UK team visit Bangladesh for scoping visit August 2019

By Suzanne McGowan

Living Deltas aims to co-develop our research with local communities and policy makers. We are conducting a series of scoping visits to all four Living Delta regions to allow us to build networks. This week a UK team from work package 3 were hosted by BUET on a whistle-stop tour of the Meghna Delta area in the southern part of Bangladesh, lying just above the Sundarbans. The trip aimed to give us all a broader understanding of the issues in the delta to help ensure our research delivers impact.

 

The trip included several days in the field, based at the Uttaran training centre near Tala. Here we visited some sites and our guides from BUET brought us up to date with the previous research conducted here. We were able to conduct some preliminary observations and measurements at these sites.

 

Livelihoods in this part of the delta are strongly dependent on agriculture and fishing. Rice growing requires strict water management, and protection from saline waters. We saw many people fishing and trawling for shrimp larvae which are then sold in the local markets.

 

Larger industries in the area include many brick kilns which use local sediments to create building materials and a number of crab farms.

 

We met with local communities living in vulnerable delta regions to introduce the Hub team and open up a dialogue which we hope to develop over the coming years. The challenges that low-lying Bangladesh faces as sea levels rise are well known. However, the trip helped us to understand how this, and other challenges are being expressed locally and influencing people’s lives.

 

A persistent theme raised by the villagers we spoke to was their access to fresh drinking water. In some areas salinity and arsenic had contaminated aquifers. This leaves villagers reliant on a combination of rainwater harvesting (usually reserved for those who can afford to buy the tanks, and only effective for the rainy seasons) and using local village ponds which are traditionally managed to keep the water fresh.

 

Protecting the country’s >160 million inhabitants from flooding is a major priority, and a combination of hard engineering flood defence structures (polders) and water management approaches such as Tidal River Management (TRM) were investigated on the visit.  TRM is thought to have benefits in reducing persistent waterlogging.

 

River management has major consequences for when and where sediment is distributed within the delta. Many rivers are being silted up, which is perceived to cause flooding. However, we also saw examples of where sediment erosion has washed away houses leading to the relocation of families away from the river.

 

These issues and plans for their management are laid out in the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100. We spent the later part of the trip meeting with officials from The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), the Government’s General Economics Division (GED) Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office to understand the context for decision making on the delta. A final meeting with the British High Commission in Dhaka rounded off the trip, where we discussed how our project could contribute to the DFID climate change adaptation goals in this region.

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Email: andy.large@ncl.ac.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6342

 

 

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