More than 70% of large deltas are under threat from rising sea levels, subsidence and anthropogenic interferences, including the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna (GBM) delta, the Earth’s largest and most populous delta system. The dynamic geomorphology of this delta is often overlooked in assessments of its vulnerability; consequently, development plans and previous management investments have been undermined by unanticipated geomorphic responses. In this Review, we describe GBM delta dynamics, examining these changes through the Drivers–Pressures–States–Impacts–Responses framework. Since the early Holocene, the GBM delta has evolved in response to a combination of tectonics, geology, changing river discharge and sea level rise, but the dynamics observed today are driven by a complex interplay of anthropogenic interferences and natural background processes. Contemporary geomorphic processes such as shoreline change, channel migration, sedimentation and subsidence can increase flooding and erosion, impacting biodiversity, ground and water contamination and local community livelihoods. Continued human disturbances to the GBM delta, such as curtailing sediment supplies, modifying channels and changing land use, could have a more direct influence on the future geomorphic balance of the delta than anthropogenic climate change and sea level rise. In order to contribute to long-term delta sustainability, adaptation responses must therefore be informed by an understanding of geomorphic processes, requiring increased transdisciplinary research on future delta dynamics at centennial timescales and collaboration across all governing bodies and stakeholders.
The interplay between long-term tectonic and eustatic sea level changes, sudden earthquake perturbances and large-scale man-made management schemes in the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna (GBM) delta are the key drivers that shaped its evolution.
This review provides a spatial representation of the sediment budget, which is necessary for delta management decisions, including the potential for harnessing natural sedimentation processes to enhance land generation.
Mapping the spatio-temporal extent of documented geomorphic processes revealed gaps in understanding at the centennial scales and into the future, which are both critical to delta management decisions, as most infrastructures are expected to be effective for up to 100 years into the future.
Only 40% of the 427 reviewed publications assess geomorphic processes as interconnected, potentially resulting in a fragmented understanding of dynamics.
Geomorphic processes are mostly absent from models of flooding and water security in the GBM delta. These omissions undermine the validity of longer-term projections and call into question the appropriateness of management decisions that are based upon these models.
Anthropogenic disturbances could have a more direct influence on the future geomorphic balance of the GBM delta than climate change and sea level rise.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $4.92 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Darby, S. E., Dunn, F. E., Nicholls, R. J., Rahman, M. & Riddy, L. A first look at the influence of anthropogenic climate change on the future delivery of fluvial sediment to the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta. Environ. Sci. Process. Impacts 17, 1587–1600 (2015). This paper simulates future climate-driven sediment loads flowing to the GBM delta to the end of the twenty-first century, showing increases of up to 37% for the Ganges and 60% for the Brahmaputra.
Nicholls, R. J. et al. Integrated assessment of social and environmental sustainability dynamics in the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta, Bangladesh. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 183, 370–381 (2016). This paper demonstrates an integrated framework to assess the changing ecosystem services in the GBM delta and the implications for human well-being.
Tessler, Z. D., Voeroesmarty, C. J., Overeem, I. & Syvitski, J. P. M. A model of water and sediment balance as determinants of relative sea level rise in contemporary and future deltas. Geomorphology 305, 209–220 (2018).
Dunn, F. E. et al. Projections of declining fluvial sediment delivery to major deltas worldwide in response to climate change and anthropogenic stress. Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 084034 (2019).
Rahman, M. et al. Recent sediment flux to the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta system. Sci. Total. Environ. 643, 1054–1064 (2018). This paper presents a synthesis of sediment flux to the GBM delta system, illustrating reductions in current sediment delivery by up to 50% of previous estimates.
Szabo, S. et al. Population dynamics, delta vulnerability and environmental change: comparison of the Mekong, Ganges–Brahmaputra and Amazon delta regions. Sustain. Sci. 11, 539–554 (2016).
Goodbred, S. L. & Saito, Y. in Principles of Tidal Sedimentology (eds Davis Jr., R. A. & Dalrymple, R. W.) 129–149 (Springer, 2012).
Hoitink, A. J. F., Wang, Z. B., Vermeulen, B., Huismans, Y. & Kaestner, K. Tidal controls on river delta morphology. Nat. Geosci. 10, 637–645 (2017).
Woodroffe, C. D., Nicholls, R. J., Saito, Y., Chen, Z. & Goodbred, S. L. in Global Change and Integrated Coastal Management: The Asia-Pacific Region (ed. Harvey, N.) Vol. 10 277–314 (Springer, 2006).
Edmonds, D. A., Caldwell, R. L., Brondizio, E. S. & Siani, S. M. O. Coastal flooding will disproportionately impact people on river deltas. Nat. Commun. 11, 4741 (2020).
Auerbach, L. W. et al. Flood risk of natural and embanked landscapes on the Ganges–Brahmaputra tidal delta plain. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 153–157 (2015).
Brown, S. & Nicholls, R. J. Subsidence and human influences in mega deltas: the case of the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna. Sci. Total. Environ. 527, 362–374 (2015). This paper analyses rates of subsidence recorded across the literature and relates these findings to natural and human influences in the GBM delta.
Tessler, Z. D. et al. Profiling risk and sustainability in coastal deltas of the world. Science 7, 638–643 (2015).
