DSA2017: Sustainability Interrogated: Societies, Growth, and Social Justice
- Emma Tompkins (University of Southampton) email
- Katharine Vincent (Kulima Integrated Development Solutions (Pty) Ltd) email
- Andrew Allan (University of Dundee) email
- Natalie Suckall (University of Southampton) email
- Ricardo Safra de Campos (University of Exeter) email
Global river deltas face multiple stressors but can sustainability ever be achieved in such fragile contexts or must we accept trade-offs between the environment, economy, poverty eradication and social justice? Is radical transformative action on sustainable development possible and desirable?
The world's river deltas are home to over 500 million people and are some of the main food producing regions on the planet. Deltas face mounting pressure from multiple stresses and shocks, including population movements, chronic poverty, climatic changes, natural hazards and socio-technical interventions e.g. dams. Despite their clear geographic designation, deltas are not usually represented politically; hence their unique issues are rarely addressed directly by government policy. Deltas often span national boundaries adding further complexity to their governance. This combination of environmental, social, economic and governance factors presents a challenge to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. As such, novel ways of thinking about sustainability are required.
This panel asks three broad questions:
(i) What would a sustainable future look like in a delta?
(ii) Is sustainable development even possible in such fragile contexts or must we accept trade-offs between the environment, economic growth, poverty eradication and social justice?
(iii) Is radical transformative action on sustainable development possible and desirable?
In the context of these questions, this panel brings together interdisciplinary perspectives on sustainable development in deltas to explore issues including: migration away from and within deltas; adaptation to change across scales, including at the household and government level; the impact of change on women and vulnerable groups; interventions that support the delta's most vulnerable groups; opportunities for development under a range of possible futures; and reconfigurations of power relations and institutions that may lead to transformative change.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Sustainable deltas in a changing world
A key policy challenge is to understand what sustainability means within a dynamic delta experiencing climate, environmental and socio-economic changes, hazards and migration. This paper reviews current knowledge on migration and adaptation to environmental change to assess delta sustainability.
Deltas and low-lying coastal regions have long been perceived as vulnerable to global sea-level rise due to multiple climatic, environmental and socio-economic drivers, with the potential for mass environmental change and displacement of exposed populations. Populations in deltas are however already highly mobile, with significant urbanization trends driven primarily by economic opportunity. Yet environmental change in general, and climate change in particular, are likely to play an increasing direct and indirect role in future migration trends. The policy challenges centre on understanding what sustainability means within such a dynamic context and how this informs regional adaptation strategies to climate change; the protection of vulnerable populations; and the future of urban settlements within deltas. This paper reviews current knowledge on migration and adaptation to environmental change to assess sustainability in delta regions. It is based on a new integrated methodology to assess deltas, and most particularly migration in those deltas. It uses the Volta delta (Ghana), Mahanadi delta (India) and Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta (India and Bangladesh) as case studies. Our integrated method focuses on: biophysical changes and spatial distribution of vulnerability; demographic changes and migration decision-making using multiple methods and data; macro-economic trends and scenarios in the deltas; and the policies and governance structures that constrain and/or enable adaptation. Initial results suggest that migration decision-making strongly interacts with diverse measures for adaptation of land, water and agricultural management. Any notion of sustainability in such dynamic environments cannot be static and must consider and steer these large-scale trends towards more desirable goals.
Assessing governance quality as regards climate change adaptation and migration in deltas
The quality of governance frameworks relating to climate change adaptation, and more specifically to migration, in deltas is an important element in the sustainability of communities. Assessing the quality of these frameworks is challenging. This paper presents an assessment method and findings.
Governance frameworks strongly affect how deltas are managed and influence the sustainability of the societies that live in them. They play an important role in mitigating the impact of environmental stressors, adapting to climate change, alleviating the challenges caused by bureaucratic or administrative restrictions and providing certain rights for individuals.
Adopting effective governance systems that establish and enable the widest range of possible adaptations to the impacts of environmental hazards in deltas is challenging however, and assessing the quality of these frameworks difficult. Legal, institutional and policy frameworks affecting adaptation cross many policy areas and multiple scales, and unpicking these specifically in relation to deltas has not been done. More specifically in relation to governance as it affects migration, much of the literature has focused on international movement or on human rights aspects of internal displacement.
This paper presents the results of the application of an extensive multi-scale governance assessment method to four deltas, based on international best practice and focusing on human rights, natural resource management, disaster risk management and climate change. The findings suggest that the quality and effectiveness of these frameworks is not directly correlated with a country's economic situation, and highlights the importance of procedural human rights (especially rights to information) in protecting the most vulnerable in deltas. They also demonstrate the disproportionate importance of a number of key pieces of legislation at the national level.
Sustainable adaptation in river deltas: who adapts to what, and why?
