Sustainability of the coastal zone of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta under climatic and anthropogenic stresses

Md. Munsur Rahman, Anisul Haque, Robert J. Nicholls, Stephen E. Darby, Mahmida Tul Urmi, Md. Maruf Dustegir, Frances E. Dunn, Anika Tahsin, Sadmina Razzaque, Kevin Horsburgh, Md. Aminul Haque

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The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) delta is one of the world's largest deltas. It is currently experiencing high rates of relative sea-level rise of about 5 mm/year, reflecting anthropogenic climate change and land subsidence. This is expected to accelerate further through the 21st Century, so there are concerns that the GBM delta will be progressively submerged. In this context, a core question is: can sedimentation on the delta surface maintain its elevation relative to sea level? This research seeks to answer this question by applying a two-dimensional flow and morphological model which is capable of handling dynamic interactions between the river and floodplain systems and simulating floodplain sedimentation under different flow-sediment regimes and anthropogenic interventions. We find that across a range of flood frequencies and adaptation scenarios (including the natural polder-free state), the retained volume of sediment varies between 22% and 50% of the corresponding sediment input. This translates to average rates of sedimentation on the delta surface of 5.5 mm/yr to 7.5 mm/yr. Hence, under present conditions, sedimentation associated with quasi-natural conditions can exceed current rates of relative sea-level rise and potentially create new land mass. These findings highlight that encouraging quasi-natural conditions through the widespread application of active sediment management measures has the potential to promote more sustainable outcomes for the GBM delta. Practical measures to promote include tidal river management, and appropriate combinations of cross-dams, bandal-like structures, and dredging.
Original languageEnglish
Article number154547
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date15 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2022

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