Lancaster scientists to tackle global challenge of river deltas

25 January 2019 14:44
Trees and water

Researchers from Lancaster University will help tackle a ‘Global Challenge’ focused on the world’s river deltas – which collectively support more than half a billion people.

Deltas such as the Ganges and the Mekong are vital social-ecological systems and global food baskets but the terrain and the livelihoods of those who rely on them are under threat from over exploitation, environmental degradation and climate change.

Focusing on three deltas in Asia, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenge Research Fund Living Deltas Hub, led by Newcastle University, will see researchers work in partnership with delta dwellers to develop new knowledge and policies.

The aim of the project is to safeguard the future of deltas by supporting more resilient communities and sustainable development.

Professor Philip Barker, Director of the Lancaster Environment Centre and researcher on the Living Deltas Hub, said: “Communities living on the world’s major deltas are among the most vulnerable to environmental change. As well as facing increasing threats such as sea level rise and climate change they also have to deliver food for rising populations and avoid polluting the waters on which they depend. This project seeks to work with these communities, their representatives and local researchers, to better understand their priorities and challenges.”

Dr Manoj Roy, Lecturer at the Lancaster Environment Centre and who is also a researcher with the Living Deltas Hub, said: “People in river deltas practice a lifestyle finely balanced with the rhythms of their water-dominant environment.

“Their way of life needs plenty of water but too much or too little can be catastrophic.

“This balance is even reflected in, Bangla, the language spoken by over 100 million people in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta. The word barsha refers to the normal beneficial floods that renew the land and the word bonna refers to the less frequent but more destructive floods that used to happen about once a decade.

“Climate change is altering this socio-environmental rhythm; people must now learn how to live with destructive floods occurring more unpredictably. The GCRF Living Deltas Hub will enable delta scientists and stakeholders to better understand and deal with these culture-threatening impacts of climate change.”  

UKRI is pioneering an ambitious new approach to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges through a £200M investment across 12 global research Hubs – including the Living Deltas Hub.

Over the next five years, the 12 interdisciplinary Hubs will work across 85 countries with governments, international agencies, partners and NGOs on the ground in developing countries and around the globe, to develop creative and sustainable solutions.

The new Hubs announced in detail this week are funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) - which is a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy and puts UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Hubs focus on a wide range of global challenges from improving human health and promoting gender equality and social justice to fortifying ecological systems and biodiversity on land and sea, generating agricultural sustainability and fostering greater resilience to natural disasters. Each Hub aims to achieve tangible outcomes that will improve the lives and livelihoods of millions across the world.

Announcing the 12 UKRI GCRF Hubs alongside 16 other international research partnerships, Science and Universities Minister Chris Skidmore, said: “The UK has a reputation for globally influential research and innovation, and is at the centre of a web of global collaboration – showing that science has no borders.

“We have a strong history of partnering with other countries – over 50% of UK authored research involves collaborations with international partners.

“The projects being announced today reinforce our commitment to enhance the UK’s excellence in innovation at home and around the world, driving high-skilled jobs, economic growth and productivity as part of the modern Industrial Strategy.”

Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI Champion for International and Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), said: “The sheer scale and ambition of these Hubs is what makes them so exciting. They enable us to deliver a coordinated global response with UK researchers working in partnership with researchers, governments, NGOs, community groups and international agencies across developing countries. Each Hub has the potential to transform the quality of life for multitudes throughout the world and safeguard our planet for future generations.”

The river deltas international project team includes the 13 partner countries and 39 partner organisations.

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