NEWS | What do we know about adaptation in the Volta, Mahanadi and Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna deltas?

This news item was originally posted on DECCMA's website. Written by Katharine Vincent, Kulima Integrated Development Solutions (DECCMA research collaborator).

Deltas are viewed as climate change hotspots. Hotspots are where high exposure to climate-related hazards coincides with large numbers of vulnerable people-globally 500 million reside in deltas. 

Although some national scale assessments exist charting the spectrum of adaptations occurring in deltas in the developed world, few exist for the developing world, and none for a developing world river delta. The Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change requires a global stock take of adaptation efforts and experiences, and each country is required to report this in its National Adaptation Plan. 

DECCMA’s Adaptation Team has just published a review of observed adaptations in the three DECCMA deltas: the Volta in Ghana, the Mahanadi in India, and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna in India and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh team has been asked to expand its review of observed adaptation to the small proportion of the country outside the delta in order to inform the development of its National Adaptation Plan.

From a review of peer-reviewed and grey literature the team found 122 documented adaptations. The bulk of the reported adaptations (93) come from the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-delta; with smaller numbers from the smaller deltas-14 from the Mahanadi and 15 from the Volta. 
Nearly half of the observed adaptations are agricultural, reflecting the predominance of this livelihood source in the deltas. Water management-related practices (including for water resources and flood risk for disaster risk reduction) comprises around 30%. This is not surprising considering that salinity intrusion, river erosion, waterlogging, and extreme events such as tropical cyclones and storm surges and sea level were identified as the main driving forces behind adaptations. 

The inventory shows who is providing the adaptation, and who is benefiting from them. Governments are responsible for over half of the adaptations, with NGOs also playing a significant role. The majority of adaptations are focused at community level. Numbers of adaptations by individuals, and benefiting individuals, are both smaller. However it is likely that this is, at least in part, due to the limitations of the methodology which only allows for inclusion of adaptations reported in the literature. 

Very little reference was made to gender differences in adaptations, nor to the role of migration. DECCMA is currently investigating these through household surveys conducted with men and women in 6,000 households across all three deltas. As well as illuminating the gendered dimensions of adaptation and the extent to which migration acts as an adaptation (and for whom), DECCMA’s survey will also add to the published empirical evidence on observed adaptations at individual level. 

Read the Observed Adaptation in Deltas Working Paper here
View the Inventory here