Socio-hydrological spaces in the Jamuna River floodplain in Bangladesh

Ferdous, Md Ruknul; Wesselink, Anna; Brandimarte, Luigia; Slager, Kymo; Zwarteveen, Margreet; Di Baldassarre, Giuliano

Socio-hydrology aims to understand the dynamics and co-evolution of coupled human–water systems, with research consisting of generic models as well as specific case studies. In this paper, we propose a concept to help bridge the gap between these two types of socio-hydrological studies: socio-hydrological spaces (SHSs). A socio-hydrological space is a geographical area in a landscape. Its particular combination of hydrological and social features gives rise to the emergence of distinct interactions and dynamics (patterns) between society and water. Socio-hydrological research on human–flood interactions has found two generic responses, “fight” or “adapt”. Distilling the patterns resulting from these responses in case studies provides a promising way to relate contextual specificities to the generic patterns described by conceptual models. Through the use of SHSs, different cases can be compared globally without aspiring to capturing them in a formal model. We illustrate the use of SHS for the Jamuna floodplain, Bangladesh. We use narratives and experiences of local experts and inhabitants to empirically describe and delimit SHS. We corroborated the resulting classification through the statistical analysis of primary data collected for the purpose (household surveys and focus group discussions) and secondary data (statistics, maps etc.). Our example of the use of SHSs shows that the concept draws attention to how historical patterns in the co-evolution of social behaviour, natural processes and technological interventions give rise to different landscapes, different styles of living and different ways of organising livelihoods. This provides a texture to the more generic patterns generated by socio-hydrological models, promising to make the resulting analysis more directly useful for decision makers. We propose that the usefulness of this concept in other floodplains, and for other socio-hydrological systems than floodplains, should be explored.



Ferdous, Md Ruknul / Wesselink, Anna / Brandimarte, Luigia / et al: Socio-hydrological spaces in the Jamuna River floodplain in Bangladesh. 2018. Copernicus Publications.


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