River deltas comprise only 1% of global landscapes, yet support over half a billion people. This has led to tension between growth and development of human communities and the natural processes of river deltas. While deltas are considered important ‘global food baskets’ they are highly vulnerable to food insecurity and environmental degradation. The GCRF Living Deltas Hub will co-develop the transdisciplinary frameworks needed to understand deltaic social-ecological systems, and will work with delta-dwellers and policymakers to develop solutions that can help realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in delta contexts. The Living Deltas Hub focuses on three major river deltas in South and Southeast Asia: the Red River and Mekong deltas (Vietnam) and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta (GBM: Bangladesh, India). The work of the Hub aims to:
- Facilitate the promotion of the SDGs in Red River, Mekong and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Deltas using natural-cultural heritage understandings.
- Study the relationships between natural- cultural and intangible-tangible heritage resources in delta case studies.
- Transform policy and practice on the basis of our new approaches to understanding delta change in South and Southeast Asia.
- Confront significant challenges facing social-ecological delta systems in a transdisciplinary way that responds to the interlinked agenda of the SDGs. Establish patterns of severity and rate of environmental change to identify key pressure points on vulnerable deltas, and explore interconnections between tangible and intangible national-cultural heritage resources.
- Build equitable partnerships with delta communities, NGOs, government departments, academics and businesses to scope, map, and research human relationships with deltas and the impacts they have on them.
UNU-EHS leads WP5 to develop improved delta-level SDG monitoring (WP5), and derive with stakeholders a new indicator-based assessment framework focusing on delta-specific SDGs. It is timely, as it addresses the crucial challenges of SE Asian delta degradation early in the lifespan of the SDGs and so contributes to the development of SDG monitoring and planning - globally and regionally, as well as in country contexts. The Hub is innovative as it emphasizes transdisciplinary integration of the earth and life sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts, to address these common challenges. It operates on a model of 'equitable partnership', involving delta-dwellers and the research community in developing knowledge and policy for better delta futures. The Hub strives for lasting impact through improved livelihoods and more resilient communities, sustainable management and conservation, improved monitoring of SDG indicators and better policies for sustainable development.