Friday: Science and the Sustainable Development Goals

This week’s Environmental Dynamics Seminar is on Friday from 17:15-18:15 in the Pyramid Room (K4U.04). Professor Stephen Linter, Dr Nate Matthews and Dr Mark Mulligan will be talking to us about the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the role of scientific and social scientific knowledge in their development and application followed by a panel discussion. The seminar will be followed by a drinks reception in the department.


Event flyer for Lintner and Mulligan seminar on sustainable development

Stephen Lintner visits the Department of Geography

Stephen Lintner joins the Department of Geography at King’s College London in 2017 for his third year as a Visiting Professor. Professor Lintner has over 40 years of worldwide experience in environment, infrastructure and water resources management. At King’s, he focuses on three complementary themes: policies and procedures for management of environmental and social impacts and risks; assessment and management of transboundary freshwater, coastal and marine resources; and evaluation of historical processes of human modification of environmental systems. Lintner previously held leadership roles at the World Bank; his most recent position, from 2000 to 2014, was as Senior Technical Adviser with global responsibilities. Earlier he was the Bank’s Adviser for Freshwater, Coastal and Marine Resources Management. Prior to joining the World Bank, Lintner served in the United States Agency for International Development, United States Geological Survey and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He is the former President of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA). He holds a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University (USA).

In addition to giving a number of research seminars and lectures, Professor Lintner has made time to meet individually with students and staff during his visit. Anyone who would like to meet with Stephen is invited to sign up for free online ( Master’s and PhD students interested in careers in international development, finance, and environmental policy are especially encouraged to make an appointment.

Event flyer for Stephen Linter's seminar on 8 February

Stephen will be speaking at the Human Geography Seminar this week, sharing his insight into international development financing. Please join us from 4:30pm in the Pyramid Room. A drinks and nibbles reception will follow.

International Development Financing: Current Priorities, Policies & Practices
Stephen Lintner, Visiting Professor
Wednesday 8 February 2017
4:30pm, Pyramid Room

This seminar will consider international development financing from the perspective of the multilateral development banks (MDBs) that are among the principal sources of such financing. The current priorities, policies and practices of these institutions will be reviewed, with a focus on environmental and social issues. The seminar will also discuss how the MDBs are structured and governed, how they develop their policies and strategies, and how the programs and projects they fund are prepared and implemented. Stakeholder engagement, and the processes used by the MDBs to engage a range of participants, including people affected by projects, will be addressed as well.

Film Series: Water in Indian Cinema

This term, the Tagore Centre for Global Thought at the King’s India Institute is hosting a film series exploring water in Indian cinema. This season of award-winning classic and contemporary films explores rivers, lakes and oceans as sites of everyday life, work, romance, worship and death. Iconic locations – the Indian Ocean; Himalayan lakes; the mythic Ganges, Brahmaputra and Titas rivers – teem with activity, rich with human experience. Groups and individuals struggle for housing and labour rights, sexual freedom and self-realisation. The films blend fiction and documentary: Bollywood songs layer the video diaries of sailors working in the Gulf, while actuality footage is woven into the auteur films of Jean Renoir and Ritwik Ghatak. From masterpieces of world cinema to rarely-seen ethnographic, state-produced and activist documentaries, these films portray communities dwelling in symbiosis and in conflict with nature. The series is curated by Tanya Singh.

Series flyer for the King's India Institute film series on Water in Indian Cinema

Up next is The River  (1951, 99mins, English & Hindi, dir. Jean Renoir) on the 14th of February. Renoir’s first colour feature, a languid romance shot around the Ganges in Bengal. Set during the last days of the Raj and based on Rumer Godden’s semi-autobiographical novel, the film recounts episodes in the lives of a colonial English family and their Anglo-Indian neighbour Melanie (Radha Burnier). Criticized for purported Orientalism, the film’s construction of a pan-Indian cultural composite can lend itself to alternative readings. The implied romance between mixed-race Melanie and a white American visitor, Captain John, challenged prevailing racial taboos, while Burnier’s remarkable Bharatanatyam dance, choreographed by KN Dhandayudhapani Pillai, is electrifying and vital in the context of the colonial ban on temple dancing. The film is notable also for its extraordinary actuality footage of fishermen at work, with extended sequences of labouring bodies that are blended but not subsumed into the fictional narrative. Sustaining a tension between myth and documentary, action and contemplation, the film significantly impacted the development of neorealism in Indian cinema – most notably for Satyajit Ray, Renoir’s uncredited assistant. The film will be introduced by Prof Ginette Vincendeau.


