Regional conference on Resilient Asian Deltas initiative

Posted on 07 October 2019

This major event in Bangkok will build momentum for an ambitious new approach to stop Asia's great deltas from sinking and shrinking by tackling the root causes - not just the symptoms - of the crisis facing the deltas.
Home to over 400 million people and a wealth of biodiversity, Asia’s great deltas are critical to the economies, food security, poverty alleviation, gender equality and sustainable development of the continent, as well as to global industrial and financial systems. However, they are all sinking and shrinking due to human activities such as hydropower development, unsustainable sand mining, groundwater extraction, and river channelization, among others.

As a result, we are seeing the loss of land and infrastructure to erosion, lower water tables, increased exposure to natural disasters (typhoon, floods, droughts), disappearance of habitats for local species, and a growing threat to people and nature. The impact of climate change through sea-level rise and more extreme weather patterns further exacerbate the problem, leading to increased saltwater intrusion that damages the rice and fish bowls of Asia.

Disappearing deltas will lead to loss of unique biodiversity and migration of people and capital, disrupting regional and international economies and security.

Countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar, home to Brahmaputra, Mekong and Irrawaddy River deltas respectively, have already put delta resilience as a top government priority. In 2018, Bangladesh produced a 2100 Vision for the Brahmaputra Delta, setting a long-term vision to achieve a safe, climate-resilient and prosperous delta. In 2017, the Prime Minister of Vietnam launched its Strategy (i.e “Resolution”) on a Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Development of the Mekong Delta.

The World Bank funded “Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management” study, with results launched in 2017, also set the foundation for Myanmar’s delta resilience planning and strategy formulation. At the sector level, work has been undertaken by various research bodies examining the links between sand mining, hydropower, groundwater extraction and other sector threats to loss of natural sediment flow and river bank erosion.
Engineered solutions to fix delta issues that seek to constrain natural processes, rather than building with them, are proving too costly and unsustainable, as seen in the case of Mississippi Delta. Innovative, integrated and ambitious ideas are urgently required - ideas that are based on a proper understanding of the dynamic equilibrium of rivers and deltas, centered on working with ecosystems, and support the Asia context and communities.
  1. Event objectives
WWF with financial support from Stockholm Environment Institute’s Strategic Collaboration Fund and in partnership with Raoul Wallenberg Institute is organizing a regional event targeting key public sector decision makers, research and CSO representatives, national and international financiers (public and private), as well as interested development partners from seven Asian deltas (Bangladesh and India: Ganges–Meghna–Brahmaputra delta; China: Yangtze and Pearl deltas; Myanmar: Irrawaddy delta; Pakistan: Indus delta; Thailand: Chao Phraya delta; Vietnam: Mekong delta).

The event is designed to build consensus on the need to protect Asian deltas across countries, and will be geared towards discussing innovative approaches and financing strategies to mobilize delta-resilient implementation.

The importance of gender equality and rights-based approaches while building delta resilience is an essential component of the event. In particular, the event will discuss inclusion of the roles and rights of women and vulnerable groups and better understanding of the people and livelihoods who are impacted by delta risks.

Last but not least, the event provides an opportunity for countries in the Asia region to share their challenges, learn from each other’s experiences, build on existing initiatives and forge partnerships so they can collectively tackle delta threats and improve resilience together.

Key objectives of the event:
  • Build a common understanding of the major threats to delta stability, particularly the disruption of flow to the delta system, due to unsustainable economic activities.
  • Present the rationale of improving delta resilience for meeting national SDGs, climate and other socio-economic development commitments.
  • Examine the importance of a well-designed rights-based approaches and gender considerations in delta resilience building.
  • Build awareness and identify a set of common policy, technical and financial challenges to all deltas and best practice responses.
  • Forge a partnership to advance on the Resilient Asian Deltas (RAD) Initiative with countries and experts.

This event will help to build on the momentum created by two succesful events in New York supported by the World Economic Forum, AB InBev and the Dutch government.
Healthy delta wetlands are critical to Hong Kong and other megacities in Asia
© Martin Harvey / WWF
Building resilience in Asian deltas will be critical for people and nature
© WWF / Simon Rawles
Sampans meet at early morning market in the Mekong Delta where rivers converge Vietnam
© Elizbeth Kemf / WWF