Assessing health, livelihoods, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation in populous deltas
The overall aim of ESPA Deltas was to provide policy makers with the knowledge and tools to enable them to evaluate the effects of policy decisions on ecosystem services and people's livelihoods. This links science to policy at the landscape scale and engages national level policy processes that impact at a community level. Key questions included:
- What are the key ecosystem services?
- How and why might these change in the future?
- What are the consequences of these changes for ecosystem services?
- How will these affect people, particularly the poor?
- How can policy processes utilise this science?
These questions were addressed by creating a holistic approach to formally evaluating ecosystem services and poverty in the context of changes such as subsidence and sea level rise, land degradation and population pressure in delta regions. The approach was tested and applied in coastal Bangladesh and tested conceptually in other populous deltas.
Key academic findings of the project include:
- Ecosystem services can support poor populations in deltas, and are especially important for the poorest and most marginalised delta residents.
- In the main, ecosystem services do not offer a pathway out of poverty, but rather are a basic support for subsistence living and livelihoods.
- Whilst climate change has a real and tangible impact on the coastal zone, up to 2050 at least, socio-economic/policy changes are likely to be more important in the sustainability of coastal Bangladesh. The future is more influenced by human choices/policy interventions than climate change, and development can play a large role in Bangladesh – which is contrary to much perceived wisdom on this topic. For example, depending solely on practice, some fisheries might either decline slightly or collapse completely within a decade. So the take-home message is that policy, planning and implementation can significantly shape the next few decades.
- Integrated assessment of large complex systems (deltas) and complex questions (ecosystem services and livelihoods) is feasible, and can deliver policy relevant insights.
- The importance of ecosystem services is likely to decrease with time as other parts of the economy grow more rapidly.
- The drivers of poverty on the delta front are spatially diverse including salinization and waterlogging, which impact ecosystem services directly, and in some areas a lack of transport infrastructure, which impacts access of agricultural production to markets.
- Absolute poverty is likely to decline to 2050, but inequality or relative disparity will persist due to stagnation in marginal areas.
- Beyond 2050, climate change will be more challenging for Bangladesh with faster changes including a stronger monsoon, higher sea levels, increased storminess and associated impacts such as salinization. The details of these threats will depend on near-term climate policy and resulting emissions.
The project developed the influential Delta Dynamic Integrated Emulator Model (ΔDIEM), an integrated model which allows future trajectories of cosatal Bangladesh to be explored, including ecosystem services and livelihoods. This model will be applied for long term strategic planning processes by the Government of Bangladesh in coastal Bangladesh, leading to the Delta Dynamic Integrated Emulator Model being developed, extended and applied nationally.
- ESPA Deltas video: Creating a sustainable future for climate-vulnerable deltas (March 2018)
- ESPA Impact Story on Deltas project (March 2018)
- ESPA Briefing ('Tools and Frameworks' document) on Deltas project (November 2017)
- Project website
- Project leaflet
- Policy Note September 2015
- Linking Science To Policy in the Bangladesh Coastal Zone
- Policy note - Overview April 2016
Featured image courtesy of Bangladesh Department of Disaster Management