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The challenge

How much water is available for irrigation?

Food security and the recent achievement of self-sufficiency in staples (principally rice) in bangladesh underpins the sustainable development of bangladesh, and the steady reduction in poverty and food related health problems.

Researchers from Bangladesh and Australia are working together with policy makers to understand the sustainable level of water use, particularly groundwater use, for irrigation in the northwest region of Bangladesh.

This food security is highly dependent on the use of groundwater for irrigated crop production. in some areas, particularly the barind tract in north-west bangladesh, groundwater is over-exploited, and the use is unsustainable; there are concerns of possible overuse elsewhere.

In response to over-use of groundwater, there are plans to shift to greater surface water use, but the volume of groundwater that can be sustainably used is unknown, as is the consequence of swapping to more surface water use.

Our response

Collaborating to build tools, knowledge and skills

Researchers from Bangladesh and Australia are working together with policy makers to define the sustainable level of water (particularly groundwater) use for irrigation and its impacts on the socio-economy and livelihood of the farmers including women in the northwest region of Bangladesh.

In close partnerships with other projects in the region we are:

  • Developing catchment and district scale understanding of the surface water and groundwater resources through water balance analysis, and surface water and groundwater modelling
  • Examining and modelling the trends in cropping patterns and future cropping scenarios
  • Examining the impact of future water availability on the irrigated agriculture, regional socio‐economy, livelihoods and women and girls
  • Conducting a social (gender‐disaggregated) cost‐benefit analysis of potential investments or policies.

The results

Understanding groundwater availability and use

We are contributing to an improved understanding of the water resource in the north-west region, and thus providing a sound scientific basis for discussing sustainability and development.

One particular output has been the report on sustainable level of water use, particularly groundwater use, for irrigation in the north-west region of Bangladesh. Groundwater irrigation is the main factor behind current self-sufficiency in rice production but a larger irrigation area and volume of groundwater pumping plays a significant role in the decline of groundwater levels. The majority of aquifers in the region are losing water to most major streams except for areas with a flat landscape or above major river junctions.

Our work is expected to increase the water and food security in Bangladesh through improved integrated water resource management and agricultural (hence food) production.

About SDIP

This work is part of a portfolio of investments supported by the Australian Government addressing the regional challenges of water, food and energy security in South Asia.

The SDIP Phase 2 aims to improve the integrated management of water, energy and food in the Himalayan river basins, addressing climate risk and the interests of women and girls. It seeks to:

  • strengthen practices for regional cooperation
  • generate and use critical new knowledge to enhance regional cooperation
  • improve the regional enabling environment for private sector engagement.

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