Improved water governance and management in coastal areas of the Ganges basin can reduce poverty and strengthen livelihood resilience
Summary of CPWF Research in the Ganges River Basin
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated and poorest countries in the world. Two-thirds of the landmass of Bangladesh is less than five meters above sea level, making large areas of the active delta prone to tidal surges and salinity intrusion. In the 1960s and 70s the Government of Bangladesh, assisted by international donors, constructed 139 polders (low-lying land enclosed by embankments) around much of the low-lying coastal region. The polders occupy an area of approximately 1.2 million hectares.
In the past decade the economy of Bangladesh has demonstrated steady growth of nearly 6% per year, poverty has dropped by nearly one-third and live expectancy, literacy and per capita food intake have all increased. Despite these impressive inroads, approximately 30% of the country’s 160 million inhabitants live below the national poverty line ($1.25/person/day), a figure that is closer to 80% in the polders of the coastal regions. More than 50% of farmers living in the polders are also functionally landless, owning less than 0.2 hectares per household.
CPWF has worked in the Ganges River basin since 2003. For it’s second phase, CPWF narrowed the scope of its Ganges research to focus on ways to reduce poverty and improve social-ecological resilience in the coastal zone through improved water governance and management, and intensified and diversified agricultural and aquaculture systems.
Some CPWF work was also undertaken in the coastal zone of West Bengal, India, where approximately 30% of the population lives below the international poverty line. Like Bangladesh, the coast of West Bengal features numerous earthen embankments that were constructed to protect agricultural land from tidal flooding and saline intrusion.
Much of the poverty of the region has been attributed to soil and water salinity and flooding, which constrain agricultural and aquacultural productivity and cropping system intensification. CPWF’s research has demonstrated that this need not be the case. Water resources in the coastal zone have largely been misconceived as constraints to production and are therefore, under-utilized. In reality, they are rich and valuable resources, which can be used to support agricultural and aquacultural production and livelihood improvement of farming families and communities.
The CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems’ South Asia Focal Region research is build on CPWF’s work in the Ganges.
Browse the tabs on the left to learn more.
Messages from the Ganges Basin Development Challenge: Unlocking the Production Potential of the Polders of the Coastal Zone of Bangladesh through Water Management Investment and Reform
The coastal polders of Bangladesh are characterized by extremes in terms of both challenges and opportunities. This document draws on the GBDC research findings and discussions over the last decade and presents seven key evidence-based messages. The aims of the messages are to correct misperceptions about water resources and the production potential of the coastal zone, and to advocate for changes in resource-use technologies, resource management policies, institutional coordination and governance mechanisms.
Summary of CPWF Research in the Ganges River Basin
CPWF work in the Ganges focused on findings ways to reduce poverty and improve social-ecological resilience in the coastal zone through improved water governance and management, and intensified and diversified agricultural and aquaculture systems. Learn more about what is accomplished.
Unlocking the potential of coastal Bangladesh:Improving Water Governance and Community-Based Management (policy brief)
This policy brief provides recommendations from one project that shed light on the challenges of governing and managing the polders and offer some potential solutions to creating a more productive and equitable future for the coastal zone.
Report from Households and Water Management Organizations Quantitative Surveys (Technical report)
One Ganges project conducted a series of household and water management organization surveys in its coastal Bangladesh study sites. This report presents the methodology and describes the results from the survey. The report can be read as a quantitative situation analysis of the area. Most of the results are desegregated by location for a comparison purpose: comparison between two types of institutions (polders/sub-projects) and comparison between three main geo-hydrologic zones (high, medium and low level of salinity).
Catching Up in Southwestern Bangladesh (Journal article)
This article provides an overview of the challenges faced by farmers in coastal Bangladesh and features interviews with the researchers who are working to find solutions to water management challenges and increase food production options. Learn how these efforts are contributing to achieving the CPWF Ganges Basin Development Challenge of ‘reducing poverty and strengthening livelihood resilience through improved water governance and management.’
Agrarian Straightjacket: Constraints to Achieve Yield Potential in Rice (Conference abstract)
In Bangladesh, there is tremendous potential to improve food security and livelihoods through the adoption of new varieties, timely crop establishment, improved management, and cropping system intensification and diversification. However, these new options cannot reach their potential unless there is a fundamental change in how polders are viewed and managed, and as a result, how investments are allocated. Four key investments are identified here.
STORIES & NEWS
Keeping Their Feet Dry: Upholding Water Infrastructure in Bangladesh
CPWF- Ganges researchers set out to understand the factors that influence individuals and communities to contribute voluntarily to dyke and ditch maintenance. In order to do so, they designed an experimental “public good” game. The idea was to get communities thinking about what affected the whole community and particularly how working together could benefit all water users. The results suggest that ‘fairness’ plays less of a role in managing community water resources than previously imagined.
The Water Management Puzzle of Coastal Bangladesh
Many believe that the solution to increasing the productivity of Bangladesh’s polders lies in engaging local communities in operation and maintenance of polder infrastructure. After all, who can better understand the needs of the communities if not the community members themselves? Does involving communities in polder management improve water management within the polders and reduce conflicts leading to better outcomes in terms of crop production and productivity?