For more details, please visit the Series Website at

This Friday: Mike Clare on Marine Geohazards

This week’s Environmental Dynamics seminar is on Friday from 17:15-18:15 in the Pyramid Room (K4U.04). Dr Mike Clare from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) will be talking about marine geohazards including landslides, avalanches and tsunamis. The seminar will be followed by a drinks reception in the department.

event flyer for 3 February seminar with Mike Clare

Human Geography Seminar Series

The Department of Geography at King’s College London is pleased to announce its Human Geography Seminar Series for Spring 2017. Join us each Wednesday from 4:30pm in the Pyramid Room (4th Floor, King’s Building, King’s College London Strand Campus) to hear and discuss new research insights around human-environment interactions. All seminars are free and open to the public. Advance registration is not required.

The Department of Geography at King’s College London is pleased to announce its Human Geography Seminar Series for Spring 2017. The Series brings together the interests and expertise of the Contested Development, Risk and Society, and Urban Futures Research Domains and the King’s Climate and King’s Water Activity Hubs to explore new frontiers in research and policy on human-environment interactions.

All seminars will be held on Wednesdays from 4:30-6pm in the Pyramid Room (K4U.04) of the King’s Building, King’s College London, unless otherwise stated. A drinks reception will follow.Flyer for the Human Geography Seminar Series Spring 2017

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Nick Drake’s Inaugural Lecture

King’s Water Member Nick Drake will give his Inaugural Lecture next Tuesday 31 January. Please join us to hear about ‘Saharan climate change and its role in human dispersal out of Africa’. The lecture will be followed by a canape and wine reception.

Professor Nick Drake has research interests in remote sensing, GIS, geomorphology, geoarchaeology and environmental change. He specialises in applying expertise in these areas to semi-arid and arid environments. His research interests in remote sensing involve both theoretical and practical aspects while research in GIS includes mapping desert paleohydrology. His interests in environmental change and geoarchaeology assimilates much of the above mentioned expertise by employing remote sensing and GIS to locate geomorphological sites of likely geoarchaeological interest and investigating them using field and laboratory methods in order to determine their paleaeo-environmental and archaeological significance. This research is currently concentrating on past human occupation and climate change in the Sahara and Arabia.

Event Flyer advertising Nick Drake's Inaugural LectureEvidence suggests that sub-Saharan Africa is at the centre of human evolution and understanding routes of dispersal ‘out of Africa’ is thus important. The Sahara Desert is considered by many to be an obstacle to these dispersals. At this lecture, archaeological evidence is presented that shows it was not an effective barrier and indicates how both animals and humans populated it during past humid phases. Dispersal was possible because during humid periods the region contained a series of linked lakes and rivers comprising a large interlinked waterway, channelling water, animals and humans into and across the Sahara, thus facilitating these dispersals. This system was last active between 5000 and 11000 years ago, but dating of lake sediments shows that the “green Sahara” also existed during the last interglacial (∼125 ka) and provided green corridors that could have formed dispersal routes at a likely time for the migration of humans out of Africa.

Join us from 18:30 on Tuesday 31 January in the Edmond J Safra Lecture Theatre of the Strand Campus of King’s College London. The Reception will be hosted at Chapters Restaurant from 19:40-20:30. Both events are free, but please register online if you would like to attend.

Physical Geography Seminar Series Spring 2017

The Department of Geography at King’s College London is pleased to announce its Physical Geography Seminar Series for Spring 2017.

