DECCMA Bangladesh PI leads seminar on how sediment load affects the nature of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta

by Institute of Water and Flood Management

DECCMA PI Professor Munsur Rahman led a seminar on ‘Recent sediment flux and its implications for river and delta management in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna system’ on 3rd April at the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Sediment flux is the mechanism that creates the nature of a delta, and thus is essential for river and delta management. The physical sustainability of the river and delta environment is very  sensitive to the volume of water and sediment that arrives from rivers upstream. In most of the planning documents in Bangladesh, the total sediment flux is assumed to be a constant value of around 1 billion tones per year. Recent models shows that, under climate change, there is likely to be an increase in sediment flux. However, this contradicts historical time series data, that shows a decreasing trend of sedimentation.

Courtesy of the Institute of Water and Flood Management

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Studies on the total sediment load in the Ganges and the Brahmaputra show that the quantity transferred along the bed of the river is decreasing more rapidly than the sediment that is suspended within the water. A reduction in sediment within the system reduces the scope for  offsetting future sea level rise, and thus has implications for subsidence and loss of land.

Recognising the importance of sediment quantity and flows in thus essential to manage the delta. The seminar concluded by emphasising the need for discussion and negotiation on sediment flux and water sharing to reduce the effect of dams upstream within Bangladesh and neighbouring countries. Along with the faculty members of IWFM guests from relevant organisations were also present, including Bangladesh Water Development Board, the Directorate of Bangladesh Haor and Wetland Division, Local Government Engineering Department, Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Systems and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority.

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ESPA Deltas holds final workshop with the Planning Commission in Bangladesh

by Saiful Alam

DECCMA builds on a project under the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme – ESPA Deltas. Following closure of ESPA Deltas in 2016 policy-makers in Bangladesh requested support in the use of tools developed within the project to assess the implications of government project proposals on ecosystem services and livelihoods in coastal Bangladesh. An additional year of funding was granted to ensure that the developed research could be translated into use to inform policy.

ESPA workshop (photo: Saiful Alam)

The final workshop of this extension project took place last week at the Planning Commission in Dhaka. Chaired by Professor Shamsul Alam, Senior Secretary in the General Economic Division of the Planning Commission, the workshop provided the opportunity for researchers to present their evaluations of the effect of three interventions proposed under the Delta Plan 2100.

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Research team members Professor Robert Nicholls and Dr Alex Chapman (University of Southampton) and Professors Md. Munsur Rahman, Mashfiqus Salehin and Anisul Haque (Institute of Water and Flood Management, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) outlined the implications of three structural interventions under the Delta Plan 2100: ‘Green belt’ along the  coastal vulnerable area and sea walls along a selection of polders (sea-facing and a cluster in the south central part of the coast).

Professor Alam expressed his appreciation for the analysis and stated that it will allow more confidence about its application. DECCMA has furthered the evolving relationship with the Planning Commission. Professor Alam expressed his interest in DECCMA’s integrated assessment model to assess the impacts of cyclones on the coast, sediment management and water-logging.

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DECCMA holds its 8th whole consortium meeting in Bangladesh

by Katharine Vincent

What have we learned about migration and adaptation in deltas? Last week nearly 50 members of the DECCMA team from Bangladesh, Ghana, India and the northern team convened in Dhaka for the 8th whole consortium meeting. It was an exciting opportunity to learn about a critical mass of research findings that have been developed over the past 3.5 years, and plan how to ensure they inform theory, policy and practice.

Participants at the DECCMA8th whole consortium meeting, with key Bangladesh government representatives concerned with adaptation and the Delta Plan 2100

When it commenced in 2014, DECCMA set itself seven ambitious objectives, namely:

(1) to understand the governance mechanisms that promote or hinder migration of men and women in deltas;

(2) to identify climate change impact hotspots in deltas where vulnerability will grow and adaptation will be needed;

(3) to understand the conditions that promote migration and its outcomes, as well as gender-specific adaptation options for trapped populations, via surveys;

(4) to understand how climate-change-driven global and national macro-economic processes impact on migration of men and women in deltas;

(5) to produce an integrated systems-based bio-physical and socio-economic model to investigate
potential future gendered migration under climate change;

(6) to conceptualise and evaluate migration within a wide suite of potential adaptation options at both the household and delta level;

(7) to identify feasible and desirable adaptation options and support implementation of stakeholder-led gender-sensitive adaptation policy choices.

