Apr 05, 2018

Researchers Investigate Bangladesh Coastal Erosion

The team is analyzing satellite images and conducting interviews to form a predictive model

Researchers investigate erosion control in Bangladesh

A team of researchers have studied how riverbank erosion affects the citizens of Bangladesh and worked to develop early-warning measures that may help mitigate the effects of the changing shoreline.

Tom Crawford, professor and chair of the Department of Geography at Virginia Tech, and postdoctoral associate Munshi Khaledur Rahman, also from Virginia Tech’s Department of Geography, are working with researchers from East Carolina University, Kansas State University, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University in Bangladesh to conduct a three-year study on coastal erosion, human vulnerability, and adaptation strategies to promote resilience in the face of erosion disturbances.

“The average erosion rate is 100 meters per year in many locations near the coast, so it’s a huge shock, both economically and socially, especially for people who are already challenged economically,” Crawford said. “We want to understand how coastal erosion is linked to precipitation patterns and how humans are continuing to secure their livelihoods in the face of erosion.”

The first phase of the study, which began in September 2017, included a January 2018 field visit to two villages in Bangladesh that will serve as study sites. The team met with local villagers, government officials, and nonprofit workers to introduce the project. In March and April, the team will implement surveys to 400 households and hold focus groups in the two villages. In May, Rahman will return to Bangladesh to conduct key informant interviews and bring back data for quantitative and qualitative analysis.

“We want to know how people who are affected by riverbank erosion adapt when they lose their land,” Crawford said. “Do they move in with nearby family? Do they migrate to a neighboring village or to a city like Dhaka?”

Crawford and Rahman will also use satellite images captured between 1988 and 2018 to plot spatiotemporal patterns of erosion and generate location-specific annual rates of erosion and erosion variability. Scott Curtis, professor of atmospheric science at East Carolina University, will compile precipitation data for that time period, which will help the team determine how precipitation impacts shoreline changes.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to develop a predictive model, much like the system used for predicting the severity of hurricane seasons in the United States, that will help the people of Bangladesh better prepare for major erosion events.