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A community-based approach to sustainable transboundary water resources management and governance in the South-West Coastal region of Bangladesh

Abstract

The Southwest coastal region of Bangladesh is located in the Ganges delta's central portion with the Sundarbans, between the inhabited and the Bay of Bengal. Around 405 rivers pass through the country, out of which 57 rivers are shared with other riparian countries and known as transboundary rivers. The upper riparian countries take their geographical advantage and construct obstacles, divert natural river flow or increase water usage from these sources. Another significant issue across all the riparian countries is that the centralized institutions follow a top–down method in the decision-making on transboundary water issues with almost no community participation. As the main rivers Kholpetua, Kalindi, Madar, Kopotakkho are interlinked with neighboring country India, the backwater flow effect of the Ganges river is one of the main reasons behind the low streamflow in the region. Transboundary river impacts, lack of good governance, salinity intrusion, deltaic sedimentation, and water scarcity issues are the primary reasons behind the water stress in Bangladesh's coastal region. These impacts are also further exacerbated by climate change impacts. A key finding from the cross-country visit to India showed the involvement of the local community with the local stakeholders through the initiation of Jal Chaupal, which resulted in significant and effective water interventions for the revival of the Ganges river. The learnings from India indicate that a community-based approach to sustainable transboundary water resources management would be an effective and equitable solution to the water stress issue in Bangladesh as well. In this way, the local communities' actual problems can be identified, and need-based solutions can be implemented. Furthermore, it is also essential to identify the gaps in the national policies to tackle the water stress at downstream regions, which might open an option for cooperation among the riparian countries. This study argues that although relevant policies are in place, there is no proper implementation involving the local community to work out the water issues. Therefore, this study emphasizes good governance and effective policies as critical to a sustainable shift towards integrated water resources management in coastal Bangladesh.

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Data availability statement

Some or all data, models, or code generated or used during the study are available from the corresponding author by request.

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Acknowledgements

The study leading to these results has been conducted by Center for Climate Change and Environmental Research (C3ER), BRAC University

Funding

Received funding from the WaterAid, Bangladesh, for the project, "Advancing Water Security of Marginalized Communities Living along Karnali-Ganges River Basin in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh" under Climate Resilience Program.

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Correspondence to Probal Saha.

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Saha, P., Ashraf, A., Oyshi, J.T. et al. A community-based approach to sustainable transboundary water resources management and governance in the South-West Coastal region of Bangladesh. Sustain. Water Resour. Manag. 7, 79 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40899-021-00562-4

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Keywords

  • Policy gap
  • South-West Coastal Bangladesh
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Transboundary water management
  • Ganges river back-flow
  • Water policy