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The use of watershed geomorphic data in flash flood susceptibility zoning: a case study of the Karnaphuli and Sangu river basins of Bangladesh

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The occurrence of heavy rainfall in the south-eastern hilly region of Bangladesh makes this area highly susceptible to recurrent flash flooding. As the region is the commercial capital of Bangladesh, these flash floods pose a significant threat to the national economy. Predicting this type of flooding is a complex task which requires a detailed understanding of the river basin characteristics. This study evaluated the susceptibility of the region to flash floods emanating from within the Karnaphuli and Sangu river basins. Twenty-two morphometric parameters were used. The occurrence and impact of flash floods within these basins are mainly associated with the volume of runoff, runoff velocity, and the surface infiltration capacity of the various watersheds. Analysis showed that major parts of the basin were susceptible to flash flooding events of a ‘moderate’-to-‘very high’ level of severity. The degree of susceptibility of ten of the watersheds was rated as ‘high’, and one was ‘very high’. The flash flood susceptibility map drawn from the analysis was used at the sub-district level to identify populated areas at risk. More than 80% of the total area of the 16 sub-districts were determined to have a ‘high’-to-‘very-high’-level flood susceptibility. The analysis noted that around 3.4 million people reside in flash flood-prone areas, therefore indicating the potential for loss of life and property. The study identified significant flash flood potential zones within a region of national importance, and exposure of the population to these events. Detailed analysis and display of flash flood susceptibility data at the sub-district level can enable the relevant organizations to improve watershed management practices and, as a consequence, alleviate future flood risk.

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We thank the anonymous reviewers for their careful reading of our manuscript and insightful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Mohammed Sarfaraz Gani Adnan.

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Adnan, M.S.G., Dewan, A., Zannat, K.E. et al. The use of watershed geomorphic data in flash flood susceptibility zoning: a case study of the Karnaphuli and Sangu river basins of Bangladesh. Nat Hazards 99, 425–448 (2019).

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