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics — Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh http://www.bbs.gov.bd/ (2019).
Reitz, M. D. et al. Effects of tectonic deformation and sea level on river path selection: theory and application to the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna river delta. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf. 120, 671–689 (2015).
Allison, M. Historical changes in the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta front. J. Coast. Res. 14, 1269–1275 (1998).
Sarker, M. H., Akter, J., Ferdous, M. R. & Noor, F. Sediment dispersal processes and management in coping with climate change in the Meghna Estuary, Bangladesh. in Sediment Problems and Sediment Management in Asian River Basins (ed. Walling, D. E.), 349, 203–217 (IAHS, 2011). This text illustrates sediment dispersal processes in the estuary and their responses to different exogenic and anthropogenic forces to underpin adaptive sediment management in the face of climate change.
Wilson, C. A. & Goodbred, S. L. Jr. Construction and maintenance of the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta: linking process, morphology, and stratigraphy. Ann. Rev. Mar. Sci 7, 67–88 (2015). This paper reviews the evolving processes, morphology and stratigraphy of the GBM delta, defining the delta as a complex composite system of both fluvial and tidal dominance.
Brammer, H. Bangladesh’s dynamic coastal regions and sea-level rise. Clim. Risk Manag. 1, 51–62 (2014).
Giosan, L., Syvitski, J., Constantinescu, S. & Day, J. Protect the world’s deltas. Nature 516, 31–33 (2014).
Syvitski, J. P. M. et al. Sinking deltas due to human activities. Nat. Geosci. 2, 681–686 (2009).
Hall, J. W. et al. Coping with the curse of freshwater variability. Science 346, 429–430 (2014).
Lázár, A. N., Nicholls, R. J., Hall, J. W., Barbour, E. J. & Haque, A. Contrasting development trajectories for coastal Bangladesh to the end of century. Reg. Env. Change 20, 93 (2020).
Nicholls, R., Adger, W. N., Hutton, C. & Hanson, S. Deltas in the Anthropocene (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019).
Angamuthu, B., Darby, S. E. & Nicholls, R. J. Impacts of natural and human drivers on the multi-decadal morphological evolution of tidally-influenced deltas. Proc. Math. Phys. Eng. Sci. 474, 20180396 (2018).
Nicholls, R. J. & Goodbred, S. Towards the integrated assessment of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta. in Mega-Deltas of Asia: Geological Evolution and Human Impact 168–181 (eds Chen, Z., Saito, Y., Goodbred Jr., S.L.) (China Ocean Press, 2004).
European Environment Agency (EEA) Europe’s Environment: The Dobris Assessment (EEA, 1995).
Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD) Core Set of Indicators for Environmental Performance Reviews (OECD, 1993).
General Economics Division (GED) Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 (Bangladesh Planning Commission, 2018).
Alam, M., Alam, M. M., Curray, J. R., Chowdhury, M. L. R. & Gani, M. R. An overview of the sedimentary geology of the Bengal Basin in relation to the regional tectonic framework and basin-fill history. Sediment. Geol. 155, 179–208 (2003).
Goodbred, S., Kuehl, S., Steckler, M. & Sarker, M. Controls on facies distribution and stratigraphic preservation in the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta sequence. Sediment. Geol. 155, 301–316 (2003).
Morgan, J. P. & McIntire, W. G. Quaternary geology of the Bengal Basin, East Pakistan and India. Bull. Geol. Soc. Am. 70, 319–342 (1959).
Steckler, M. S. et al. Locked and loading megathrust linked to active subduction beneath the Indo-Burman ranges. Nat. Geosci. 9, 615–618 (2016).
Allison, M., Khan, S., Goodbred, S. & Kuehl, S. Stratigraphic evolution of the late Holocene Ganges–Brahmaputra lower delta plain. Sediment. Geol. 155, 317–342 (2003).
Sarkar, A. et al. Evolution of Ganges–Brahmaputra western delta plain: clues from sedimentology and carbon isotopes. Quat. Sci. Rev. 28, 2564–2581 (2009).
Sarker, M. H. Morphological response of the Brahmaputra–Padma–Lower Meghna river system to the Assam earthquake of 1950. Thesis. Univ. Nottingham (2009).
Goodbred, S. & Kuehl, S. Enormous Ganges–Brahmaputra sediment discharge during strengthened early Holocene monsoon. Geology 28, 1083–1086 (2000).
Goodbred, S. L. Jr. et al. Piecing together the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna River delta: Use of sediment provenance to reconstruct the history and interaction of multiple fluvial systems during Holocene delta evolution. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 126, 1495–1510 (2014). This paper uses sediment provenance to detail the evolution of the GBM delta during the Holocene period.
Grall, C. et al. A base-level stratigraphic approach to determining Holocene subsidence of the Ganges–Meghna–Brahmaputra delta plain. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 499, 23–36 (2018).
Goodbred, S. & Kuehl, S. The significance of large sediment supply, active tectonism, and eustasy on margin sequence development: Late Quaternary stratigraphy and evolution of the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta. Sediment. Geol. 133, 227–248 (2000).
Akter, J., Sarker, M. H., Popescu, I. & Roelvink, D. Evolution of the Bengal delta and its prevailing processes. J. Coast. Res. 32, 1212–1226 (2016).
