Science - October 6, 2010

Deltas learn from each other

Last week, in Rotterdam, the Delta Alliance was set up. The alliance will serve as a platform for knowledge about delta areas. Alterra has a key role.

The launch of the alliance took place during the international conference 'Deltas in times of Climate Change'. 'But we have actually been working on this on a smaller scale for the past eighteen months', explains programme manager Wim van Driel (Alterra). Alterra is acting as secretary for the alliance. The Netherlands (Rhine-Maas) laid the foundation for the collaborative venture together with Vietnam (Mekong), Indonesia (Ciliwung) and California (California Bay).
A large number of delta areas have expressed interest since then, according to Driel. He cites Bangladesh (Ganges-Brahmaputra), Egypt (Nile delta) and Brazil (Pantanal). Pantanal is an internal delta, a delta in the interior of Brazil. China (Yangtze) will also be taking part. 'An exceptional case', says Van Driel. 'The contacts with them are through the WNF. The WNF has managed to arrange protection for one area there to stop it being absorbed by Shanghai.' Van Driel thinks 15 to 20 delta regions will join in the end.
Research agenda
Delta areas around the world are under pressure due to climate change, says Van Driel in explaining the initiative. 'The dynamics of major rivers are changing, ground levels are sinking, sea levels are rising, farmland is becoming saltier and population pressure is rapidly increasing. More than half the world's population live in delta areas these days.' What is more, deltas are also important for economic reasons. Deltas function as a food store and provide access to the hinterland.
Van Driel says there is a huge amount of research taking place in the field of deltas and climate. The aim of the alliance is to facilitate the exchange and availability of this knowledge. The collaborative venture should also result in a shared research agenda. According to Van Driel, the emphasis is on improving the resilience of delta areas. A first step is to develop a kind of delta monitor that will show what condition a delta is in. The first Delta Alliance summit will take place next year in Indonesia.
 

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