Unlocking the Potential of Coastal Bangladesh
A number of constraints prevented the polder zones of Bangladesh from benefiting from the Green Revolution. However, researchers working on CPWF projects in the Ganges are confident that the agricultural and aquacultural productivity of the coastal zone can be greatly improved now, and in projected future conditions, using existing cropping system technologies.
A Story of Water, Power and Politics in Three Indian States
Since the 1970s, India’s land area under groundwater irrigation has increased, as have the number of wells and tubewells. These pumps are operated with electricity, which is largely subsidized by states. As a result, farmers’ groundwater use is higher than sustainable recharge of aquifers. While direct regulation of groundwater use is not a feasible option given the large number of pumps, Indian states have attempted to regulate water use through regulation of the electricity supply that is used to operate the pumps.
OUTPUTS & TOOLS
Bangladesh Southwest Coastal Region Information System
This WebGIS database combines dozens of layers of spatial information (digital maps) to generate detailed cropping-system suitability maps for the coastal zone of Bangladesh. The maps allow researchers and policy makers alike to determine potential areas where improved cropping systems can be successfully implemented.
Ganges Coastal Zone Issue Briefs
A series of five issue briefs based on CPWF research on agricultural and aquacultural production and food security in the Ganges coastal zone. The brief topics are: water smart communities; agricultural production and drainage; governance by small water management units; community approach to water management; and improved agriculture and aquaculture cropping systems.
Literature Review: Review of the Historical Evolution of Policies and Institutions of Community Based Management in Coastal Bangladesh
One CPWF-Ganges project is working to understand the different modes and outcomes of water governance in selected polders and the role that communities play in such governance. Several models of community participation are examined, including participation fostered by formal agencies such as the Bangladesh Water Development Board and Local Government Engineering Department. By understanding how policies and institutions have evolved over time, this review helps contextualize the project’s research findings and may help influence future research directions.
Literature Review: The Experiences of Water Management Organizations in Bangladesh
This review of past experiences and the current status of Water Management Organizations in Bangladesh is intended to contribute to the context and process of understanding the different governance mechanisms that are in place to manage water conflicts and their comparative advantages and disadvantages.
Helping Farmers Catch Up in Southwestern Bangladesh (Video)
Dr. Elizabeth Humphreys, senior scientist at the International Rice Research Institute, discusses work to deliver locally-adapted rice varieties and management practices to increase agricultural production in the south west coastal zone of Bangladesh, where farmers experience more than their fair share of water management challenges.
What determines contribution to a common fund for upkeep of water infrastructures? (Poster)
This interactive poster was presented at the 2013 Stockholm World Water Week. It describes the results of an experimental 'public good game' carried out with farmers in the polder zones of coastal Bangladesh in order to understand determinants of contributions to maintain a public good.
Best-Bet Options for Coastal Bangladesh (Video)
These videos describe how one project has successfully trialed new cropping system schemes in three polders that are representative of variable salinity regimes. They go on to explain how a complimentary CPWF- Ganges project is examining opportunities for upscaling this success to the 139 polders of the coastal zone. Through the development of extrapolation domains, the project has produced comprehensive maps that detail what types of cropping systems have the most potential for success in what areas of the coastal zone, both now and in the future.
PROJECTS IN THE Ganges
Browse the projects below to learn more.
- Resource Profiles, Extrapolation Domains, and Land-Use Patterns (G1)
- Productive, Profitable, and Resilient Agriculture and Aquaculture Systems (G2)
- Water Governance and Community-Based Management (G3)
- Assessment of the Impact of External Drivers of Change on Water Resources (G4)
- Coordination and Change (G5)
- Floodplain Fisheries and Aquaculture in Bangladesh and India (RiU35)
- Development of technologies to harness the productivity potential of salt-affected areas of the Indo-Gangetic, Mekong and Nile River basins (PN07)
- Managing water and land resources for sustainable livelihoods at the interface between fresh and saline water environments in Vietnam and Bangladesh (PN10)
- Developing a system of temperate and tropical aerobic rice in Asia (STAR) (PN16)
- Linking community-based water and forest management for sustainable livelihoods of the poor in fragile upper catchments of the Indus-Ganges Basin (PN23)
- Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) (PN28)
- Improved fisheries productivity and management in tropical reservoirs (PN34)
- Community-based fish culture in irrigation systems and seasonal floodplains (PN35)
- The international training and research program on groundwater governance in Asia: Theory and practice (PN42)
- Strategic analysis of India’s river linking project (PN48)
- Basin Focal Project (PN54)
- Tackling water and food crisis in South Asia: Insights from the Indo-Gangetic Basin (PN60)
- Improving water productivity, reducing poverty and enhancing equity in mixed crop-livestock systems in the Indo-Gangetic Basin (PN68)
- Development and testing of training materials and information for scaling up dissemination of micro-irrigation and associated water-control technologies designed for small plot systems (SG507)
- Selecting and scaling up water-efficient farming and groundwater recharge systems among 3,000 small-scale farmers (SG508)
- Test marketing low cost irrigation solutions in Bihar and Jharkhand: Irrigation solution matrix for smallholder farmers (SG512)