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Title: Integrated river sustainability assessment : case studies of the Yellow River and the Ganges
Author: Wu, Huijuan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 8974
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis develops and validates a comprehensive methodology for measuring sustainability of a large river basin by using a tailored indicator set. The concept of river sustainability concerns not only the ecological condition of the river course, but also socioeconomic activities in the river basin. River sustainability is defined from five perspectives: sufficient resource, resilience to water-related risks, access to water supply and other services, productive use of water, and fairness between different users and generations. The Process Analysis Method (PAM) is employed as the guideline for developing sustainability assessment framework. As a participatory approach, PAM engages stakeholders to identify emerging issues and impacts on sustainability. Through a systematic process, a tailored indicator set is selected and categorized under three domains, namely, environmental performance, social wellbeing, and economic development. Two case studies have been undertaken, examining the underlying sustainability of the Lower Yellow River basin (LYR) and Upper Ganges River basin (UGR). Extensive fieldwork was carried out in China and India, in order to conduct stakeholder interviews and to collect multivariate data. 18 indicators are selected for LYR and 12 for UGR. The LYR assessment is conducted over the period from 1950 to 2010, whilst UGR features a 10-year period from 2001 to 2010. By processing raw hydrological data and socio-economic statistics, a normalized score is calculated for each indicator in a given year, the value ranging between 0 and 1, where 0 represents poor performance and 1 refers to a fully sustainable status. The results show that, although social wellbeing and economic status for LYR have progressively improved since 1950, environmental quality declined in the latter half of 20th century, with the lowest point in 1997 when extreme drought occurred. The Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC), the government authority responsible for the LYR, implemented measures to improve the river health by multifunctional infrastructure projects and water allocation regulation. This effort proved to be effective as the general sustainability performance subsequently improved. The UGR study also identifies the trade-off between environmental capital and socioeconomic capital. With vast expansion of hydropower projects and new settlement in flood-prone areas, communities along the UGR are increasingly vulnerable to extreme events. However, the Ganges river basin authority lacks the capacity for integrated planning which would enable projects like flood defence schemes to be undertaken in a proper framework. It is likely that the environmental performance of the UGR will continue to decline, particularly with increasing uncertainty in climate, as the UGR basin management is not improving resilience sufficiently. By performing this comparative analysis, it has been shown that integrated river basin management should incorporate institutional capacity, stakeholder engagement, resilience and transparency. This research also contributes to underpinning policies for Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM). The assessment provides policy-makers and river managers with a holistic view of the river basin; the framework can be used to track progress towards sustainable development and identify priorities for multi-criteria decision-making.
Supervisor: Darton, Richard ; Borthwick, Alistair Sponsor: SPORE (NUS, Peking and Oxford Research Enterprise)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sustainability and the environment ; Water resources development ; Sustainability measurements and metrics ; Integrated river basin management ; sustainability assessment ; integrated river basin management ; water resources development ; sustainability indicators and indices