Managing deltas strategically

Special Issue in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management

20 September 2019

Strategic delta planning offers opportunities to introduce new ways of thinking, and negotiating consent among changing actor coalitions, on how the delta should be managed. A special issue, initiated by the Urbanising Deltas of the World project, aims to advance theoretical and empirical understandings of this ambitious strategic planning approach.

A major conclusion is that strategic delta planning is ambitious as strategic orientations are introduced and shaped (e.g. more diversified agriculture, wetland restoration). Implementation is at times successful (see papers on the Wide Green Dike and Mekong Delta development agendas), and at times challenging (see papers on Jakarta and Po Delta). Implementation is challenging because strategic orientations have to be renegotiated across decision-making phases and arenas.

What is Strategic Delta Planning?

Did you know? (Source: doi/full/ 10.1080/09640568.2019.1647683

Strategic delta planning is defined as a public sector-led process through which a long-term vision and the actions and means for its implementation are presented as a strategic policy and development goal. It is undertaken to regain a more sustainable development of delta areas. These delta-planning processes differ from traditional planning processes, not only by their focus on delta systems, but also by their long-term planning horizons, their emphasis on integration, and the financial, organisational, and implementation dimensions of the plan.

Strategic delta planning places higher demands on integration, implementation and long-term adaptivity than regular planning does. This requires attention on strategic delta planning as a process that involves multiple stakeholders with different roles and interests. Hence, the aim of a strategic delta plan is to influence delta developments through political support and investment in a specific direction of strategic development choices, without controlling or predetermining the outcomes. Outcomes cannot be controlled, as actor coalitions, new technologies, and knowledge may push developments in a different direction.

The special issue

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The Special Issue pulls together eleven studies that address strategic delta planning efforts in parts of Bangladesh, California, Indonesia, Italy and the Netherlands. The Issue consists of an editorial intro of Dorien Korbee et al. that introduces the field of strategic delta planning, the different studies on planning efforts, and a summarising synthesis article by Chris Seijger et al.

Of the eleven papers in this special issue, six are the direct result of research supported by the Urbanising Deltas of the World (UDW) Strategic Delta Planning project, the other contributions were obtained through an open call for manuscripts.

Nearly all papers are freely available (Open Access) and can be found at The issue was guest-edited by Chris Seijger (IHE Delft), Gerardo van Halsema (Wageningen University) and Dorien Korbee (TU Delft).

Urbanising Deltas of the World

The Urbanising Deltas of the World (UDW) research and innovation programme aims to increase knowledge about river deltas worldwide and to contribute to water safety, food security, and to sustainable economic development in these areas. It is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Source: NWO