Collaborating for sustainable future in Asia

New research has identified ways to help secure a more sustainable future for the 100 million people who live on Bangladesh and India’s Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, while also protecting the environment.

The research, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), was carried out by the Universities of Portsmouth and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime. The joint project applied the blue governance approach to improving the resilience and health of delta communities and ecological systems, by developing mechanisms that account for the area’s specific land-sea challenges.

The findings and recommendations of the collaborative project were shared today (26th October) at a seminar hosted by both universities and attended by Mr Dipu-Moni MP, the Bangladeshi Education Minister.

Blue governance is a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, facilitating the decision-making structures and processes for sustainable development of aquatic resources. This is especially vital to official development assistance (ODA) countries, such as Bangladesh. More than 100 million people live on the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, of which 30 million are living in poverty.

This research should help improve the living conditions of people on the delta and ensure the resilience of the communities and the ecosystems through improved governance

The Ganges-delta is a river delta in the Bengal region of South Asia, consisting of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. It is the world’s largest river delta and it empties into the Bay of Bengal with the combined waters of several river systems, mainly those of the Brahmaputra river and the Ganges river. It is also one of the most fertile regions in the world, and extremely susceptible to the effects of climate change and associated sea level rise.

People depend on river flows and natural tides for ecosystem services, so governance of deltas must encompass the interactions at the interface of land and sea. However, current management is typically an extension of land or sea policies and have limited accounting for interactions between the two systems. This research seeks to change that.

Two important outputs from the project were shared at the seminar today – both will help inform decision makers to improve management and governance. They are packed with advice, recommendations, and new information. The first output is a Special Issue in the Bangladesh Maritime Journal, titled ‘Blue Governance of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta’. It is made up of a number of research papers covering the thematic areas identified here. This special issue focuses on the “challenges and opportunities of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta in Bangladesh’s blue economy ambitions” and provides valuable insights into the existing ‘seascape’ of the area to guide and inform decision making.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has limited our ability to collaborate in person and undertake some forms of fieldwork as planned due to restrictions associated with travel and local lockdown regulations. However, this has not inhibited our continued cooperative efforts and virtual meetings and collaboration has taken place in lieu, still producing highly successful results and reinforced relationships.

The second is an online e-learning course “Blue Governance of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta’. It was developed, with a number of experts from the University of Portsmouth, and from various universities and institutions across Bangladesh. It covers issues of climate change, managing marine resources, pollution, and social equity. It will be open access and free to anyone who wishes to undertake it. The course aims to raise local and individual awareness of the value of delta systems and the interlinkages of systems and the people who depend on them.

The implementation of a Blue Governance of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta will benefit 30 million people with currently 20 million of them considered under threat due to climate change effects. The project will also contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of the 100 million people living on the delta.

Professor Pierre Failler, Director of the Centre for Blue Governance at the University of Portsmouth: “The GCRF project on Blue Governance of Deltas has provided a unique platform for enhancing research, education and policy collaboration between the University of Portsmouth and Bangladeshi universities and policy institutions. This research should help improve the living conditions of people on the delta and ensure the resilience of the communities and the ecosystems through improved governance.”

Professor Graham Galbraith, Vice Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth said: “It is a great pleasure to see the collaboration between the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University and the University of Portsmouth progressing to new levels of cooperation and joint activity. The global Covid-19 pandemic has limited our ability to collaborate in person and undertake some forms of fieldwork as planned due to restrictions associated with travel and local lockdown regulations. However, this has not inhibited our continued cooperative efforts and virtual meetings and collaboration has taken place in lieu, still producing highly successful results and reinforced relationships.”

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