Bridging the gap: National Delta Dialogue on GBM Delta Resilience and Livelihoods

2 October 2023 | By: Newcastle University | 3 min read
Bangladesh fisherman in boats on a river

In a world where our climate is rapidly changing, and the consequences of human activity on our environment are becoming more pronounced, our coastal deltas are facing unprecedented challenges.

The Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna (GBM) delta, spanning Bangladesh and India, is a densely populated region of immense ecological and socio-economic importance, and a place where natural forces and human interventions have shaped the landscape over centuries. However, in recent times, the delta faces increasing threats from climate change, rising sea levels, and rapid changes in land use.


  1. National Delta Dialogue
  2. Research impact
  3. Spirit of collaboration
  4. Challenges and opportunities
  5. Transforming policy

National Delta Dialogue

To explore critical issues surrounding the delta, the Living Deltas Hub based at Newcastle University hosted the National Delta Dialogue on GBM Delta Resilience and Livelihoods in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The event also highlighted the innovative strategies emerging to support sustainable livelihoods and resilience in the face of these challenges.

While the National Delta Dialogue specifically focused on the GBM delta, it also highlighted the global reach of the Hub’s work and the importance of cross-delta and South-South learning and its impact on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.

Funded by the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the Hub brings together an international team of over 120 researchers from more than 20 academic institutions. It aims to understand how Asian mega-deltas are changing, how local knowledge and local cultural heritage can underpin a better future for deltas, and how infrastructure, inequality, and resilience issues can be addressed to encourage sustainability. 

Research impact

A variety of interested stakeholders attended the National Delta Dialogue, including government and NGO representatives, FCDO representatives from the region, and other key stakeholders from across Bangladesh.

Hub Director, Professor Andy Large, (Newcastle University) and Bangladesh Hub Lead, Professor Mashfiqus Salehin, (Water and Flood Management Institute of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, BUET) opened the event with an introduction to the Living Deltas Hub.

Prof. Salehin went on to talk about the Hub's research, with further presentations from Hub members Dr Shehrin Shaila Mahmood (ICDDRB), Dr Indrajit Pal (AIT), Dr Hue Le (VNU) and Dr Jack O’Connor (UNU) who all highlighted the vulnerability of the Asian mega-deltas and the need for co-ordinated solutions to address issues from failing embankments to increasing malnutrition in coastal areas.

The National Delta Dialogue also provided a platform for discussion of the Hub’s key research findings in the wider context of the GBM delta region. The panel included:

  • Dr Saleemul Huq, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD)
  • Mohd. Monirul Islam, Additional Secretary (SDGs Affairs), Prime Minister's Office (PMO)
  • Sanjay Kumar Bhowmik, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC)
  • Ms Anna Balance, Climate Change and Environment Advisor, FCDO Bangladesh
  • John Warburton, Head of Climate and Environment, Indo-Pacific Regional Department, FCDO, New Delhi
National Delta Dialogue panellists

Panellists at the National Delta Dialogue on GBM Delta Resilience and Livelihoods, with far left,  Prof. Andy Large, Director of the Living Deltas Research Hub based at Newcastle University. (Image courtesy of Arif Billah)

Prof Mashfiqus Salehin at the National Delta Dialogue
Addressing the conference, Bangladesh Hub Lead, Professor Mashfiqus Salehin, from the Water and Flood Management Institute, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. (Image courtesy of Arif Billah)
Dr Hue Le at the National Delta Dialogue

Highlighting Living Delta's research, Hub Deputy Director Dr Hue Le, from the Central Institute for Natural Resources, Vietnam National University. (Image courtesy of Arif Billah)

Spirit of collaboration

Special guest, Ms Balance, highlighted the success of the Living Deltas programme, and the commitment of the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), to working with the Hub and Bangladesh government to develop a reciprocal relationship built on mutual expertise and experience. This is demonstrated through the recent climate accord signed by the two nations.

Ms Balance indicated that future initiatives would build on what the Hub has started in the spirit of collaboration. Potential engagement will be around the proposed FCDO programme on Adaptation in ecologically critically areas, which fits well with work the Hub is carrying out on the GBM delta in both Bangladesh and India. She also stated that the FCDO would be seeking to draw on Hub outcomes in this area.

Other potential future avenues for collaboration - and where the FCDO want to draw on Hub outcomes - are working with youth and establishing further scientific partnerships reflecting the Hub’s five-year programme and its research emphasis.

Chief guest, Mr. Md Akhter Hossain, Principal Co-ordinator, SDG Affairs, Prime Minister’s Office, closed the event acknowledging the important and relevant research carried out by the Hub, and that this should be taken forward as part of Bangladesh’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP), to support the country’s most vulnerable people.

Challenges and opportunities

One of the key challenges in the GBM delta is ensuring equitable and sustainable livelihoods for all its inhabitants. The delta is characterised by high socio-economic vulnerability and spatial heterogeneity, making the core SDG principle of "leaving no one behind" all the more relevant.

To tackle these challenges, the Hub adopts a social-ecological systems approach, emphasizing the importance of understanding the diversity within the coastal zone.

Research delves into various aspects, from the delta's landscape to resilient livelihoods and SDG implementation. The goal is to develop frameworks for assessing who benefits and who loses out from interventions and strategies, all while considering the unique contexts of different regions.

Transforming policy

The National Delta Dialogue on GBM Delta Resilience and Livelihoods represents a snapshot of the Hub’s ongoing efforts to understand and address the challenges faced by coastal deltas in South and Southeast Asia. By bringing together experts and stakeholders, this event highlighted how the Hub’s research can inform innovative solutions to transform policy and practice.

Going forward, the Hub will continue supporting the Bangladesh-UK Accord on Climate Change, as well as working to inform future policy and development initiatives through meaningful dialogue at future events. This will include presenting at the 2024 Gobeshona Global Conference organised by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) 

Newcastle University academic and Hub member Siobhan Warrington is also working with ICCCAD to deliver sessions on her research and methodologies.  

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