Researcher part of international project to protect river deltas in South and Southeast Asia


River deltas are key to global food supply

TORONTO, January 24, 2019 – York University professor Nga Dao is the only Canadian on an international team that will receive $17.2 million British pounds to study how to protect environmentally sensitive river deltas in South and Southeast Asia, the huge supply of food they produce and the livelihoods of local people.

Environmental degradation of the river deltas in South and Southeast Asia could deplete some of the world’s top rice and fish stocks and undermine the livelihoods of at least 40 million people.

Dao, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, will focus on the deltas’ socio-ecological systems of three major rivers in South and Southeast Asia – the Mekong and Red Rivers (Cambodia and Vietnam) and the Ganges-Brahmaputra (Bangladesh).

“If we don’t do anything the food supply will be depleted, and we’ll be in trouble,” said Dao, a human-environment geographer and international development advocate in the Department of Social Science.

“When you buy fish, there’s a good chance it came from the Mekong River delta both in Vietnam and Cambodia. When you buy rice, it may have come from the Mekong River delta in Vietnam which is the world’s third largest exporter of rice. The fish and rice produced in these areas were once in abundance, but the stock has dropped significantly due to various factors including saltwater intrusion, climate change, upstream dam construction, chemical overuse, water shortages and degraded soil and water.”

River deltas are low-lying plains or landforms that occur at the mouth of a river near where it flows into an ocean or another larger body of water. Valued for their highly fertile soil and dense, diverse vegetation, the world’s river deltas represent one percent of the global landscape yet support over five billion people.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is funding Dao’s research project with a grant of $17.2 million British pounds ($30 million Canadian).

The research project, UKRI GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund) Living Deltas Hub, led by Newcastle University will study the river deltas that are considered among the world’s most at-risk environmental and biodiversity hotspots.

This Living Deltas Hub is funded by UKRI through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which is a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy and puts UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Dao will receive about $240,000 Canadian dollars for her research and will work with 50 other researchers from international universities and institutions including Newcastle University and Durham University in England, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Vietnam National University and the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

“This study is unique and will be one of the most comprehensive studies covering the three river deltas,” said Dao, who will be leading the project’s efforts to create sustainable development capacity and impact through gender-sensitive learning and knowledge co-creation. “We want to create participatory research which brings together the community, policymakers, and researchers with the collective goal of sustainable development in this region based on the tangible and intangible cultural values of the people. The community’s voice needs to be heard.”

Dao will lead the development of a knowledge-sharing strategy with all parties, as well as monitor, evaluate and learn strategies to enable progress in the South and Southeast Asian river deltas. She will explore opportunities for sustainable development goal-related commercial opportunities for economic advancement in the delta countries. Dao will also oversee the research teams to ensure they are delivering the right activities for the desired outcome.

Read UK Research and Innovation’s news release.

Find more information about UKRI and the GCRF Hubs.

York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university – our 11 faculties and 25 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni.
York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Media Contact: Vanessa Thompson, York University Media Relations, 416-736-2100 ext. 22097,