In particular, those interested in water issues may want to join the Department for the following seminars:

  • “Unlocking the Archive”: Antarctic Peninsula Glacial change with Dr Lucy Clarke on Friday 27 January
  • Hazards Under the Sea – Deep Waters Don’t Run Still… with Dr Michael Clare on Friday 3 February
  • Sustainable intensification of agriculture for human prosperity and global sustainability with Dr Nate Matthews on Friday 17 February
  • Mind the gap: Bridging the divides between research, policy and practice in 21st Century freshwater conservation with Dr David Tickner on Friday 10 March

All seminars are held in the Pyramid Room (K4U.04, located near the Geography Office on the 4th Floor of the King’s Building in the Strand Campus) from 5:15-6:15pm and will be followed by a drinks reception. Seminars are free, open to the public, and do not require advance booking. Please join us!


Spring schedule ED seminars

Uncertain Futures: Money and Politics in the Murray-Darling Basin

Last month, the New South Wales Irrigators’ Council Policy Manager wrote about water reform in Australia in preparation for the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council Meeting in Adelaide. Today, Stefanie Schulte authors a follow-up piece reflecting on the meeting’s outcomes and the future of water reform in the region.


You can never be quite sure how a Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MINCO) meeting will turn out, but 2016’s final session was particularly unconventional. The ‘water is for fighting over’ adage certainly came to pass as the gloves came off in Adelaide on 18 November between Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin water ministers. They were supposed to be negotiating the next steps in the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 2012 – including progress on the non-flow “complimentary measures”.


A Tale of Two…

When you compare the official Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting communiqué with the media reports that were released subsequent to MINCO, you might think these were two completely different meetings. Officially, water ministers acknowledged the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s work on the Northern Basin Review, discussed the impacts of the recent floods in Australia, and were briefed on the Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism. In contrast, media coverage spread a sense of ‘doom and gloom’ for the future of Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan and declared Australia’s long term water reform process all but dead.

Fact is, everyone had something to say about this last MINCO for 2016 – most of which was simply empty rhetoric. Reports included stories about heated debates – spiced with very explicit language – between different ministers; accusations from all sides of Australian politics; and polarising media claims from various opposing stakeholders. There was talk about pretty much everything…except the task at hand.


What is there still to do?

Although we are ‘nearly there’ in terms of the Australian government’s environmental water recovery, an enormous amount of work needs to be completed before the Murray-Darling Basin Plan comes into effect in 2019.

Firstly, we need to finalise the Northern Basin Review.

While the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has proposed reducing the total volume of planned environmental water recovery in the Northern Murray-Darling Basin from 390GL to 320GL, a further 42GL of water will need to be recovered to meet the target. The remaining water will need to come from water license holders in Queensland and New South Wales. Most of the recovery will come from the state of Queensland, but the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has proposed an additional 11GL in environmental water recovery from just two New South Wales valleys – even though the state has already recovered 7GL more than its required total reduction target.

Sounds odd? It should!

We are faced with this curious situation because the Murray-Darling Basin Authority sets ‘local reduction targets’ in individual valleys and ‘shared reduction targets’ across regions. The distribution of these reductions can be nominated by the respective Basin states. In the Northern Basin review, the Murray-Darling Authority has switched the ‘shared reduction targets’ to ‘local reduction targets’ – effectively locking individual valleys into specific environmental water recovery targets despite an overall over-recovery in the state.

The decision has led to some extraordinary circumstances. In New South Wales’ Barwon-Darling Valley, the original local reduction target was 6GL and the shared target 22GL. Now, its local target is 32GL and the shared reduction requirement zero. It should be mentioned that the current environmental water recovery target in the Barwon-Darling is 32GL. Convenient? Yes, a bit too convenient.

In addition, it has also meant that there are some valleys in New South Wales that have experienced an over-recovery of environmental water – including the Gwydir and Macquarie-Castlereagh valleys. Combined, these two valleys have recovered 18GL more than their proposed total reduction targets.