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During the consortium meeting each country team consolidated its findings around these objectives to synthesise what we have learned so far within each of the deltas. A wide-ranging and detailed set of analyses was presented, from assessment of the existence and status of implementation of adaptation-related policies in each country, to migration patterns and consequences, and models of fishery and livestock productivity.  The structure of a hybrid model framework has been developed, based on Bayesian network analysis with multiple nodes so that it can project the impacts of climate change on the biophysical and socio-economic environments, as well as adaptation and migration decisions and consequences.

Planning took place to ensure that these findings are published in the peer-reviewed literature, and also in the form of a book. At the same time, DECCMA is committed to ensuring that research findings are effectively communicated to various stakeholders to ensure that they can inform policy and practice, enabling sustainable adaptation to climate change in deltas and proactive management of projected migration patterns. The integrated assessment model will play a key role in this, and over the course of the project relationships have been built with key stakeholders in each country who have an interest in this information for their planning decisions. Alongside targeted and tailored policy briefs, the team will also be available to support governments in developing adaptation finance proposals.

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DECCMA team discusses the forthcoming Bangladesh Delta Plan with the country’s Planning Commission

by Saiful Alam

The Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (BDP) takes an adaptive management approach and the strategy is based on eight hotspots in the country, one of which is covered within the DECCMA study area. In a meeting with Professor Shamsul Alam, Member Secretary of the Global Economic Department in the Planning commission, the DECCMA Bangladesh team highlighted how project findings can inform the plan.

DECCMA Bangladesh PI Professor Munsur Rahman presents Professor Shamsul of the Planning Commission with the latest project publications

DECCMA’s research is helping to build deeper understanding of the cross sectoral adaptation that will be required in future. Dr Michele Leone, who oversees DECCMA for the International Development Research Centre, outlined the inventory of adaptations and findings of autonomous adaptations in the household survey would inform the implementation the Bangladesh Delta Plan.

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DECCMA Bangladesh Deputy PI, Dr Mashfiqus Salehin, added that the focus of DECCMA on migration has created significant insights who migrates, where, and with what consequences, and that the findings will be integrated into a model that will project changes in the delta in the context of climate change.

Referring to the linkages between adaptation and economic growth, Professor Alam said that the  Bangladesh Delta Plan makes significant progress compared to earlier water sector plans, by forging linkages between adaptation and economic development and growth in the country.  Professor Alam reiterated that for improved adaptation we need improved knowledge through multi-disciplinary research and innovations, and welcomed a Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna Delta Brief from the team, which summarises research findings to date.

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Should we unpack “community-based adaptation”?

by Natalie Suckall                           

Despite many examples of successful community-based adaptation, DECCMA’s extensive household survey  across four deltas found very little evidence of collective action. Rather than being activities in addition to those of the household, instead community-level effects are only observed when there is an aggregation of household-based activities. Does this mean that we need to better interrogate “community-based adaptation”?

Natalie Suckall presents at the Development Studies Association 2017 annual conference

Interest in this topic emerged at the recent Development Studies Association 2017 annual conference, held at the University of Bradford. Five DECCMA researchers led a panel on sustainable deltas. From varied presentations on observed adaptation, adaptation governance, migration and remittances, and migration and adaptation, a common theme emerged – that of scale. In particular, how does DECCMA understand events that take place at the community level, as opposed to the household or national level?

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One of the issues faced by DECCMA researchers was that no examples of collective action and very few examples of community based adaptation were found during our initial literature review of observable adaptation in the deltas.

Although some adaptation interventions were characterised as CBA, their impact was often felt at the household level where different households within the community were affected in different ways. For example, polders (land reclaimed from the sea) in Bangladesh are often described as a community adaptation as they aim to protect entire communities from flooding as well as providing land for farmers and fishers. Sometimes communities are involved in their construction.

Whilst communities may be involved in the construction of polders, this does not mean that the benefits are equally spread.  Within each polder there exist multiple competing interests between government, farmers, pond owners, and the landless.  Larger and better off households are more likely to be successful farmers and fishers, with profit and yield unlikely to be distributed to the landless poor. What this really means is that each household is affected by the polder in a different way – and thus to talk of it as a community-based adaptation hides these differences.

Our survey of 6000 households in the four study sites provided an opportunity to search for examples of collective action. We found that in all four locations less than a quarter of households were involved in a cooperative group.  The highest membership was in the Indian Mahandi at 25%, whilst it was 14% in Ghana, 8% in Bangladesh, and only 6% in the Indian Bengal delta.

In light of these findings, DECCMA’s integrated assessment model considers only national and household-level adaptations. Our survey evidence shows that community-based adaptation is far less important than household level, and is captured by aggregating household-level benefits. Since findings show that community-based adaptation can have variable effects, we should perhaps interrogate it before promoting as an appropriation adaptation to climate change.

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