Scenario-based land change modelling in the Indian Sundarban delta: an exploratory analysis of plausible alternative regional futures

  • Rajarshi DasGuptaEmail author
  • Shizuka Hashimoto
  • Toshiya Okuro
  • Mrittika Basu
Special Feature: Original Article Future Scenarios for Socio-Ecological Production Landscape and Seascape
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Future Scenarios for Socio-Ecological Production Landscape and Seascape


The paper narrates an empirical research conducted for developing four alternative socio-ecological scenarios for the lower Gangetic delta in India (aka the Indian Sundarban). We used the ‘Story and Simulation (SAS) approach’ to build four short-term, landscape-scale scenarios for 2030, which include a ‘Business as Usual (BAU)’, and three alternative scenarios, namely ‘Market forces’, ‘Delta Republic’ and ‘Green Sundarban’. The storylines were built after careful screening of existing development and conservation plans, as well as by consulting local government officials. The storylines were then simulated using the Multi-Layer Perceptron–Markov Chain Analysis (MLP–MCA) model, with a multitude of factors, constraints, and attributes for each scenario. Historical and current land use maps of 2006 and 2016, derived from Landsat series (ETM+ and OLI), were used as the fundamental input to the model, which were also utilized to locate decadal changes, create several independent driver variables, calculate transition potentials and ultimately to develop future land use maps. To generate the scenarios, we used a Linear Programming (LP)-based land demand optimization method to alter the transition potential matrix. Our results indicated considerable loss of mud/tidal flats and viz.-a-viz. increase in river/water areas under all the four scenarios. We further observed moderate to a significant expansion of aquaculture for all the scenarios, with an almost two-fold increase under the Market forces scenario. In addition, three of the four scenarios indicated moderate loss of mangroves. The future extent of mangroves may vary from 1997.92 km2 (BAU) to 2172.25 km2 (Green Sundarban), which indicates to 3.72% overall decline (0.31% decline/year) to 4.67% (or 0.38% increase/year) overall gain from the present extent. As such, the Green Sundarban scenario was identified to the best possible pathway to serve the conservation interests and future sustainability of the delta. The results from the scenario analysis remain imperative to understand, plan and prepare for the plausible alternative regional futures, thereby optimizing conservation and development through proactive policy planning.


Socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS) Landscape scenarios MLP–MCA model Story-and-simulation approach (SAS) Mangroves 



This research was supported by the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund [S-15 Predicting and Assessing Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services (PANCES)] of the Ministry of the Environment, Japan, JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 17KT0076 and ‘Research and Social Implementation of Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction as Climate Change Adaptation in Shrinking Societies’ of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Japan. The first and the fourth authors also thankfully acknowledge the postdoctoral fellowship provided by the Japan Society for Promotion of Sciences (JSPS). The authors would also like to thank all the district administrative and forest officials of South 24 Parganas for providing various policy documents, maps and reports from time to time.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rajarshi DasGupta
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Shizuka Hashimoto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Toshiya Okuro
    • 1
  • Mrittika Basu
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratory of Landscape Ecology and Planning, Department of Ecosystem Studies, Graduate School of Agriculture and Life SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Institute for Global Environmental StrategiesHayamaJapan
  3. 3.Institute of Advanced Study of SustainabilityUnited Nation’s UniversityTokyoJapan

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