Strengthening strategic delta planning processes in Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Vietnam and beyond

This research aims to support long-term integrated and adaptive management of delta planning processes in Bangladesh, the Netherlands, and Vietnam.

Key audiences to be targeted in the research include:

  • Decision-makers and planners involved in ongoing and future delta planning processes at national and provincial levels
  • Other governmental and non-governmental stakeholders involved in and affected by delta planning
  • International donors and governments supporting and financing delta planning processes and investments
  • Regional and international policy, scientific and outreach networks of the project partners



Project leader: Dr W.J.A.M. (Wim) Douven (UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education)

Consortium partners: L. Hermans (Delft University of Technology), G.E. van Halsema (Wageningen University), U.K. Navera (Bangladesh University of Engeneering and Technology (BUET), M. Fida Kahn (Centre for Environmental and geographic Information Services (CEGIS), P. Ho Long (Vietnam National University - Center for Water Management and Climate Change (VNU-WACC), W. Ligtvoet (PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency), M. Marchand (M. Marchand), I. Sobhan (IUCN Bangladesh country office)

Consortium partners (institutions): Delft University of Technology, Wageningen University, Bangladesh University of Engeneering and Technology (BUET), Centre for Environmental and geographic Information Services (CEGIS), Vietnam National University - Center for Water Management and Climate Change (VNU-WACC), PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, IUCN Bangladesh country office


Urbanising deltas worldwide face many threats to water safety, water and food security and sustainabledevelopment. To prepare for the future, people in deltas increasingly call for strategic delta planning (strategic choices across sectors in long-term perspective), which differs from ‘normal’ delta planning. We therefore study strategic delta planning to better understand the role of this new planning approach. Our main research interest is whether strategic delta planning can enable consent among key stakeholders over strategic priorities and innovative solutions, which is sufficiently stable to allow for implementation.

The Hourglass and MOTA frameworks represents the project’s common understanding of strategic delta planning (Seijger et al., 2016 and Phi et al. 2016). The PhD and postdoc studies explicitly contribute to these frameworks. Unfortunately one PhD stopped, who is replaced by a post-doc. Making the connection between planning and implementation produced new insights on the dynamics of strategic delta planning in the three deltas related to the work of the two PhDs and two postdocs.

Delta planning practitioners have a clear interest in the use and role of participatory planning tools in delta planning. The role of such tools is a subject of one of the PhD studies, and parallel to this we follow a more practical track in which the project test and critically reflect on these tools in a training workshop with delta practitioners. An assessment framework was recently tested in a training workshop for regional delta professionals (see below). This was a joint effort between PhD and postdocs and the project partners who develop/use these tools.

33 delta professionals from 7 countries participated in the above-mentioned regional training workshop (17-21 October in HCMC), and received hands-on training on these tools combined with in-depth discussions on their potential role in planning. A plan has been developed for a professional training for delta professionals amongst project partners including the Delta Alliance. Capacities of the project team, and in particular the two southern PhDs and southern project partners are strengthened through the collaboration in the project.

Interest in the outcomes of our project has been re-affirmed in a stakeholder session with delta planning practitioners on 21 October. They have provided the project with valuable recommendations how to further strengthen the societal impact of our project. Concluding, the project during the first half of the

project period learned a number of lessons on trans-disciplinarity, stakeholder involvement, research uptake and project organisation, which will be taken into account in the remainder of the project.


Strategic delta planning is a relatively novel approach that is increasingly used to support long-term integrated and adaptive management of urbanizing deltas, for instance in the Netherlands, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Although strategic delta planning is generally initiated as a concerted effort during a limited period of years, it does not take place in a vacuum. Delta planning needs to fit within a longer history of past planning efforts, societal structures and existing policy environments if it wants to secure a successful implementation throughout its longer-term planning horizon.

Therefore, this project looks at the larger picture to ensure a better connection between strategic delta planning activities and their societal and technological environment. Through a combination of research, policy engagement and capacity building, it aims to support better connections between science, policy-makers and societal stakeholders, fostering a joint learning environment that supports adaptive implementation of strategic decisions on the future of urbanizing deltas.

A better understanding of the nature and specifics of strategic delta planning processes is built, studying three crucial elements that together heavily influence the fit of delta planning within society: the formation and change over time of various stakeholder coalitions; the role of technological advances and innovative solutions in longer-term delta management processes; and the availability of tools and approaches that support participatory processes to enable better connections between delta planners and their broader environment.

Strong links with practice are forged to ensure the empirical grounding of research, uptake of results and contributions to policy practice. The project therefore is linked to real-world strategic delta planning processes in the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Vietnam. These linkages are secured through the involvement in these processes of the various members of the project consortium. Furthermore, as delta planning requires the combination of delta-level coordination with national level planning and local level actions, the project looks also at specific locations within each of the countries. For this, work in the southwestern areas of Bangladesh and the Netherlands is foreseen, as well as in An Giang province in Vietnam. These areas are characterized by the prevalence of polders, sometimes introduced at one time as an innovative solution, which, with the ongoing pressures from urbanization, growth and climate change, demand new innovations in management and/or technology.

Capacity building is embedded in the involvement of various stakeholders throughout the project activities, as well as through the international networks and educational platforms offered by the project partners.


Scientific article

Publication meant for a broad audience

Publical information


Project number

W 07.69.106

Main applicant

Dr. W.J.A.M. Douven

Affiliated with

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

Team members

H. van den Berg MA MSc, J. Brunner, Dr. W.J.A.M. Douven, Dr. ir. J. Evers, Dr. T.P. Gia, Dr. ir. G.E. van Halsema, S. Hasan, A.K.Md. Hasan BSc, Prof. dr. ir. P.J.G.J. Hellegers, Dr. ir. L.M. Hermans, V. van Hoang, Prof. dr. S.M. Khan, Dr. M.F. Khan, S. Koole, Dr. ir. D. Korbee, Dr. ir. D. Korbee, Dr. W. Ligtvoet, Dr. M. Marchand, Prof. dr. U.K. Navera, D.T. Nguyen, B. Nishat MSc, Dr. H.L. Phi, L. Pols, C.J.L. Seijger, M.A.R. Shah, S. Slabbers MSc, Dr. I. Sobhan, Prof. dr. ir. W.A.H. Thissen, M. Vermoolen, M. Vermoolen, Prof. dr. P. van der Zaag


01/09/2014 to 31/08/2018