Coleman, J. M. Brahmaputra river: channel processes and sedimentation. Sediment. Geol. 3, 129–239 (1969).
Fergusson, J. On recent changes in the delta of the ganges. Proc. Geol. Soc. 19, 321–354 (1863).
Bristow, C. S. Gradual avulsion, river metamorphosis and reworking by underfit streams: a modern example of the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh and a possible ancient example in the Spanish Pyrenees. Spec. Publs int. Ass. Sediment. 28, 221-230 (1999).
Pickering, J. L. et al. Late Quaternary sedimentary record and Holocene channel avulsions of the Jamuna and Old Brahmaputra River valleys in the upper Bengal delta plain. Geomorphology 227, 123–136 (2014).
Khan, S. R. & Islam, B. Holocene stratigraphy of the lower Ganges–Brahmaputra river delta in Bangladesh. Front. Earth Sci. China 2, 393–399 (2008).
Sincavage, R., Goodbred, S. & Pickering, J. Holocene Brahmaputra river path selection and variable sediment bypass as indicators of fluctuating hydrologic and climate conditions in Sylhet Basin, Bangladesh. Basin Res. 30, 302–320 (2018).
Krien, Y. et al. Present-day subsidence in the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta: eastern amplification of the holocene sediment loading contribution. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 10764–10772 (2019).
Bomer, E. J., Wilson, C. A. & Datta, D. K. An integrated approach for constraining depositional zones in a tide-influenced river: insights from the Gorai River, southwest Bangladesh. Water, 11, 2047 (2019).
Bomer, E. J., Wilson, C. A., Hale, R. P., Hossain, A. N. M. & Rahman, F. M. A. Surface elevation and sedimentation dynamics in the Ganges–Brahmaputra tidal delta plain, Bangladesh: evidence for mangrove adaptation to human-induced tidal amplification. Catena 187, 104312 (2020).
Hale, R., Bain, R., Goodbred, S. Jr. & Best, J. Observations and scaling of tidal mass transport across the lower Ganges–Brahmaputra delta plain: implications for delta management and sustainability. Earth Surf. Dyn. 7, 231–245 (2019).
Rogers, K. G., Goodbred, S. L. Jr. & Mondal, D. R. Monsoon sedimentation on the ‘abandoned’ tide-influenced Ganges–Brahmaputra delta plain. Estuar. Coast. And. Shelf Sci. 131, 297–309 (2013).
Haque, A. & Nicholls, R. J. Floods and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta, in Ecosystem Services for Well-Being in Deltas: Integrated Assessment for Policy Analysis(eds Nicholls, R. J., Hutton, C.W., Adger, W.N., Hanson, S.E., Rahman, M.M., Salehin, M.) (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2017)
Hossain, M. A., Gan, T. Y. & Baki, A. B. M. Assessing morphological changes of the Ganges river using satellite images. Quat. Int. 304, 142–155 (2013).
Mirza, M. M. Q. Hydrological changes in the Ganges system in Bangladesh in the post-Farakka period. Hydrol. Sci. J. 42, 613–631 (1997).
Murshed, S. B., Rahman, R. & Kaluarachchi, J. J. Changes in hydrology of the Ganges delta of Bangladesh and corresponding impacts on water resources. J. Am. Water Resour. Assoc. 55, 800–823 (2019).
Rahman, Md. M. & Rahaman, M. M. Impacts of Farakka Barrage on hydrological flow of Ganges river and environment in Bangladesh. Sustain. Water Resour. Manag. 4, 767–780 (2018).
Islam, A. & Guchhait, S. K. Characterizing cross-sectional morphology and channel inefficiency of lower Bhagirathi River, India, in post-Farakka Barrage condition. Nat. Hazards 103, 3803–3836 (2020).
Islam, A. & Guchhait, S. K. Analysing the influence of Farakka Barrage Project on channel dynamics and meander geometry of Bhagirathi river of West Bengal, India. Arab. J. Geosci. 10, 245 (2017).
Khatun, S., Das, S. & Pal, S. Exploring the ambient environment for charland formation in Rajmahal downstream Ganga river of eastern India in post Farakka Barrage period. Spat. Inf. Res. 26, 337–346 (2018).
Anwar, M. S. & Takewaka, S. Analyses on phenological and morphological variations of mangrove forests along the southwest coast of Bangladesh. J. Coast. Conserv. 18, 339–357 (2014).
Mirza, M. M. Q. Diversion of the Ganges water at Farakka and its effects on salinity in Bangladesh. Environ. Manag. 22, 711–722 (1998).
Aziz, A. & Paul, A. R. Bangladesh Sundarbans: present status of the environment and biota. Diversity 7, 242–269 (2015).
Adel, M. M. The background state leading to arsenic contamination of Bengal Basin groundwater. J. Water Health 3, 435–452 (2005).
Borgomeo, E., Hall, J. W. & Salehin, M. Avoiding the water-poverty trap: insights from a conceptual human–water dynamical model for coastal Bangladesh. Int. J. Water Resour. Dev. 34, 900–922 (2018).
Gain, A. K., Benson, D., Rahman, R., Datta, D. K. & Rouillard, J. J. Tidal river management in the south west Ganges–Brahmaputra delta in Bangladesh: moving towards a transdisciplinary approach? Environ. Sci. Policy 75, 111–120 (2017).
