Environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate
change pose a serious threat to development and
poverty reduction in developing countries. Adaptation
is a way of reducing vulnerability, increasing resilience,
moderating the risk of climate impacts on lives and
livelihoods, and taking advantage of opportunities
posed by actual or expected climate change. Adaptation
is therefore becoming an increasingly important part
of the development agenda, especially in developing
countries most at risk from climate change.
Developing countries’ natural ecosystems are
generally less anthropogenically affected in terms of
coastal defense and river regulation than in highly
developed countries. Large-scale extensive water
management measures do occur, but generally
speaking water management is approached from a
responsive, de-centralized perspective. With natural
dynamics of local water systems predominantly still
intact, developing countries could be especially aided
by knowledge on how to cost-effectively make use of
these ecosystem services and functions for the benefit
of safety, freshwater availability, food security and
livelihoods in general.
Green Adaptation as a way forward
There is an urgent need for effective knowledge
dissemination on efficient adaptation approaches to
these pressures, increasing multi-functional use of
Ecosystem-based or ‘Green’ approaches can contribute
to adaptation strategies through the following:
• Maintaining and restoring natural ecosystems and
the goods and services they provide
• Protecting and enhancing vital ecosystem services,
such as water flows and water quality
• Maintaining coastal barriers and natural
mechanisms of flood control and pollution
• Reducing land and water degradation by actively
preventing, and controlling, the spread of invasive
Courtesy: Meteorologii Geopodarki Wodnej
Sea level rise, water availability, food scarcity, increasing population and subsidence lead to increasing demands on
space in delta areas and require new approaches concerning water management. Healthy ecosystems and good
waterquality provide the foundation for economic activities and guarantee a good quality of living. Engineering
solutions are often developed from a single perspective, such as enhancing safety, increasing land area or stimulation
of economic development. These type of solutions increase demands for limited space and may aggravate conflicts
between functions. Innovative Green Adaptation approaches have been developed that provide practical ecosystem-
based solutions to adapt to pressures, and provide efficient use of space beyond merely compensating for impacts
induced by climate change, or applying single perspective engineering solutions.
Ecosystem based adaptation to
climate change in developing countries
• Managing, restoring and strengthening habitats
that maintain nursery, feeding, and breeding
grounds for fisheries, wildlife, and other species on
which human populations depend
• Providing reservoirs for wild relatives of crops to
increase genetic diversity and resilience.
Governments and development agencies have
recognized this and are beginning to treat adaptation to
climate change not as a standalone effort, but rather as
an issue to be mainstreamed through all development
and environmental policies.
Green Adaptation in practice
Green Adaptation concepts include ecosystem functions
in an integrated approach to adapt to climate threats.
Green Adaptation solutions therefore actively use
ecosystem services as a cost-effective way to enhance
safety, food and freshwater security, and protect
livelihoods. Win-win solutions are created in order
to limit use of space while producing benefits for
multiple functions, sometimes by designing hybrid
eco-engineering solutions. As this will combine ‘classic’
engineering know-how with site specific natural
components and inherent natural dynamics, there is a
need for multi disciplinary breakthrough thinking and
acting in new alliances, that try to solve and manage the
need for adaptation.
Green Adaptation process
Green Adaptation examples have shown that there is
a need for an effective development process, leading
Green Coast – Mangrove restoration in Thailand
Together with its partners WWF, IUCN and Both ENDS, Wetlands
International developed a program to restore the damaged coastal
ecosystems such as mangroves, beach forest, coral reef and sand dunes in
the tsunami hit areas in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Malaysia.
Green Coast adopts a unique approach: restoration & management of
coastal ecosystems through a community-led approach, to improve
biodiversity and livelihoods of coastal communities.
Healthy coastal ecosystems are vital for fisheries, aquaculture and other
sources of income for coastal populations such as eco-tourism and
agriculture. They also function as buffer zones in case of extreme weather
events such as storms and prevent coastal erosion and intrusion of salt
water in fresh water systems.
Being a well-tested approach in relation to climate change adaptation,
the Green Coast model is being promoted by Wetlands International to
restore mangroves along highly vulnerable tropical coastlines, for example
in West Africa.
With Green Coast 2, WI Thailand will restore 80 ha of mangrove forest and
25 ha of sea grass beds, expecting to benefit 4700 people from 9 villages.
Room for the River
Room for the River is a concept that was initiated by the Dutch
government and is now fully implemented in Dutch policy programs.
In the national Room for the River program, rivers are given more
room to overflow at a total of 39 locations. This room is created e.g.
by lowering of floodplains, relocation of dikes, depoldering or the
deepening of the summer bed, and thus artificially restoring parts of
the historical appearance of the river system (meanders, wetlands).
These measures jointly comprise the Room for the River Program. In
addition to safety, the Room for the River Program is concurrently
investing in environmental quality: the rivers region is made more
healthy, attractive and appealing. The region will offer more room to
nature and recreation.
With your help we can make Green Adaptation common practice!
Restoring natural dynamics and morphology in river basins increases
safety and natural value.
towards cost-effective solutions. In this proces, there
is a need for multi-disciplinary cooperation through
all phases of the project realization, based on a co-
operative network between science, government, market
parties and the public. In order to effectively realize
needed innovations in science and techniques there is
a requirement for practical alliances between thinkers,
do-ers and managers. Solutions should be contributing
to long-term healthy ecosystem functioning, which
requires understanding of local ecosystem functioning
and provided services. Keywords for solutions should be
sustainable, adaptable/flexible, robust, dynamic and no
regret for ecosystems and society.
