|The Mekong Delta has been selected as the geographical focus of this research due to a combination of factors:
|The interplay between population density and vulnerability to environmental changes influenced by coastal processes are indicated by the extensive interaction between population density and low elevation coastal zone (<10m above sea level) seen on the map below.|
Sourced from CIESIN (2007).
inhabiting the complex natural systems found within the Mekong Delta
region are thus proposed to be subject to the influence of changes to
the environment brought about by interactions between natural and
anthropogenic processes occurring at multiple spatial and temporal
scales. The delta, its communities and their inhabitants can be thought
of as complex constituents of larger natural (regional river/basin and
global climate) and anthropogenic (national and international policies
activities) systems. Each of these interacting components that exist at
a range of spatial scales will also be subject to multiple and varied
changes over a range of temporal scales (ranging from days/weeks at the
community level to decades/centuries at the level of global climate
change) into the future.
These combinations of interlocking spatial and temporal scales of influence make the Mekong Delta an ideal, if challenging, location within which to consider the likely impacts of future environmental change and the migration decision-making processes that may lead to populations becoming trapped. With the population and economy of the region so closely linked to the natural environment, the migration decisions made by the region’s inhabitants are likely to be both highly complex and of considerable value in identifying the adaptation options being pursued there.
|Interacting and Combined Pressures:|
example of the complex processes at play in the Mekong Delta is the
role played by population density. While it is the productive nature of
the region that may have attracted many of its inhabitants to settle
there, the potential for environmental change to drastically alter the
capacity of the delta to be so productive places the livelihoods of
many communities at risk. Research within the Mekong Delta reveals
three major environmental threats facing the region:|
2. Soil Salinity
3. Acid Sulphate Soils (ASS)
All three of these threats have the potential to limit the agricultural productivity of a locale within which a large population reside and farm. Although the presence of a large population within regions affected by these environmental threats expose significant numbers of people to environmental threats, their presence in the region may be contributing to their own vulnerability and thus the risk of negative consequences occurring. For example, large-scale irrigation developed to prolong the availability of water to farmers within the delta will serve to reduce dry-season water discharge and thus increase rates of saline intrusion, increasing soil salinity. Furthermore, the development of flood/drainage controls will also inhibit natural overbank flow, changing natural erosion and deposition processes and increasing the occurrence of flooding downstream.
|Potential for Trapped Populations:
negative net migration the recent norm across the Mekong Delta
region, out-migration has become relatively common. In addition to
being undertaken for a range of non-environmental reasons, migration,
both temporary and permanent, represents an avenue that inhabitants of
the region may pursue in order to sustain or adapt their livelihoods in
the face of environmental changes such as flooding, loss of land and
salt water intrusion.
However, while migration may be a viable option for some inhabitants of an area affected by flooding, loss of land or salt water intrusion, it may be beyond the means of others. Such means may be constrained by the actual/perceived ability of a potential migrant to access livelihood assets (human, natural, social, psychological, public and financial capitals) and, if insufficient, may prevent an individual from developing or being able to realise an intention to migrate. Individuals finding themselves in such circumstances may match Foresight's description of 'trapped populations' because they are unable to move away from an area that is extremely vulnerable to environmental change.
While those individuals that develop an intention to migrate but are unable to do so because of their limited access to livelihood assets might easily be referred to as 'trapped', those that do not develop an unrealisable intention in the first place may not be so easily classified. While this distinction may be conceptually valid, however, such a distinction may or may not exist in real terms.
This research has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme
(FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement number PIOF-GA-2012-329589.
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