Adaptation Programme in the Sundarban

WWF-India’s vision for this landscape is to develop a climate resilient Sundarban that supports biodiversity, ecosystems services and sustainable development. The pattern of governance in the Indian Sundarban Delta has struggled to keep pace with the management and development challenges. In the absence of the needed climate-informed adaptive solutions, this environmentally and economically important area is rapidly heading towards an uncertain future.

The Delta Vision

WWF-India, in the course of conservation work in the Sundarban region, has suggested an alternative scenario to the business as usual, with the aim of stimulating public discussion and creating a response strategy.

Sundarban:  Future imperfect Climate Adaptation Report

WWF India's experiences in the Sundarban on climate change were captured in this report as part of the WWF-Netherlands supported project 'Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems in the Himalayas'.  This study captures the initiatives that were implemented to enhance risk preparedness as well as adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities that ensure physical and livelihood security, and reduce sensitivity in case of exposure to high intensity weather events.

Planned Retreat and Ecosystem Regeneration as Adaptation to Climate Change

This issue brief on adaptation, developed in the context of the global adaptation debate is intended to inform the global WWF network and the public on an ecological economic valuation framework developed to ascertain whether planned retreat and ecosystem regeneration should be the preferred mode of adaptation, particularly for places with high development deficit and high vulnerability to impacts of climate change.

Engagement with the World Bank’s South Asia Water Initiative

Under the South Asia Water Initiative (SAWI): Sundarban Focus Area, a facility that aims to increase regional cooperation in the management of the major Himalayan river systems in South Asia to deliver sustainable, fair and inclusive development and climate resilience through stakeholder input to government decision making strengthened by participatory processes that facilitate transboundary knowledge generation and sharing, WWF-India was assigned the task of preparing discussion papers through multi-stakeholder consultations on various themes.

A Discussion Paper – “Sundarban in a Global Perspective: Long Term Adaptation and Development “ has incorporated elements from the several thematic papers and presents a brief single landscape narrative of the Sundarban region and impacts of climate change in terms of relative sea level rise and storm surge impact, as well as the scale of impact on humans and the rich biodiversity. The combined impact could be so severe that it likely will never be restored to anything remotely similar to its natural condition.

Since the impacts of climate change and ill-designed responses to these impacts may derail current sustainable development policy, and potentially offset already achieved gains, the paper draws attention to managing the many threats and risks while challenging current thinking and models of development in the Sundarban.  This is followed by options for resilient and sustainable development for temperature scenarios of 1.5°C and 2°C. These include elevation recovery, doubling of agriculture out through winter irrigation, brackish water culture fishery, tourism, and planned retreat. The paper then discusses whether these options require transboundary cooperation. Although such cooperation is not a precondition to resilient and sustainable development in the region barring the cases of transboundary tourism and tiger conservation, co-management/joint management or even separate management of the landscape under jointly agreed guiding principles of natural and cultural resource management, visitor use and interpretation, science and research, as well as relations with local populations would be beneficial for the currently disadvantaged people of the Sundarban. It proposes a cooperation mechanism that takes into account (a) Primacy of the State; (b) Separation of policy and implementation arms; (c) Embeddedness of implementation arm in respective Government machinery; and (d) the federal structure in India. 
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