Unearthing the ripple effects of power and resilience in large river deltas

Karpouzoglou, Timos; Dang Tri, Van Pham; Ahmed, Farhana; Warner, Jeroen; Hoang, Long; Nguyen, Thanh Binh; Dewulf, Art


Historically, flood resilience in large river deltas has been strongly tied to institutional and infrastructural interventions to manage flood risk (such as building of embankments and drainage structures). However, the introduction of infrastructural works has inevitably brought unforeseen, major consequences, such as biodiversity and accelerated land subsidence, endangering the fertile characteristics that made them interesting places to live in in the first place. These ripple effects have sparked, a reconsideration of what deltas are, questioning the very separation and control between nature and culture, and how deltas are to be dealt with. These effects have further sparked changing modalities of power that tend to be overlooked by delta and resilience scholars alike. As a result, there is a real risk that future interventions to increase resilience, will in fact amplify unequal power relations in deltas as opposed to alleviating them. If the system as a whole has achieved some level of flood resilience (partly due to the flood defence mechanisms in place), does infrastructure have a differential effect on people's mobility under flood conditions? Are some groups experiencing less rather than more security, as water accumulates in some places but not others? This paper presents theoretical insights on the relationship between power and resilience in delta regions supported by two case studies, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta in Bangladesh and the Mekong delta in Vietnam.