Deltas

Water defines and enables human development. Ecosystems and economies depend on water.  The impact of climate change will be most acutely expressed through water.  Deltas are particularly vulnerable to water-related climate risks.

Articles

Bartels and Vedder floating house in The Netherlands
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Supporting regulations for floating developments

Dutch regulations on floating development are in the frontline and are often used by other countries in need of guidance. 

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Community of Practice webinar: How can floating development help adaptation to climate change.

Case Studies

Lighthouses show where to go – and where to avoid. These “lighthouse” case studies explore best practices in climate adaptation and resilience interventions in delta countries. 

Video Deltas The Netherlands

Deltas

Due to their fertile floodplains, easy access to the ocean and inland water transport, most deltas are densely populated. Many deltas are engines for economic growth, and have higher GDP per capita than the economies in which they are located.  The Mekong Delta supports a population of 20 million people and approximately a quarter of Vietnam’s GDP. 

Without action on adaptation, the projected losses in some delta regions are large enough to stifle entire economies: for example, 9% of GDP per capita in the Volta Delta and 19.5% in Bangladesh. These losses will come from damage to infrastructure, crop production and fishing. The indirect consequences, such as the loss of livelihoods and food security, would be severe.

Key findings

There is an urgent need to improve understanding of what works in delta environments, and share lessons and information across countries for scaling up. Climate adaptation in delta areas is a complex issue best looked at through a systems lens. 

In any particular delta, adaptation strategies require an in-depth and scientific understanding and a strong baseline that includes analysis of risk exposure and drivers of change.  This in turn requires better, open-access climate data collection.

Climate-change adaptation is a long-term game. Making deltas more climate resilient requires thinking in terms of decades, and creating legal and political frameworks that are conducive to long-term, integrated planning. Frameworks must be agile and flexible enough to change tack when needed.

Communities must be at the center of adaptation planning and action. Vulnerable groups in delta areas face issues that are hard to distinguish from climate impacts. Their meaningful participation must be embedded in approaches that address all their concerns and engage them in co-creating solutions.

Nature-based solutions, combining ‘green’ and ‘gray’ infrastructure, are promising but need urgent scaling. They are often also conducive to achieving multiple objectives, such as creating local jobs in operations and maintenance while building climate resilience. 

Deltas need dedicated governance structures organized on water management principles. Deltas often cut across administrative and national boundaries, creating significant governance challenges.

Nonetheless, adaptation in deltas needs an increased level of long-term financing commitments. Financial resources should be targeted to those who need adaptation most, but many low-income countries do not have the necessary resources. Innovative financial instruments are needed, such as climate resilience bonds and debt-for-resilience swaps. Development partnerships should go beyond the typical five-year project cycle.

Resilient Asian Deltas Initiative

Scaling up nature-based solutions

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RESILIENT ASIAN DELTAS INITIATIVE
Assement of high potential & scalable nature-based solutions in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Assement of high potential & scalable nature-based solutions in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

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Landscapes

Cape Town was near day zero in 2018. The drought that threatened to turn off the taps in Cape Town was made three times more likely by global warming, according to a study. Credit picture perfect istock.
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Urban Resilience

Disasters, climate change, and rapid urbanization pose a serious risk to the provision of urban water services including safe drinking water, sanitation, and safe drainage.

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Man in the sea in Bangladesh, istock photo, Credits: Mudassir Hossain
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Coastal Areas

Human societies will need to adapt to sea level rise, which means flooding, increasing risk of storm surges, coastal erosion and the loss of low-lying coastal systems.

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Shacks in a slum area along a small polluted canal. Manila, Philippines
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City Slums

Inhabitants of city slums are at extreme risk to climate change. Slums grow at a rapid pace because of in-migration of people from disaster prone areas, and growing poverty in rural areas and more opportunities in urban areas.

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A desert plain with three trees and amountain
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Drylands

Drylands are defined by a scarcity of water, and cover more than 40% of the earth surface. Drylands are present in more than 100 countries and home to over 2 billion people.

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Cross Cutting

Eifel, Elz valley, flood disaster, July 15th 2021. Europe is highly urbanised and has too few natural buffers that can infiltrate extreme amounts of heavy rainfall. Markus Volk. istock.
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Nature based solutions

Nature based solutions work with and enhance nature to restore and protect ecosystems and to help society adapt to the impacts of climate change. Adaptation calls for the increased use of nature based solutions with multiple benefits which at the same time provides for livelihoods, ecosystem life support and community resilience.

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A river basin in a mountanous region.
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River Basins

Collaboration in a river basin is needed to share increasingly scarce resources, manage water related risks emerging from various land uses and prevent flooding by linking upstream and downstream activities. Upstream areas need to ensure spatial planning that is mitigating floods for downstream areas. 

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