Creating a sustainable context

Delta regions are home to a large portion of the world population. Global problems with drinking water, sanitation, rising sea levels, food security and fast urban development are concentrated in the worlds delta's. The aim of Urbanising Deltas of the World (UDW) is to provide more effective responses to pressure and changes in these areas.

Many deltas in the developing world belong to the poorest, most flood-prone and thus most vulnerable regions. In these areas it is of particular importance to reduce the vulnerability and create a sustainable context for further poverty reduction and for strengthening the resilience of communities and institutions.

Still, however, there is a substantial lack of knowledge about the functioning of complex delta systems. Studies on urbanising deltas in a global context are of great scientific and societal interest, particularly when related to three major issues:

  • global water safety
  • water and food security
  • sustainable economic development.


The available information shows a substantial gap on the subject of how complex delta systems function, partly for lack of observations and partly for lack of reliable theories. Deltas form a challenging focus for integrated (interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary) scientific research with water as the linking element.

The objectives of Urbanising Deltas of the World are:

  • Knowledge and research: generating new theory, knowledge and insights
  • Relevance for development: adapting or providing new tools, technologies and perspectives for action for pro-poor sustainable development
  • Capacity development: enhancing the capabilities of individuals and organisations to innovate.

Calls for proposals

The first call for proposals was aimed at North-South consortia, working in public-private partnerships. These consortia were invited to submit a proposal for an Integrated Project that will run for four to five years. A matchmaking event was held on 10 December to help participants obtain a better understanding of the UDW programme and of the objectives of the first call.

Seven research proposals were awarded funding as a result of the first call, with a combined budget of approximately 5.5 million euro. Go to the list of awarded projects

A second call for proposals was launched late 2014, the deadline for applications was 16 March 2015. Six projects were awarded. 


UDW is a joint activity of the NWO thematic focus areas Water and Climate and Connecting Sustainable Cities (VerDus). The programme is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment and various NWO divisions. The programme receives strategic support from the Netherlands Water Partnership and the Knowledge for Climate programme.