Nowreen, S., Jalal, M. R. & Khan, M. S. A. Historical analysis of rationalizing south west coastal polders of Bangladesh. Water Policy 16, 264–279 (2014).
Wilson, C. et al. Widespread infilling of tidal channels and navigable waterways in the human-modified tidal deltaplain of southwest Bangladesh. Elementa Sci. Anthrop. 5, 74 (2017).
Dewan, A. et al. Assessing channel changes of the Ganges–Padma river system in Bangladesh using Landsat and hydrological data. Geomorphology 276, 257–279 (2017).
Hinderer, M. From gullies to mountain belts: a review of sediment budgets at various scales. Sediment. Geol. 280, 21–59 (2012).
Allison, M. A., Kuehl, S. A., Martin, T. C. & Hassan, A. Importance of flood-plain sedimentation for river sediment budgets and terrigenous input to the oceans: insights from the Brahmaputra–Jamuna River. Geology 26, 175–178 (1998).
Islam, M., Begum, S., Yamaguchi, Y. & Ogawa, K. The Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers in Bangladesh: basin denudation and sedimentation. Hydrol. Process. 13, 2907–2923 (1999).
Goodbred, S. & Kuehl, S. Holocene and modern sediment budgets for the Ganges–Brahmaputra river system: evidence for highstand dispersal to flood-plain, shelf, and deep-sea depocenters. Geology 27, 559–562 (1999).
Dunn, F. E. et al. Projections of historical and 21st century fluvial sediment delivery to the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna, Mahanadi, and Volta deltas. Sci. Total. Environ. 642, 105–116 (2018). This paper uses the WBMsed model to project sediment delivery to the GBM, Mahanadi and Volta deltas, showing that socio-economic impacts can have stronger effects than climate change on sediment delivery.
Adnan, M. S. G., Haque, A. & Hall, J. W. Have coastal embankments reduced flooding in Bangladesh? Sci. Total. Environ. 682, 405–416 (2019).
Slater, L. J., Singer, M. B. & Kirchner, J. W. Hydrologic versus geomorphic drivers of trends in flood hazard. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 370–376 (2015).
Wasson, R. J. A sediment budget for the Ganga–Brahmaputra catchment. Curr. Sci. 84, 1041–1047 (2003).
Sarker, M. H., Thorne, C. R., Aktar, M. N. & Ferdous, M. R. Morpho-dynamics of the Brahmaputra–Jamuna River, Bangladesh. Geomorphology 215, 45–59 (2014).
Thorne, C. R., Russell, A. P. G. & Alam, M. K. Planform pattern and channel evolution of the Brahmaputra river, Bangladesh. Geophys. Soc. Lond. 75, 257–256 (1993).
Takagi, T. et al. Channel braiding and stability of the Brahmaputra river, Bangladesh, since 1967: GIS and remote sensing analyses. Geomorphology 85, 294–305 (2007).
Ophra, S. J., Begum, S., Islam, R. & Islam, Md. N. Assessment of bank erosion and channel shifting of Padma River in Bangladesh using RS and GIS techniques. Spat. Inf. Res. 26, 599–605 (2018).
Mahmud, M. I. et al. Assessing bank dynamics of the Lower Meghna River in Bangladesh: an integrated GIS–DSAS approach. Arab. J. Geosci. 13, 602 (2020).
Hanebuth, T. J. J., Kudrass, H. R., Linstaedter, J., Islam, B. & Zander, A. M. Rapid coastal subsidence in the central Ganges–Brahmaputra delta (Bangladesh) since the 17th century deduced from submerged salt-producing kilns. Geology 41, 987–990 (2013).
Steckler, M. S. et al. Modeling Earth deformation from monsoonal flooding in Bangladesh using hydrographic, GPS, and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 115, B8407 (2010).
Pethick, J. & Orford, J. D. Rapid rise in effective sea-level in southwest Bangladesh: its causes and contemporary rates. Glob. Planet. Change 111, 237–245 (2013).
Hoque, M. & Alam, M. Subsidence in the lower deltaic areas of Bangladesh. Mar. Geodesy 20, 105–120 (1997).
Ahmed, A., Drake, F., Nawaz, R. & Woulds, C. Where is the coast? Monitoring coastal land dynamics in Bangladesh: an integrated management approach using GIS and remote sensing techniques. Ocean Coast. Manag. 151, 10–24 (2018).
Hussain, M. A., Tajima, Y., Gunasekara, K., Rana, S. & Hasan, R. Recent coastline changes at the eastern part of the Meghna Estuary using PALSAR and Landsat images. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science 20 (2014).
Khan, E. & Hussain, N. Coastline dynamics and raising landform: a geo-informatics based study on the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh. Indonesian J. Geogr. 50, 41–48 (2018).
Shearman, P., Bryan, J. & Walsh, J. P. Trends in deltaic change over three decades in the Asia-Pacific region. J. Coast. Res. 29, 1169–1183 (2013).
Umitsu, M. Landforms and floods in the ganges delta and coastal lowland of Bangladesh. Mar. Geodesy 20, 77–87 (1997).
Sarwar, M. G. M. & Woodroffe, C. D. Rates of shoreline change along the coast of Bangladesh. J. Coast. Conserv. 17, 515–526 (2013).
