Delta management in evolution: a comparative review of the Yangtze River Delta and Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta

Christian Nolf, Yuting Xie*, Florence Vannoorbeeck, Bing Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper aims to compare the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta in Europe and the Taihu Basin part of the Yangtze River Delta in China from a long-term historical perspective. Urbanized deltas are among the most prosperous and populated regions in the world, but also the most vulnerable. To cope with growing uncertainty, their systematic comparison has become instrumental in building mutual learning on the theory and practice of spatial planning and water resource management in such vulnerable contexts. Based on a systematic comparative mapping approach of Delta Urbanism with critical review of policies, this research highlights important similarities between these two deltas in terms of physical characteristics, dense occupation, and management history evolving from a decentralized polder-based system to a centralized control model, and a recent adoption of integrated and adaptive water management strategies. On the other hand, the comparison reveals distinct management focuses in current delta plans, as well as contrasting approaches to public participation and historical hydraulic landscapes. It is found from this comparative study that, beyond the socio-cultural specificities that can explain the distinct management practice of each region, the systematic use of mapping as a visualization and communication tool would facilitate integrative and adaptive delta management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-624
Number of pages28
JournalAsia-Pacific Journal of Regional Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Delta urbanism
  • Integrated water resource management
  • Mapping
  • Spatial planning
  • Taihu Basin
  • Visualization


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