Story | 07 May, 2021

A network of Civil Society Organisations reports on the application of Nature-based Solutions in the Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna River Basin

Working closely with ten organisations in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, the Building River Dialogue and Governance for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basins (BRIDGE GBM) project, facilitated by IUCN, has documented case studies and lessons learned on Nature-Based Solutions (NbS).

The publication, Nature-based Solutions in the Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna (GBM) river basin: Case studies and lessons learned, provides a detailed review of the application of NbS in the management of rivers and water resources.

NbS are defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits” (IUCN 2016). NbS are increasingly seen as a strategy to address the most pressing societal challenges such as climate change and food security. 

In the Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna region, a number of civil society organisations, governments, and private sector-led initiatives are applying NbS to address water and river management issues. However, project implementers inadequately document or share the results of these interventions. This in turn limits the potential of the NbS replication or scaling-up and hampers the attainment of more transformative changes.

The publication highlights seven NbS case studies, which were evaluated against the eight criteria from IUCN’s Global Standard for NbS (2020). These criteria address the pillars of sustainable development such as biodiversity, economy, and society, resilient project design, management, and monitoring. The criteria respond directly to existing gaps, including scale, policy, and complementarity to other interventions.

All seven case studies presented have a strong community engagement component and provide insights on the potential for NbS to address problems facing vulnerable groups, such as poor farmers, fishermen, or communities living along the river banks, who are severely impacted by erosion.

More than half of the interventions simultaneously targeted water and food security issues. The strategies included improving the availability of water for irrigation and household use through the restoration of wetlands and watersheds and introducing efficient irrigation management strategies. Other case studies capture the application of NbS for disaster risk reduction and demonstrate the effectiveness of ecological engineering approaches in controlling landslides and riverbank erosion.

The results of the case studies indicate that Nature-based Solutions that are designed to provide additional income and generate opportunities for local communities are the most sustainable. The case studies discussed applied various strategies to generate additional income, such as spice garden tourism, trainings for women’s self-help groups on organic farming and enterprise development, and the creation of watershed development funds to provide micro-credit services for livelihood diversification.

Based on the analysis of the case studies, the document recommends, 1) strengthening documentation of biodiversity gains; 2) improving mapping of the roles and influences of external stakeholders; 3) promoting private sector and youth engagement; 4) strengthening adaptive management in the project. This is to better align the initiatives with the IUCN Global Standard on NbS and facilitate their replication and upscaling.

The publication will help to shape the discourse on the implementation of NbS at scale in the GBM region. Moving forward, IUCN will continue to work with stakeholders to improve their understanding of NbS.

Read the Nature-based Solutions in the Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna (GBM) river basin report here


About the BRIDGE GBM Project

The BRIDGE GBM project is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), through the Oxfam Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) programme. The project aims to a) improve water governance policies and practices to make it more inclusive of community concerns and meet national and international standards, and b) strengthen the capacity and "voice" of CSOs to catalyze regional water cooperation for long-term economic growth and livelihood security in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna River Basin.