Rahman, A. F., Dragoni, D. & El-Masri, B. Response of the Sundarbans coastline to sea level rise and decreased sediment flow: a remote sensing assessment. Remote. Sens. Environ. 115, 3121–3128 (2011).
Raha, A., Das, S., Banerjee, K. & Mitra, A. Climate change impacts on Indian Sunderbans: a time series analysis (1924–2008). Biodivers. Conserv. 21, 1289–1307 (2012).
Bera, R. & Maiti, R. Quantitative analysis of erosion and accretion (1975–2017) using DSAS — a study on Indian Sundarbans. Regional Stud. Mar. Sci. 28, 100583 (2019).
Bain, R. L., Hale, R. P. & Goodbred, S. L. Flow reorganization in an anthropogenically modified tidal channel network: an example from the southwestern Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf. 124, 2141–2159 (2019).
Adel, M. M. Downstream ecocide from upstream water piracy. Am. J. Environ. Sci. 8, 528–548 (2012).
Ahmed, A. U. Living in the downstream: Development in peril. in Interlinking of Rivers in India: Issues and Concerns 153–168 (eds Mirza, M.M.Q., Ahmed, A.U., Ahmad, Q.K.) (2008).
Khan, N. I. & Islam, A. Quantification of erosion patterns in the Brahmaputra–Jamuna River using geographical information system and remote sensing techniques. Hydrol. Process. 17, 959–966 (2003).
Rahman, M. A. T. M. T., Islam, S. & Rahman, S. H. Coping with flood and riverbank erosion caused by climate change using livelihood resources: a case study of Bangladesh. Clim. Dev. 7, 185–191 (2015).
Bangladesh’s disappearing river lands. The New Humanitarian https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/Bangladesh-river-erosion-engulfs-homes-climate-change-migration (2019).
Best, J. L., Ashworth, P. J., Sarker, M. H. & Roden, J. E. The Brahmaputra-Jamuna River, Bangladesh. Large Rivers: Geomorphology and Management, 395–433 (eds Gupta, A.) (Wiley, 2008).
Billah, M. M. Mapping and monitoring erosion–accretion in an alluvial river using satellite imagery — the river bank changes of the Padma river in Bangladesh. Quaest. Geograph. 37, 87–95 (2018).
Saleem, A. et al. Spatial and temporal variations of erosion and accretion: a case of a large tropical river. Earth Syst. Environ. 4, 167–181 (2020).
Ayeb-Karlsson, S., van der Geest, K., Ahmed, I., Huq, S. & Warner, K. A people-centred perspective on climate change, environmental stress, and livelihood resilience in Bangladesh. Sustain. Sci. 11, 679–694 (2016).
Sultana, R., Alam, M. S. & Selim, S. A. Household level coping strategies for flood disaster. The Environmental Sustainable Development Goals in Bangladesh. 96–112 (eds Selim, S.A., Saha, S.K., Sultana, R., Roberts, C.) (Taylor & Francis Group, 2018).
Sarker, M. H., Huque, I. & Alam, M. Rivers, chars and char dwellers of Bangladesh. Int. J. River Basin Manag. 1, 61–80 (2003).
Dewan, C., Mukherji, A. & Buisson, M.-C. Evolution of water management in coastal Bangladesh: from temporary earthen embankments to depoliticized community-managed polders. Water Int. 40, 401–416 (2015).
Benner, S. G. & Fendorf, S. Arsenic in South Asia groundwater. Geogr. Compass 4, 1532–1552 (2010).
Huq, M. E. et al. Arsenic in a groundwater environment in Bangladesh: occurrence and mobilization. J. Environ. Manag. 262, 110318 (2020).
Mahmud, M. I., Sultana, S., Hasan, M. A. & Ahmed, K. M. Variations in hydrostratigraphy and groundwater quality between major geomorphic units of the western Ganges delta plain, SW Bangladesh. Appl. Water Sci. 7, 2919–2932 (2017).
Ravenscroft, P., Burgess, W. G., Ahmed, K. M., Burren, M. & Perrin, J. Arsenic in groundwater of the Bengal Basin, Bangladesh: distribution, field relations, and hydrogeological setting. Hydrogeol. J. 13, 727–751 (2005).
van Geen, A. et al. Flushing history as a hydrogeological control on the regional distribution of arsenic in shallow groundwater of the Bengal Basin. Environ. Sci. Technol. 42, 2283–2288 (2008).
Acharyya, S. K., Lahiri, S., Raymahashay, B. C. & Bhowmik, A. Arsenic toxicity of groundwater in parts of the Bengal Basin in India and Bangladesh: the role of Quaternary stratigraphy and Holocene sea-level fluctuation. Environ. Geol. 39, 1127–1137 (2000).
Yu, W. H., Harvey, C. M. & Harvey, C. F. Arsenic in groundwater in Bangladesh: a geostatistical and epidemiological framework for evaluating health effects and potential remedies. Water Resour. Res. 39, 1146–1163 https://doi.org/10.1029/2002WR001327 (2003).
Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Government of Bangladesh, British Geologic Survey & Mott MacDonald Ltd. Groundwater Studies for Arsenic Contamination in Bangladesh, Phase I: Rapid Investigation Phase (British Geological Survey and Mott MacDonald Ltd, 1999).
