Regulating land use change and developing cross-sectoral guidelines to improve participation could enhance cooperation around natural resources in Bangladesh

6 December 2017

Two research consortia of the NWO-WOTRO research programme Conflict and Cooperation in the Management in Climate Change (CCMCC) gathered in Dhaka to present their findings from four years of research. A range of representatives from governmental agencies, NGOs, community-based organisations and research learnt about the work being done in Bangladesh and recommendations necessary to promote greater cooperation around natural resources in the country.

The two projects discussed conflict dynamics around the management of natural resources – specifically water – in the face of climate change.. Water as a source of serious conflict has been recognised by government and it is clear that climate change is a contributing factor in such conflicts. However, for political and economic transformation to take place, a shift in approaches to water resources making use of formal knowledge and local perceptions is critical in informing decision-making.

Discussions were had around water security of peri-urban communities, where conflicts particularly arise from aquaculture and industry expansion. The teams also presented on the nature of conflicts and how adaptive learning processes enable transformation of conflict to cooperation. Case studies indicated that community based organisations cooperating with one another and with other agencies can reduce conflict and improve water management, a deep understanding of local natural resource conflicts is key to managing resources, and a lack of institutional arrangement and community participation is causing conflicts around the management of water infrastructure.

The event, which was preceded by an internal learning event between the research projects and representatives of the DFID-funded Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia project (CARIAA). The event provided an opportunity for the researchers to develop a set of joint recommendations specific to Bangladesh.  
The researchers found there was a need for meaningful engagement of natural resource user groups and communities in development of policies. The importance of acknowledging the diversity of Bangladesh’s communities, with an eye for social differentiation and disadvantaged communities, was underlined. This diversity in relation to varying needs, as well as different uses of natural resources, is crucial in developing adaption policies as responses to climate change.


Several recommendations were made by the consortia to enhance conflict-sensitiveness of natural resource policies:

  • Regulation of land use change is necessary
    The functions and special needs of certain areas are not formally recognized, including those that can be termed as “peri-urban” and seasonal wetlands and flood lands. There is a tendency for regulations to be confusing, overlapping and, in some cases, easily manipulated by the powerful and conflicts often arise from aquaculture and industry expansion. The development of a review and appeal process for changes in land use that impact water and wetland commons is critical in reducing conflict. It is also essential that the responsible authorities are formally recognised and engage with a broad range of stakeholders.
  • Conflict and participation
    In order to improve cooperation around natural resources, formal knowledge and local perceptions need to be shared and must contribute to the decision-making process. During planning, different scales and competing uses should be recognised. In addition, the different scenarios for development must consider future climate; this must be coupled with education to ensure all stakeholders understand potential conflict.

Existing formal guidelines on public participation in the water sector (Ministry of Water Resources “Guidelines for Participatory Water Management” have made an appreciably impact, but it is clear that they need revision and should be recognised as only a first step in a continual process. There is a great diversity of needs and a hierarchy of power relations that must be considered. Learning should be enabled between communities and the capacities of agencies and community based organisations (such as water management groups) must be enhanced to address future conflicts.

The research consortia found that because of the complex relationships between stakeholders, participatory planning processes should be guided by informed neutral facilitators, and cross-sectoral coordination that is cognisant of different community interests will be critical in improving cooperation. Institutional arrangements should be decentralised, handing over more responsibilities locally.

General conclusion

The research from the DFID / NWO-WOTRO funded CCMCC programme found that while climate change was not necessarily the main driver behind conflict, it should be an essential part of policy, planning and natural resource management. All of the research investigated conflicts linked to adaptation, mitigation or climate change.

More information

The objective of the NWO-WOTRO programme Conflict and Cooperation in the Management of Climate Change (CCMCC) is to strengthen the evidence on the impact of climate change and climate change policies on conflict and cooperation in developing countries and in particular to strengthen the evidence on the impact of policies and financing mechanisms to address the problem of climate change on cooperation and conflict.

CCMCC is part of the Conflict and Cooperation over Natural Resources in Developing Countries (CoCooN) research programme. Within CoCooN  there have been two Calls for proposals, in 2009 and 2012. Together, these calls resulted in thirteen research projects.

About the projects

CCMCC brochure Bangladesh findings

Source: NWO