ESPA Deltas: Assessing Health, Livelihoods, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation in Populous Deltas

The Bangladeshi coastal fringe of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta, defined by the Indian border, Khulna, and the Meghna has been selected as the case study area for the ESPA Deltas project. The GBM Delta is one of the world’s most significant deltas, characterised by densely populated coastal lowlands suffering from significant levels of poverty. This area is supported by natural ecosystems such as the Sunderbans.

ESPA Deltas‌There is severe development pressure and environmental change taking place due to the rapidly growing city of Khulna and urban expansion in other areas. This is especially damaging for rural farmers. Their health, wellbeing and financial security are under threat from unreliable supplies of clean water, increasing salinisation of soils, and arsenic contaminated groundwater, high rates of global sea-level rise, local subsidence and sediment starvation caused by dam construction further upstream on the major international rivers.

Our Vision

  • Enhancing human well-being through world class science;
  • Generating new knowledge to support sustainable ecosystem services;
  • Filling knowledge gaps that currently limit the way that ecosystem services contribute to the alleviation of poverty.


  • To understand the present relationship between ecosystem services and human well-being and health in the Bangladeshi portion of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta;
  • To develop participatory methods to predict how ecosystem services might evolve over the coming 50 years and to examine their influence on human well-being and health, in the face of many uncertain forces;
  • To analyse how policy can influence these outcomes;
  • To promote links between ecosystem services and human well-being and health;
  • To help identify robust policies that are effective and adaptive enough to respond to uncertainty;
  • To test the transferability of these methods to other populated deltas.

Project Partners: Bangladesh, China, India and UK:

  • Aaranyak
  • Ashroy Foundation
  • Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute
  • Bangladesh Agricultural University
  • Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET)
  • Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies
  • Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services
  • Cotton College, Guwahati
  • Dhaka University
  • East China Normal University
  • Hadley Centre MET Office
  • IIT Roorkee
  • Institute of Livelihood Studies
  • Institute of International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
  • Jadavpur University
  • National Oceanography Centre
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory
  • Technological Assistance for Rural Advancement (TARA)
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Southampton 


Prof. Md. Munsur Rahman
Institute of Water and Flood Management,
BUET, Bangladesh Lead Investigator 

Prof. Dr. Robert Nicholls
University of Southampton
Project Lead

Andrew Allan and Michelle Lim
IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science
University of Dundee

Twitter: @EspaDeltas