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Coastal ecosystems, governance and poverty: A case study of managing the Brahmaputra-Ganges mega-delta in a changing world

Funder: UK Research and InnovationProject code: NE/I003878/1
Funded under: NERC Funder Contribution: 41,151 GBP

Coastal ecosystems, governance and poverty: A case study of managing the Brahmaputra-Ganges mega-delta in a changing world

Description

The ecosystem services of deltas often support high population densities - estimated at over 500 million people globally, with important examples in south, south-east and East Asia. As noted in the IPCC AR4 Assessment, deltas are one of the most vulnerable coastal environments and their ecosystem services face multiple stresses in the coming years and decades including (1) local drivers due to development (e.g., urbanisation) within the delta, (2) regional drivers due to changes in catchment management (e.g. dam construction), and (3) global climate change, especially sea-level rise, Understanding how to sustain ecosystem services and reduce poverty and vulnerability in deltaic areas requires consideration of all these stresses and their interaction. This Partnership and Project Development Grant (PPDG) aims to develop a larger proposal that will develop methods to understand and characterise these multiple drivers of change for the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, explore their implications for poverty and vulnerability of the delta residents, and develop management systems that are resilient in the face of the large uncertainties that exist for the 21st Century. The Ganges-Brahmaputra delta is selected as it is one of the most vulnerable deltas (embracing most of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India), but the methods that are being proposed will be transferable to the management of other delta systems in Asia, Africa and South America. This PPDG integrates across multiple scales of investigation that are often explored independently in different disciplines. Hence, integration of natural science, engineering and social science views is critical and this will be a key step which the PPDG will explore, building on existing experience in the project team such as within the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The PPDG aims to develop a proposal that integrates all the above issues for both the baseline and future conditions, using poverty or poverty-related outcomes as the key indicators. The proposal will also consider critical intervening factors such as governance and political will in tackling both corruption and the social and economic effects of climate change and other hazards. Poverty outcomes will be considered as a much wider spectrum of wellbeing than just money metrics, which may not be relevant in this setting. We will explore the effect of the scenarios on health, education, social capital and security as well as asset poverty and nutritional levels. Previous research will be developed in order to understand the effects of differing underlying resilience and vulnerability levels among the coastal populations. Particular interest will be focussed on possible thresholds of social capital and material wellbeing, after which the multiple stresses above would have catastrophic effects, including knock on effects such as mass migration. Analysis will occur at various levels - including effects on the individual, the household, the community, the wider area and ultimately the whole nation and delta. The PPDG will develop the research consortium across three countries (UK, Bangladesh and India) and refine the research questions identified to develop a proposal for the December 2010 submission. In particular, it will allow us to embed the research in the Ganges-Brahmaputra to facilitate take-up of the policy recommendations that would emerge if the full proposal was funded.

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