In our view Green Adaptation is based on an integrated
multi-actor approach: Building with nature and
ecosystem designs are realized through an integrated
design and construction process where different
disciplines work together in realizing a most optimal
multifunctional and sustainable design. A challenge is to
integrate the dynamic behavior of nature as predictable
part of the engineering process. This requires a new way
of thinking and interacting.
Making use of existing networks to share
Green Adaptation knowledge
To effectively disseminate and share the available
knowledge in the field of Green Adaptation, we
need to make optimal use of existing platforms
such as Delta Alliance, World Estuary Alliance, but
also international NGOs.
Vietnam –Wetland protection and environmental flows
The Mekong Delta is a broad, flat plain that is fed by the Nine-Headed Dragon or
Cuu Long River, as it is called in Vietnamese. The 18 million people living in the
Mekong Delta depend upon the fertility of the river to produce the rice and fish that
contribute 25% of the GDP of Vietnam. Hundreds of fish and bird species occur in
the Mekong Delta; most of them are concentrated in the few remaining natural
wetlands. Floods are part of the way of life in the Mekong delta, and flooding can
be beneficial as it brings down sediments and nutrients to renew the floodplain.
Traditionally the negative connotation of the word “flood” did not exist in the Delta
and life was determined by the river’s movements. At the onset of the rising water
season people planted rice, during the season they fished and collected wetland
resources, then harvested rice during the low water season.
Upstream of the delta, dams have been built on the mainstem in China and in the
tributaries in lower basin, bringing changes to the sediment dynamics and altering
flow regimes. Another 11 dams are planned for the Mekong mainstem in Thailand,
Laos and Cambodia. If these dams are built, fish migrations will be blocked and the
life-giving sediment and nutrients that nourish the delta will diminish.
WWF has embarked on an initiative to create the Mekong Delta Estuary Biosphere
Reserve as a model for sustainable development in the delta. Coastal mangrove
restoration and ecosystem-based livelihood improvement will be key measures in
this initiative. The intention is to develop biosphere reserves in several provinces.
wetlands is benefiting rare bird species, but also benefits fish populations. Working
with communities to improve agricultural and aquacultural practice is another
focus, ensuring, for example, that shrimp and pangasius production adhere to
higher environmental standards. Certification of delta fisheries, particularly clams,
under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) will also be of benefit. Concurrently,
WWF is working with the Mekong River Commission and others to better
understand the full costs and benefits of proposed hydropower development using
the concept of environmental flows, to ensure that only sustainable hydropower
dams are built.
Ecodynamic Design for Room for the River –
WaterInnovation in the Noordwaard
The eco-dynamic design approach has been applied by the Water
Innovation Program by Deltares and the Dutch Government, in a
case study for the Room for the Rivers program. In an area that will
be de-poldered to increase the discharge capacity of the river (Polder
Noordwaard), a small area with houses will have to be protected
from floodwater. Instead of a traditional dike, a lower dike with wave
reducing willow-plantations in front will be built. The strip of willow
trees will be 2 kilometer long and 100 meter wide and will effectuate
a wave reduction of 80%. In this way the dike can be lower and the
environmental quality is increased at the same time.
With multi-functional use of space, enabling nature AND livelihoods is possible!
Mekong Delta communities are involved in conservation and restoration programs.
Animation of wave reducing levee, where nature is made an integrated
part of the defense system.
The newly established Delta Alliance (DA) is an
international knowledge-driven network organization
with the mission of improving the resilience of the
world’s deltas. DA has four network wings where
activities are focused: California, Indonesia, Vietnam,
and the Netherlands. International platforms like
DA, World Estuary Alliance and international NGOs
like WWF can play an excellent role in disseminating
knowledge and stimulating developments in the field
of Green Adaptation.
Deltares and Green adaptation
Deltares works within a community of national and
international partners from public, private and NGO
sectors to answer the most important questions that
need to be solved for large-scale application of Green
Adaptation concepts. Knowledge gaps range from
issues concerning design, testing and predictability
of functionality, to quantification and validation of
on filling these knowledge gaps, through fieldwork and
physical and numerical modeling, with the aim of
creating and sharing knowledge. For more information
on Green Adaptation developments at Deltares, please
contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Making use of existing platforms such as Delta Alliance, World Estuary Alliance,
but also international NGOs is of vital importance for disseminating the
available knowledge in the field of Green Adaptation
Building with Nature – Sand Engine
The Dutch ‘Building With Nature’ (BwN) innovation program has developed
a variety of highly promising Green Adaptation approaches, through a
joint consortium of commercial dredging companies, research institutes,
consultancies and governmental organizations. A unique concept of Building
with Nature is the Sand engine. A huge nourishment of 20 million m3
will be deposited in front of the Dutch Delfland coast, after which wind, waves
and sea currents will naturally disperse the sand. This will contribute to
the coastal safety in the long term and additionally create areas for nature
and recreation. In this approach, maintenance costs are drastically reduced
compared to traditional coastal defense structures, as natural coastal
processes are being used. The first pilot project in 2010 focuses on knowledge
development in the fields of morphology, hydrodynamics and ecology.
Coastal protection through ‘Building with Nature’ is making the step from
defensive design methods (aimed at minimising negative effect) to design
methods aimed at maximizing the potential of the system.
Building with Nature in Louisiana:
In 2007, after hurricane Katrina a consortium of Dutch companies
(organized through NCK, Partners for Water Program), coordinated
by WL | Delft Hydraulics, worked on solutions to increase the safety
against flooding in New Orleans. The area faces major loss of marshland
due to erosion. The approach was nature restoration in combination
with higher safety levels, resulting in the idea of the restoration
of wetland vegetation as wave reducers in front of coastal barriers.
Forested swamps in Louisiana
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