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Understanding Natural Capital and Flood Resilience in Bangladesh

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This report shares the findings from the Natural Capital assessment work carried out to date by Concern as part of its contribution to the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance programming in Bangladesh to apply the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) Framework to support community-based pre-event flood resilience.

The natural capital assessments were carried out with the support of Esolve International in the 22 communities in which Concern is implementing the programme in Bangladesh. Concern is implementing this flood resilience programme with a local partner ASOD (Assistance for Social Organization and Development) in Lalmonirhat and Gaibandha districts.

Key Findings

  • Relevance of the flooding environment to the community's experience of flooding. Land elevation is significant in relation to the experience of severe flooding, while interactions between land use, land elevation, natural capital and flooding intensity is important to understand. The assessment of natural capital suggested that communities do not associate natural capital to a role in flood management, but experience natural capital in relation only to productive livelihoods.

  • Upstream and downstream interactions can affect flood control options. The natural capital work did not present solutions, but indicated that approaches to modify flooding in one location could have significant unexpected consequences for downstream locations.

  • Business as Usual is not working. The continued use of natural capital for the use of productive livelihoods is no longer a viable solution, while land gearded to cultivation and livestock introduces its own challenges in relation to flood control management. While conventional approaches to water flow management such as dredging, embankments and revetments, are too expensive for the communities assessed there is a need for a more balanced and nuanced approach looking at the relative values of green, blue and grey infrastructure to assist in community based pre-event flood resilience.

  • Building innovative solutions is important. The FRMC is leading to new solutions to address the problems in flooding, such as Natural Capital Community Clusters and new insights into land use management practices such as seasonal planting in dry riverbeds (Nala).

  • Need for a coherent natural capital strategy. The FRMC asks the question whether natural capital solutions are appropriate and are of the right combination of green, blue and grey to address flooding risk. This assessment should be based on a clear natural capital management strategy.

The report illustrates that natural capital does not currently have a central focus in flood risk management in Bangladesh, at least in the programme areas of intervention, and that from a policy and community perspective there is a limited understanding of the role of natural capital to enable communities to better cope with flooding.