Modelling impacts of climate change and socio-economic change on the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Meghna, Hooghly and Mahanadi river systems in India and Bangladesh

Paul G. Whitehead, Li Jin, Ian Macadam, Tamara Janes, Sananda Sarkar, Harvey J. E. Rodda, Rajiv Sinha, Robert J. Nicholls

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54 Citations (Scopus)


The Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) River System, the associated Hooghly River and the Mahanadi River System represent the largest river basins in the world serving a population of over 780 million. The rivers are of vital concern to India and Bangladesh as they provide fresh water for people, agriculture, industry, conservation and support the Delta System in the Bay of Bengal. Future changes in both climate and socio-economics have been investigated to assess whether these will alter river flows and water quality. Climate datasets downscaled from three different Global Climate Models have been used to drive a daily process based flow and water quality model. The results suggest that due to climate change the flows will increase in the monsoon period and also be enhanced in the dry season. However, once socio-economic changes are also considered, increased population, irrigation, water use and industrial development reduce water availability in drought conditions, threatening water supplies and posing a threat to river and coastal ecosystems. This study, as part of the DECCMA (Deltas, vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation) project, also addresses water quality issues, particularly nutrients (N and P) and their transport along the rivers and discharge into the Delta System. Climate will alter flows, increasing flood flows and changing pollution dilution factors in the rivers, as well as other key processes controlling water quality. Socio-economic change will affect water quality, as water diversion strategies, increased population and industrial development alter the water balance and enhance fluxes of nutrients from agriculture, urban centers and atmospheric deposition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1362-1372
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date5 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2018


  • Climate change
  • Ganga
  • Mahanadi
  • RCP 8.5
  • Socio-economics
  • Water quality modelling

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