Bhowmick, S. et al. Arsenic mobilization in the aquifers of three physiographic settings of West Bengal, India: understanding geogenic and anthropogenic influences. J. Hazard. Mater. 262, 915–923 (2013).
Weinman, B. et al. Contributions of floodplain stratigraphy and evolution to the spatial patterns of groundwater arsenic in Araihazar, Bangladesh. GSA Bull. 120, 1567–1580 (2008).
Tareq, S. M., Safiullah, S., Anawar, H. M., Rahman, M. M. & Ishizuka, T. Arsenic pollution in groundwater: a self-organizing complex geochemical process in the deltaic sedimentary environment, Bangladesh. Sci. Total. Environ. 313, 213–226 (2003).
Ali, M. M., Ishiga, H. & Wakatsuki, T. Influence of soil type and properties on distribution and changes in arsenic contents of different paddy soils in Bangladesh. Soil. Sci. Plant. Nutr. 49, 111–123 (2003).
Mihajlov, I. et al. Arsenic contamination of Bangladesh aquifers exacerbated by clay layers. Nat. Commun. 11, 2244 (2020).
Berube, M. et al. The fate of arsenic in groundwater discharged to the Meghna River, Bangladesh. Environ. Chem. 15, 29–45 (2018).
Jung, H. B., Zheng, Y., Rahman, M. W., Rahman, M. M. & Ahmed, K. M. Redox zonation and oscillation in the hyporheic zone of the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta: implications for the fate of groundwater arsenic during discharge. Appl. Geochem. 63, 647–660 (2015).
Datta, S. et al. Redox trapping of arsenic during groundwater discharge in sediments from the Meghna riverbank in Bangladesh. PNAS 106, 16930–16935 (2009).
McArthur, J. M. et al. Natural organic matter in sedimentary basins and its relation to arsenic in anoxic ground water: the example of West Bengal and its worldwide implications. Appl. Geochem. 19, 1255–1293 (2004).
McArthur, J. M. et al. How paleosols influence groundwater flow and arsenic pollution: a model from the Bengal Basin and its worldwide implication. Water Resour. Res. 44, 11 https://doi.org/10.1029/2007WR006552 (2008).
Hoque, M. A., Burgess, W. G., Shamsudduha, M. & Ahmed, K. M. Delineating low-arsenic groundwater environments in the Bengal Aquifer System, Bangladesh. Appl. Geochem. 26, 614–623 (2011).
Acharyya, S. K. Arsenic levels in groundwater from quaternary alluvium in the ganga plain and the Bengal Basin, Indian subcontinent: insights into influence of stratigraphy. Gondwana Res. 8, 55–66 (2005).
Edmunds, M. W., Ahmed, K. M. & Whitehead, P. G. A review of arsenic and its impacts in groundwater of the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta, Bangladesh. Environ. Sci. Process. Impacts 17, 1032–1046 (2015).
Chakraborty, M. et al. Modeling regional-scale groundwater arsenic hazard in the transboundary Ganges River Delta, India and Bangladesh: infusing physically-based model with machine learning. Sci. Total. Environ. 748, 141107 (2020).
Ahmed, K. M. et al. Arsenic enrichment in groundwater of the alluvial aquifers in Bangladesh: an overview. Appl. Geochem. 19, 181–200 (2004).
Acharyya, S. & Shah, B. Groundwater arsenic pollution affecting deltaic West Bengal, India. Curr. Sci. 99, 1787–1794 (2010).
Benneyworth, L. et al. Drinking water insecurity: water quality and access in coastal south-western Bangladesh. Int. J. Environ. Health Res. 26, 508–524 (2016).
Rahman, M. M. et al. Salinization in large river deltas: drivers, impacts and socio-hydrological feedbacks. Water Security 6, 100024 (2019).
Ayers, J. C. et al. Sources of salinity and arsenic in groundwater in southwest Bangladesh. Geochem.Trans. 17, 4 (2016).
Worland, S. C., Hornberger, G. M. & Goodbred, S. L. Source, transport, and evolution of saline groundwater in a shallow Holocene aquifer on the tidal deltaplain of southwest Bangladesh. Water Resour. Res. 51, 5791–5805 (2015).
Mirza, M. & Hossain, M. A. Adverse effects on agriculture in the Ganges basin in Bangladesh. in The Ganges Water Diversion: Environmental Effects and Implications. Water Sci. Technol. 177–196 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-2792-5_9 (2004).
Roy, K., Gain, A. K., Mallick, B. & Vogt, J. Social, hydro-ecological and climatic change in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh. Reg. Environ. Change 17, 1895–1906 (2017).
Paprocki, K. Threatening dystopias: development and adaptation regimes in Bangladesh. Ann. Am. Assoc. Geogr. 108, 955–973 (2018).
Islam, S. & Gnauck, A. Water salinity investigation in the Sundarbans rivers in Bangladesh. Int. J. Water 6, 74–91 (2011).
Islam, S. N. Sundarbans a dynamic ecosystem: an overview of opportunities, threats and tasks. Coast. Res. 30, 29–58 (2019).
Awty-Carroll, K., Bunting, P., Hardy, A. & Bell, G. Using continuous change detection and classification of landsat data to investigate long-term mangrove dynamics in the sundarbans region. Remote. Sens. 11, 2833 (2019).