Adaptations to present day climate variability and change are poorly documented in river deltas, limiting current and future adaptation planning. This paper investigates how households are adapting to present day climate variability in deltas, and assesses the sustainability of those adaptations
Adaptations to present day climate variability and change are poorly documented globally. This lack of an evidence base of observed adaptations to present day climate variability and change is hindering many countries planning for and action on climate change. Of concern is the lack of understanding of climate change adaptation by households in 'climatic hot spots' - where there is a strong climate signal and a concentration of poor or marginalised people, e.g. river deltas. This paper addresses this gap by investigating how households are adapting to present day climate variability and change in deltas. Using three delta cases along a size continuum (small - the Volta, medium - the Mahanadi, large - the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Megna), we address the questions that remain unanswered for most 'hot spot' regions: what adaptations are occurring, who is adapting, what are people adapting to, and why are they adapting? Descriptive statistics, multiple regression analysis and principal component analysis are applied to household survey data collected from the three deltas. We assess the prevalence and scope of adaptation activity and reflect on the sustainability of current practice. Our findings have relevance globally for better understanding of how poor and marginalised households in climate change hotspots are coping with current weather and climate hazards today, and what this means for the future sustainability of deltas.
Household composition, migration, and remittances: evidence from deltas
This paper examines the relationship between household composition, migration prevalence and remittances using data from a structured household survey from four deltas across Ghana, Bangladesh and India to examine migration as a goal oriented form of risk diversification or a survival strategy. Additional co-author: Samuel Nii Ardey Codjoe
This paper examines the relationship between household composition, migration prevalence and remittances. The new economics of labour migration (NELM) defines migration as a strategy that households employ to overcome constraints. Thus, migration is not the result of an individual decision; it is part of a family strategy. By having a migrant family member working away from home, a household makes an investment that is expected to be offset by the migrant's remittances. A high degree of altruism and family cohesion is needed to justify the investment in a migrant in the expectation of future remittances. Altruism tends to be more powerful among family members than among, for example, randomly assembled people. The degree of altruism, however, varies across families, being strongest in cohesive, traditional families and weaker in non-traditional families with unstable bonds. Here we hypothesise that household composition and headship directly influence migration outcomes and migrant remittances. We test these propositions by using data from a structured household survey stratified by level of exposure to environmental risks. The data are from low-lying coastal areas in four deltas across three countries, Ghana, Bangladesh and India and include variables capturing migration behaviour, migration intentions and remittances. The analysis shows that large cohesive families are likely to benefit from flows of remittances from migrants. The results reveal the role of family stability, size and cohesion in differentiating migration outcomes that tends to be a goal oriented form of risk diversification from a survival strategy.
Gendered adaptation in deltas: who decides, who benefits and who loses?
Using survey data from 6000 households across four deltas in Africa and Asia, this paper highlights how gender differences in access to resources and decision making affects the types of adaptations that are chosen, and who benefits and loses from them.
The gendered nature of decision-making and access to resources is accepted to be one of the drivers of differential capacities of men and women to adapt to climate change. Adaptations typically involve investment, expenditure or labour inputs. Within households, there are differences between men and women in the allocation of, and decision-making capacity over, capital (e.g. for investment and consumption) and labour. In addition, their gender roles and relations and differential access to these resources determines the way in which such decisions affect them. This paper uses survey data from 6000 households across four deltas in Asia and Africa to highlight who makes adaptation decisions and the types of adaptation they choose; as well as who benefits and who loses from these decisions and the implications for gender (in)equality.
Migration as an adaptation in deltas: drivers, success and sustainability in Ghana, India and Bangladesh
Multiple stressors, including population increase, poverty and climate change threaten deltaic populations. This paper explores how 'migration as adaptation' to change occurs in India, Bangladesh and Ghana and the extent to which this contributes to long term sustainability in the delta.
Populations living in the world's deltas face significant threats from climate change such as sea-level rise leading to loss of land and salinization, increase flooding and more frequent and severe storms. The impacts of these changes are compounded by other anthropogenic stressors such as population increase and chronic poverty. Adaptation to change will be essential if deltaic communities are to mitigate the worse impacts. Migration emerges as one such adaptation; however, there currently exists little data on exactly how migration may occur. More specifically, there is little empirical evidence that examines the extent to which migration is used as an adaptation in its own right, or as a strategy of last resort when other adaptations have failed. Using data from 6000 household surveys from deltas in Ghana, India and Bangladesh, this paper explores the 'migration as an adaptation' versus 'migration as a failure of adaptation' debate. We examine the factors that drive a range of adaptations, including migration. We also examine the extent to which deltaic communities view migration as a successful adaptation strategy, and the extent to which migration can contribute to long term sustainability in the delta.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.