. The Hub will have lasting impact through improved livelihoods and more resilient communities, sustainable management and conservation, improved monitoring of SDG indicators and better policies for sustainable development. The Hub brings together a transdisciplinary team of experts and practitioners from Global 'North' and 'South'. Hub strengths are in: coupled human and natural systems analyses; demography and international development; natural hazard modelling and coastal resilience; environmental monitoring and modelling; policy and practice of resource management, hazard, risk and resilience; SDG-focused analyses of delta systems and their vulnerability to hazards; justice and governance; behavioral finance; delta nutrition and food security; and gender-sensitive research. Working together with stakeholders from delta countries, the research team have the knowledge, expertise and track record to build new understandings of delta change, new partnerships, and new solutions.

Objectives

The GCRF Living Deltas Hub's core objective is a significant contribution to better Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) outcomes for ODA-DAC countries in South and SE Asia, transforming policy and practice on the basis of new approaches to understanding delta change. It aims to address the significant challenges currently confronting delta social-ecological systems (SESs) in a transdisciplinary manner that responds to the interlinked agenda of the SDGs. The Hub focuses on the delta SESs of three major rivers: the Red River, Mekong (Vietnam) and Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM: Bangladesh, India). Deltas form part of wider river basins and so the Hub will also engage with other riparian country researchers, in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. In addressing our intractable development challenge: 'how to avoid the collapse of South and SE Asian deltas as functioning, highly productive social-ecological systems in the face of human development and projected adverse consequences of climate change', the Hub will address four key questions relating to the region's deltas natural-cultural heritage: (1) How are deltas changing, and what are the key drivers and consequences? The Hub will establish patterns of severity and rate of environmental change to identify key pressure points on these vulnerable deltas and explore inter-connections between tangible and intangible heritage resources. (2) How can we learn from past experience to build better delta futures? The Hub will develop transdisciplinary and integrative socio-ecological frameworks to capture changing delta trajectories, identify threats, and derive co-produced solutions for better SDG outcomes. (3) How do we maximize capacity-sharing to ensure "no one is left behind"? The Hub aims to build societal capacity through knowledge co-production and transfer, through equitable partnership with delta communities, NGOs, government departments, academics and businesses to scope, map, and research human relationships with, and impacts on, deltas. (4) How do we address delta infrastructure, inequality and resilience? The Hub research team has been assembled specifically to achieve the capacity-building needed to enable progress on the SDGs in environmentally-vulnerable and fragile delta SESs and has a prominent track record of working with vulnerable and marginalized groups. The Hub will address these overarching questions through six innovative work packages (WPs) co-designed with DAC country co-investigators, and with North-South and South-South engagement at their heart. WP1 will co-produce understanding of the impacts of interactions between environmental change and human activities on the heritage and livelihoods of diverse delta dwellers; WP2 will provide a robust characterization and integrated risk-assessment of deltaic SESs. WP3 will quantify and assess how human impacts are changing delta ecosystems, and the consequences for natural and cultural heritage, now and in the future. Through a new 'Delta Health Index' we aim to communicate the state of ecosystem health of whole river basins to a wide range of stakeholders. WP4 will characterize coastal social-ecological tipping points and co-develop, with a wide range of stakeholders, potential delta-scale interventions to avoid negative, and facilitate positive, tipping point transitions. From WPs 1-4, we will aim to develop accessible delta-level SDG monitoring (WP5), and derive with stakeholders a new indicator-based assessment framework focusing on delta-specific SDGs. Our integration work package (WP6) will oversee capacity-building towards better SDG (1,2,3,5,6,8,10,12,13,14,15,17) attainment through gender-sensitive learning and knowledge co-creation, and explore opportunities for SDG-related commercial opportunities for economic advancement in DAC delta countries.

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