a communnity-based approach for healthy and resilient rivers
Publication date: 11-05-2022
Tidal rivers in southwest Bangladesh are dying since flood plains were replaced by polders. Many of these polders are waterlogged up to 8 months per years, which inflicts adverse consequences for the environment and inhabitants. Together with communities and CSO Uttaran, Both ENDS is advocating for a community-based approach to restore the tidal river ecosystems.
Stage of the project
Why was this project started?
The South-West coastal region of Bangladesh is one of the world’s major
climate hotspots. Home to six million people, the region is extremely vulnerable
to water-related disasters caused by sea-level rise, tidal surges and extreme
weather events. Ecosystems are extra vulnerable due to polders developed in the 1960s.
Tidal River Management (TRM) offers a promising strategy to restore the tidal river
ecosystems. But widespread implementation of TRM is hampered by three
challenges: a lack of community-based approach for the design of TRM, a lack of participation of (marginalised groups of) communities in decision-making, and a lack of investment for large-scale implementation.
In this project, Both ENDS (Netherlands) collaborates closely with Uttaran (Bangladesh), who supports local communities in addressing socio-economic and environmental concerns. Moreover, we maintain constructive dialogues with (local) government bodies with the ambition to jointly (communities, CSOs and government) elaborate an innovative, inclusive and ecosystem-based approach for climate-resilient tidal rivers.
The results of the project so far
Thanks to the ongoing collaboration between Both ENDS and Uttaran, local communities in southwest coastal Bangladesh have strengthened their capacities to advocate for a community-based approach to restore the tidal river ecosystems.
An increasing number of water/ knowledge institutes and also (local) government bodies support the concept of Tidal River Management, to which the project has contributed through engagements with various water experts.
The Bangladesh Delta Plan (BDP2100) mentions the implementation of TRM as a promising intervention for various polders; the challenge is now to include a river basin approach to ensure its long term sustainability.
What are specific, distinctive, strong elements in this project?
Our project is particularly strong in strengthening communities' capacities to address their concerns, needs and aspirations with regards to future planning and water governance. In doing so, we pay particular attention to women, youth and marginalised groups in society who are often disproportionately impacted by poor water governance and excluded from decision-making processes. Furthermore, we engage with (local) government bodies, and Bangladeshi and international stakeholders to strengthen the support for a sustainable and inclusive approach for a climate-resilient southwest coastal zone.
Which specific lessons, do's and don'ts would you like to share? What would be suggestions for others when preparing or implementing the project in their own city?
Most importantly about why and how to involve communities - in a meaningful way.
Also, how/ why to engage with 'unusual suspects' - broadening the alliance, if you will.
Furthermore, we've quite some challenges and lessons-learnt (while still learning) regarding upscaling - both horizontal (replication) and vertical (creating an enabling environment, through policy and financing).
Have others adopted, or shown interest in adopting, your idea in their own area?
Various knowledge/ water institutes have shown interest in the concept of Tidal River Management, but mainly focused within the southwest coastal zone. Interest has also been expressed to learn from this concept (TRM) for replication elsewhere, in the Netherlands a.o. But most importantly, the idea to involve communities - or 'social inclusion' - has attracted the attention more broadly within the Dutch water sector, but also internationally. This is not the influence of this project or Both ENDS only, but it does show that the need for social inclusion in development/ climate adaptation projects (or other type of projects for that matter) is recognised; but what this exactly means in practice and 'how to do it' still remain important questions and are often also subject to the context, although surely principles for community involvement can/ should be applied in a more general sense.
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