Unsurprisingly, questions have been raised as to how this over-recovery of environmental water will be addressed. This and other important issues still need to worked through over the 10-week consultation period for the Northern Basin Review, due to conclude on 10th February 2017.

Secondly, we need to settle on a package of projects around the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism.

As mentioned in my previous post, we only have six more months to agree to a package of ‘supply measures’ for the Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism. To date, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has modelled only 19 of the currently 37 notified projects with an indicative offset figure of around 400GL. The total adjustment can be up to 650GL if other ‘suitable’ supply measures can be found. To recap, these supply projects can be works, revised river operations, river management rule changes, or ‘other measures’ that enable the use of less water but still achieve the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s environmental outcomes.

A lot of work is yet to be done to scope and assess any further supply measures that could make up the remaining 250GL, including non-flow complementary measures like carp control, installation of cold water pollution mitigation infrastructure, and proactive wetland management. These non-flow measures are particularly important as they can lead to wide-scale environmental benefits without the need to recover more water. Unfortunately, they are difficult to assess, as we currently do not have ‘approved’ methodologies for calculating environmental equivalences.

Thirdly, we need to have a discussion around the ‘Pre-requisite Policy’ and the ‘Toolkit’ measures.

Pre-requisite (or unimplemented) Policy and Toolkit measures are broad range actions and rule changes that can maximise the use of the Australian Government’s licenced environmental water whilst at the same time ensuring the protection of water supply and reliability to other consumptive water users.

Three main measures that have received some attention:

  1. Environmental flow reuse – “the ability to use environmental flows at multiple sites”; and
  2. Piggybacking – “the ability to call on held environmental water from a storage during an unregulated flow event”; and
  3. Water shepherding – “the delivery of a calculated volume of water that was created by the non-activation/reduced extraction at a nominated licence location to a more downstream location, after the consideration of losses, where it will be made available for extraction or use for the environment”.

It is yet to be determined whether (and to what extent) these measures or rule changes have adverse impacts on other water licence holders, how these might be mitigated, and who might pay for their implementation.

Finally, we need to ensure that the states’ water management arrangements are compliant with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 2012.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan requires Basin states to prepare ‘Water Resource Plans’ for each valley that are consistent with certain accreditation requirements. In most cases, these Water Resource Plans will incorporate existing state water management legislation, water management protocols, and manuals, but they will also include a suite of new policies and documents around environmental watering, water quality standards, trade, indigenous values, and risk assessment.

20 surface water “Water Resource Plans”, 22 groundwater “Water Resource Plans” and 6 combined groundwater and surface water “Water Resource Plans” need to be developed by 30 June 2019. To date, none have been finalised.



And lastly…Where is the money?

All these tasks are still ahead of us and time and money is running out.

The Basin Plan 2012 is scheduled to be implemented by 2019 – two years from now. Significant work needs to completed, assessed, and accredited by various State and Federal departments and agreed by Murray-Darling Basin water ministers. However, funding for most Australian Government departments involved in water will run out by mid-2017 in line with the extant 10-year funding package. The Australian Government mid-year budget will be released next Monday. It may be a moment of elation or despair for those Departments tasked with implementing the Basin Plan. The figures have yet to tell.

Intrepid Explorers this Friday: Mexico’s Cloud Forests

Join King’s Intrepid Explorers this Friday for a seminar including an exploration of Mexico’s cloud forests.


From Cretaceous to Cosmos: Discover Mexico!

As a biology student and staff member at the Alfonso L. Herrera Zoology Museum, Claudia will take us on a journey of her time in Mexico to discover some of its little know beauties. These include work in northern deserts, central mountains and cloud forests!

This event is free and open to the public. Coffee, tea and biscuits will be provided. We hope you’ll join us from 1pm this Friday 9 December in the Pyramid Room (4th Floor of the King’s College London King’s Building, Strand Campus).


Event flyer for Intrepid Explorers talk on Mexico's environments