Ghosh, M. K., Kumar, L. & Roy, C. Mapping long-term changes in mangrove species composition and distribution in the sundarbans. Forests 7, 305 (2016).
Sievers, M. et al. Indian Sundarbans mangrove forest considered endangered under Red List of Ecosystems, but there is cause for optimism. Biol. Conserv. 251, 108751 (2020).
Miah, M. S. Climatic and anthropogenic factors changing spawning pattern and production zone of Hilsa fishery in the Bay of Bengal. Weather. Clim. Extremes 7, 109–115 (2015).
Ahmed, N., Rahman, S., Bunting, S. & Brugere, C. Socio-economic and ecological challenges of small-scale fishing and strategies for its sustainable management: a case study of the Old Brahmaputra River, Bangladesh. Singap. J. Trop.Geogr. 34, 86–102 (2013).
Chowdhooree, I. Indigenous knowledge for enhancing community resilience: an experience from the south-western coastal region of Bangladesh. Int. J. Disaster Risk Reduct. 40, 101259 (2019).
Talchabhadel, R., Nakagawa, H. & Kawaike, K. Tidal River Management (TRM) and Tidal Basin Management (TBM): A case study on Bangladesh 3rd Eur. Conf. Flood Risk Management (Floodrisk 2016) (ed. Lang, M., Klijn, F. and Samuels, P.) Vol. 7 (2016).
van Staveren, M. F., Warner, J. F. & Khan, M. S. A. Bringing in the tides. From closing down to opening up delta polders via Tidal River Management in the southwest delta of Bangladesh. Water Policy 19, 147–164 (2017).
Al Masud, M. M., Gain, A. K. & Azad, A. K. Tidal river management for sustainable agriculture in the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta: Implication for land use policy. Land. Use Policy 92, 104443 (2020).
Penning-Rowsell, E. C., Sultana, P. & Thompson, P. M. The ‘last resort’? Population movement in response to climate-related hazards in Bangladesh. Environ. Sci. Policy 27, S44–S59 (2013).
Uddin, J., Masum Jujuly, M., Hossain, M. & Rahman, A. Applicability of reinforced concrete spurs in river bank protection: A case study in Bangladesh. 11th Int. Multidisciplinary Scientific Geoconf. and EXPO — Modern Management of Mine Producing, Geology and Environmental Protection, SGEM 2, 777–784 (2011).
Dasgupta, S. et al. Climate proofing infrastructure in Bangladesh: the incremental cost of limiting future flood damage. J. Environ. Dev. 20, 167–190 (2011).
Darby, S. E., Nicholls, R. J., Rahman, M. M., Brown, S. & Karim, M. R. A Sustainable Future Supply of Fluvial Sediment for the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, in Ecosystem Services for Well-Being in Deltas: Integrated Assessment for Policy Analysis (eds Nicholls, R. J., Hutton, C. W., Adger, W. N., Hanson, S. E., Rahman, M. M., Salehin, M.) (Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2017).
Khalequzzaman, M. Recent Floods in Bangladesh — possible causes and solutions. Nat. Hazards 9, 65–80 (1994).
Sinha, R. & Ghosh, S. Understanding dynamics of large rivers aided by satellite remote sensing: a case study from Lower Ganga plains, India. Geocarto Int. 27, 207–219 (2012).
Nakagawa, H., Zhang, H., Baba, Y., Kawaike, K. & Teraguchi, H. Hydraulic characteristics of typical bank-protection works along the Brahmaputra/Jamuna River, Bangladesh. J. Flood Risk Manag. 6, 345–359 (2013).
Mutahara, M., Warner, J. F. & Khan, M. S. A. Multi-stakeholder participation for sustainable delta management: a challenge of the socio-technical transformation in the management practices in Bangladesh. Int. J. Sustain. Dev. World Ecol. 27, 611–624 (2020).
Chamberlain, E. L. et al. Integrating geochronologic and instrumental approaches across the Bengal Basin. Earth Surf. Process. Landf. 45, 56–74 (2020).
Kopp, J. & Kim, W. The effect of lateral tectonic tilting on fluviodeltaic surficial and stratal asymmetries: experiment and theory. Basin Res. 27, 517–530 (2015).
Di Baldassarre, G. et al. Socio-hydrology: conceptualising human–flood interactions. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 17, 3295–3303 (2013).
Di Baldassarre, G., Yan, K., Ferdous, Md. R. & Brandimarte, L. The interplay between human population dynamics and flooding in Bangladesh: a spatial analysis. Evolving Water Resources Systems: Understanding, Predicting And Managing Water–Society Interactions (ed. Castellarin, A., Ceola, S., Toth, E. and Montanari, A.), 364, 188–191 (IAHS Press, 2014).
Di Baldassarre, G. D. et al. Debates — Perspectives on socio-hydrology: capturing feedbacks between physical and social processes. Water Resour. Res. 51, 4770–4781 (2015).
Liu, J. et al. Complexity of coupled human and natural systems. Science 317, 1513–1516 (2007).
Sivapalan, M., Savenije, H. H. G. & Blöschl, G. Socio-hydrology: a new science of people and water: Invited Commentary. Hydrol. Process. 26, 1270–1276 (2012).
