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Assessment of the impact of anticipated external hydrology changes on water resources of the coastal zone

The people of the coastal zone in Bangladesh must deal with some large environmental challenges in pursuing their livelihoods. However with proper research and implementation there is great potential for improvement in utilizing water resources. Impact assessment tools can assist in the process.

The Ganges Basin Development Challenge (GBDC) G4 project is assessing the external drivers that create the identified problems. The initial 12 months of the project have built a solid foundation for the future of the project and for optimizing the impact that the project has in the coastal zone.

Dr Zahir Haque Khan, project leader of the G4 project explained: “If we look at the coastal zone of the Ganges Basin, we know it is a disaster-prone area. It has experienced countless disasters – storm surges, drainage congestion, siltation and salinity intrusion happen over and again. But there is good news: this area also has huge potential to intensify the aquaculture and agriculture sectors.”

Improving the cropping and outputs of the small-holder farms is of primary concern. “Based on our data and information we have identified the huge potential to intensify cropping – with yields up 100–300% in the low salinity level,” said Zahir. “This is has been identified using fresh water and salinity zoning maps that extrapolate the areas where certain types of agriculture will thrive. On such a map we locate the problems of the siltation and the inadequate number of regulators; we can plan and improve the drainage system and water management infrastructure.”

However, a further concern that needs to be monitored and factored into the equation is the transboundary flow of the Ganges River and changing water courses of the tributaries. This is an ongoing issue that will continue to plague the coastal zone of Bangladesh, but with correct management and the right government policies can be overcome. Through collaborative participation with stakeholders the G4 project team has projected the key external drivers that are influencing the region – such as changes in transboundary flow, population growth, changes in water management practices and changes in the way the land is being utilized.

Zahir continued: “The partners gave their views based on their knowledge and experience and we in turn shared our own. Between us we could come to a final assessment of the problems and determine what sort of technology we need to address the effect of external drivers.”

“We wanted to come up with the external drivers in a participatory way, to ensure that we defined real external drivers with optimum potential for impact. These are not just the views of the G4 project but also the other partners.”

While the overarching issues are challenging, there is an excitement that transcends the G4 project and adds to the positive outlook of the GBDC as a whole. This has been cultivated through the collaborative process of professionals from all disciplines and with diverse backgrounds.

“The achievement that is most noteworthy is the partnership building that has developed. It has flourished in this project; we can involve different disciplines and institutions and use their knowledge and experience to facilitate the search for solutions to these problems. It’s an integrated approach,” explained Zahir.

Zahir is convinced of the need to institutionalize the approach and continue it into the future. He believes that it lays the foundations for attaining real, achievable outputs that can be implemented for the welfare of the target population, and will seize the opportunity to ensure that whatever comes from the research will quickly lead to outcomes.

Learn more about our work in the Ganges and read the 2011 GBDC Annual Report.