Ganga Delta - Bay of Bengal Interactions

Satellite view of Ganga Delta

The aim of this programme is to understand the interactions and interdependencies between the Ganga Delta and the Bay of Bengal and investigate how these are changing as a result of climate change and human activity.

This new knowledge will be used to determine the risks to ecosystem services and explore how these can be mitigated to support the sustainable development of marine, deltaic and coastal ecosystem services, and the delivery of the oceans Global Goals targets on preventing and reducing marine pollution, and managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems.

The primary goal of the programme will be to support research that will enable the long-term sustainable growth of India's coastal regions, but the programme will also facilitate the development of both the UK and Indian research communities in the increasingly important area of marine and coastal ecosystem services, strengthening the international standing of both countries in this field.

The programme is supported by the UK through the Newton-Bhabha Fund, which forms part of the UK government's official development assistance (ODA) commitment. This programme is in collaboration with India's Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

Ganga Delta - Bay of Bengal Interactions sandpit event

Closing date: 22 May
2018

11 Apr 2018

NERC are inviting applications from UK scientists to attend a joint sandpit event on the proposed Ganga Delta - Bay of Bengal Interactions programme, in conjunction with India's Ministry of Earth Sciences, with support from the Newton-Bhabha Fund, in Kolkata the week commencing 11-13 September 2018.

The Ganga-Brahmaputra deltaic system (abbreviated here to Ganga Delta for ease of reference) is the world's largest delta and discharges into the Bay of Bengal, the world's largest bay, creating a unique and complex range of habitats that includes fertile coastal plains, the Sundarbans, and biologically diverse estuaries and coastal seas. These environments provide essential ecosystem services; for example beaches and mangroves protect towns and cities from storms, and coastal fisheries are an important food source. These ecosystem services are under threat as climate change, sea-level rise, land-use change and urbanisation are resulting in higher pollution levels, increased coastal erosion, habitat loss, salinisation of aquifers and reduced oxygen levels in the water.

The aim of this proposed programme is to understand the interactions and interdependencies between the Ganga Delta and the Bay of Bengal and investigate how these are changing as a result of climate change and human activity. This new knowledge will be used to determine the risks to ecosystem services and explore how these can be mitigated to support the sustainable development of marine, deltaic and coastal ecosystem services and the delivery of the oceans Gobal Goals targets on preventing and reducing marine pollution, and managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems. The primary goal of the programme will be to support research that will enable the long-term sustainable growth of India's coastal regions, but the programme will also facilitate the development of both the UK and Indian research communities in the increasingly important area of marine and coastal ecosystem services, strengthening the international standing of both countries in this field.

Research challenges that could be addressed under the programme include:

  • Determining how changes in climate, water management practices, land-use change and urbanisation in the Indo-Gangetic Plain are affecting the Bay of Bengal, for example:
    • how sedimentation rates are changing and this impact on coastal and deltaic environments
    • how the type and quantity of pollutants discharged into the bay is changing and the effect this has on biogeochemistry.
  • Determining how changes in the Bay of Bengal, for example due to sea-level rise, will affect the Ganga Delta and neighbouring coastal environments, for example:
    • how erosion rates are changing and the contribution of different variables (such as sea-level rise, development of coastal regions) to the rate of change
    • the impact of climate change on deltaic environments, including farmland and mangroves.
  • Understanding how these interactions will impact on key marine and coastal ecosystem services, including fisheries, biodiversity and protection from natural hazards, for example:
    • exploring how coastal flooding is affected by the combined impacts of sea-level rise, increased development of coastal regions and habitat loss
    • determining how fish stocks are being effecting by changes in the biogeochemistry, temperature and oxygen levels of the water, including identifying thresholds and tipping points
    • exploring the impact climate change, sea-level rise and habitat loss on surface water and groundwater resources in the Ganga Delta.
  • Exploring how to mitigate the risks to deltaic, marine and coastal ecosystem services in the Ganga Delta - Bay of Bengal region.

The programme focus primarily will be based in Indian waters and the parts of the Ganga Delta that are in India. It is envisaged that the projects would encompass fieldwork, modelling and process studies. The programme would utilise existing observing networks in the Ganga Basin and Bay of Bengal and MoES's research ships. It is anticipated that the autonomous vehicles and novel autonomous sensors being developed by both India and the UK will be deployed as part of the programme to enhance the spatial and temporal observations of key physical, biogeochemical and biological parameters, such as salinity, nitrate and oxygen.

To enable the programme to achieve its goal of supporting the sustainable development of marine and coastal environments, user engagement will be a key element of the programme. Project teams will be expected to engage with users in government, business and local communities throughout the projects, including at the design stage (following the sandpit event) to ensure both that the projects are addressing their requirements and that the outputs of the projects are accessible to them. Project teams will also be required to demonstrate that their projects meet the requirements for ODA funding.

Timing

2019 - 2021

Can I apply for a grant?

Applications are welcome from participants at any stage of their research career, provided they meet the NERC eligibility criteria to lead an application for funding from NERC to attend the sandpit event. Participants at the sandpit event are expected to be principal investigators of proposals developed at the workshop. It is expected that eligible researchers not in attendance at the workshop will be named as co-investigators (Co-I) and researcher Co-Is on the full proposals where their expertise is needed to deliver the project.

Budget

NERC has secured funding of £4·8 million (80% full economic cost) for eligible UK-based researchers from the Newton-Bhabha Fund, which will be matched in terms of research effort by India.