Van Deursen, W. DSD-INT 2017 Meta-modelling for decision support (Deltares, 2017).
Akhter, S. et al. Predicting spatiotemporal changes of channel morphology in the reach of Teesta River, Bangladesh using GIS and ARIMA modeling. Quat. Int. 513, 80–94 (2019).
Baiyu, G. New concerns for transboundary rivers as China discusses diversion. The Third Pole https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/01/14/new-concerns-for-transboundary-rivers-as-china-discusses-diversion/ (2020).
Higgins, S. A., Overeem, I., Rogers, K. G. & Kalina, E. A. River linking in India: downstream impacts on water discharge and suspended sediment transport to deltas. Elementa Sci. Anthrop. 6, 20 (2018).
European Commission. Global surface water explorer. European Commission https://global-surface-water.appspot.com/ (2019).
Ceola, S., Laio, F. & Montanari, A. Human-impacted waters: new perspectives from global high-resolution monitoring. Water Resour. Res. 51, 7064–7079 (2015).
Lu, X. et al. Unveiling hidden migration and mobility patterns in climate stressed regions: a longitudinal study of six million anonymous mobile phone users in Bangladesh. Glob. Environ. Change 38, 1–7 (2016).
Steele, J. E. et al. Mapping poverty using mobile phone and satellite data. J. R. Soc. Interface 14, 20160690 (2017).
Overeem, A., Leijnse, H. & Uijlenhoet, R. Country-wide rainfall maps from cellular communication networks. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, 2741–2745 (2013).
Colchester, F. E., Marais, H. G., Thomson, P., Hope, R. & Clifton, D. A. Accidental infrastructure for groundwater monitoring in Africa. Environ. Model. Softw. 91, 241–250 (2017).
Fischer, S., Pietron, J., Bring, A., Thorslund, J. & Jarsjo, J. Present to future sediment transport of the Brahmaputra river: reducing uncertainty in predictions and management. Regional Environ. Change 17, 515–526 (2017).
Deltares. Delft3D open source community. Delft3D https://oss.deltares.nl/web/delft3d (2021).
Karunarathna, H., Horrillo-Caraballo, J., Burningham, H., Pan, S. & Reeve, D. E. Two-dimensional reduced-physics model to describe historic morphodynamic behaviour of an estuary inlet. Mar. Geol. 382, 200–209 (2016).
Bates, P. D., Horritt, M. S. & Fewtrell, T. J. A simple inertial formulation of the shallow water equations for efficient two-dimensional flood inundation modelling. J. Hydrol. 387, 33–45 (2010).
Stive, M. J. F., Capobianco, M., Wang, Z. B., Ruol, P. & Buijsman, M. C. Morphodynamics of a tidal lagoon and the adjacent coast. in Physics of Estuaries and Coastal Seas 397–407 (eds Dronkers, J., and Scheffers, M.) (1998).
Mutahara, M., Warner, J. F., Wals, A. E. J., Khan, M. S. A. & Wester, P. Social learning for adaptive delta management: Tidal River Management in the Bangladesh delta. Int. J. Water Resour. Dev. 34, 923–943 (2018).
Mutahara, M., Warner, J. & Khan, M. S. A. Analyzing the coexistence of conflict and cooperation in a regional delta management system: Tidal River Management (TRM) in the Bangladesh delta. Environ. Policy Gov. 29, 326–343 (2019).
Garzanti, E. et al. Provenance of Bengal shelf sediments: 2. petrology and geochemistry of sand. Minerals 9, 642 (2019).
Singh, S. K. & France-Lanord, C. Tracing the distribution of erosion in the Brahmaputra watershed from isotopic compositions of stream sediments. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 202, 645–662 (2002).
Lupker, M. et al. 10Be-derived Himalayan denudation rates and sediment budgets in the Ganga basin. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 333–334, 146–156 (2012).
This research was funded in part by the engineering and consultancy practice Buro Happold, and is an output from the REACH programme funded by UK Aid from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for the benefit of developing countries (Programme Code 201880). However, the views expressed and information contained are not necessarily those of or endorsed by Buro Happold or FCDO, which accept no responsibility for such views or information, or for any reliance placed on them. The authors acknowledge the support of S. Ferguson in the creation of Fig. 4 and I. Bhalla in the creation of Fig. 7b, and the continuous insightful discussions with N. Venn and H. Rich.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information
Nature Reviews Earth & Environment thanks R. Sinha, C. Wilson and S. Darby for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Increased land elevation due to the deposition of sediment.
Growth of land further out into the sea.
- Subaerial delta
The deltaic plains above the low-tide level.
- Subaqueous delta
The deltaic plains that lie below low-tide level and extend seaward.
The rapid creation of a new river channel, and abandonment of the former river channel.
Increased concentrations of suspended sediments and accumulation of fine sediments within river channels.
Sand bars emerging in river channels or riverbanks as a result of sediment accretion.
Low-lying land enclosed by embankments, providing protection from storm surges and salinity intrusion.
Shallow wetlands where the water level changes seasonally, supporting dry-season agriculture.
About this article
Cite this article
Paszkowski, A., Goodbred, S., Borgomeo, E. et al. Geomorphic change in the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta. Nat Rev Earth Environ 2, 763–780 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-021-00213-4