Coastal water security

The challenge

In south-west coastal Bangladesh around eight million people live inside polders – areas of land enclosed by embankments. These polders were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s to protect communities from tidal flooding and salinity intrusion. While they have brought benefits, such as increased agricultural production and improved transport, badly functioning polders have led to a number of problems.

Communities living in the polders today face multiple water-related hazards, ranging from chronic salinity affecting drinking water quality and reducing agricultural yields, to frequent floods and cyclones that destroy livelihoods and wipe out agricultural production. The interaction of water hazards together with lack of water availability in adequate quantity and quality has a big impact on poverty.  

Addressing these coastal water security challenges requires an understanding of the complex dynamics between water security, human wellbeing and economic growth.

The observatory

This study aims to improve understanding of how coastal water risks affect poverty, and to determine the best interventions for improving water security for the coastal poor. Ultimately, this research will help decision-makers make smarter investments in institutions and infrastructure, which not only reduce water risks, but also enable sustainable growth and improve lives.

We will develop a risk-based model of the dynamics of water, climate and poverty, and use the model to test the effectiveness of interventions. We will analyse trade-offs, combinations and sequences of investments such as resilient water infrastructure and drinking water supply systems.

Research questions

  • How does water insecurity influence poverty outcomes?
  • Which interventions help increase the resilience and water security of the coastal poor?
  • What combination and sequences of interventions lead to water security in different contexts?
  • Are the methods to appraise water security interventions transferable to other contexts, especially other coastal areas in Asia? 

News and blog

Water security and poverty in coastal Bangladesh: can modelling be of help?, August2017
Water on all sides: reflections on Bangladesh, July 2015

Publications

Edoardo Borgomeo, Jim W. Hall & Mashfiqus Salehin (2017): Avoiding the water-poverty trap: insights from a conceptual human-water dynamical model for coastal Bangladesh, International Journal of Water Resources Development

REACH (2015) Country Diagnostic Report, Bangladesh. REACH Working Paper 1, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Research team

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology: Professor Sujit Kumar Bala, Professor Shah Alam Khan, Professor Shahjahan Mondal, Professor Munsur Rahman, Professor Mashfiqus Salehin

UNICEF: Dara Johnston, Mohammed Monirul Alam

University of Dhaka: Professor Mahbuba Nasreen

University of Oxford: Dr Emily Barbour, Professor Jim Hall, Dr Rob Hope, Dr Sonia Ferdous Hoque

Professor Mashfiqus Salehin, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

‘Water security has a defining role to play in Bangladesh’s goal to achieve middle-income status and end extreme poverty.’

© 2017 REACH