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[DHAKA] Flood-prone Bangladesh and the Netherlands are planning to exchange research findings and share experience on managing floods, which are projected to worsen because of climate change.

Floods wreak havoc in Bangladesh every year. Last week's floods killed at least four people and stranded an estimated 20,000, according to the Associated Press.

A five-year research programme worth €700,000 (US$1 million) will aim to strengthen the capacity of institutions and communities to deal with moderate and extreme floods. The programme was announced last month (27 June) and will be hosted by the Wageningen University and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

It will allow the scientists to share experiences and come up with a framework that will link disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and flood management. Funds will go towards four PhD research projects that will analyse flood policies and strategies in the two countries, and one project aimed at putting research findings into practice though local workshops.

So far, both countries have had mixed experiences with building embankments on coastal deltas to reclaim low-lying land.

Bangladesh's coast is a flat plain into which sediment-laden rivers drain. Engineers built embankments to keep seawater out of the deltas and to protect against storm surges, Shah Alam Khan, professor at the Institute of Water and Flood Management and a co-leader of the new programme, told SciDev.Net.

But the embankments stopped rain water draining out, causing heavy waterlogging. Local communities eventually started breaking open the embankments to let the accumulated water out. This community-driven process was later adopted as government policy.

"The consequences of the polder [land protected by an embankment] system were not considered when the technology was adopted," Khan said. "Tidal flooding is a natural process in Bangladesh which was barred through [setting up] polders, leaving the overall ecosystem of the area in a dire state."

Large parts of the Netherlands are below the sea level and are also protected by embankments. But there, too, the embankments caused drainage problems as the land got silted up.

To solve the problem, the Netherlands adopted policies on river management by cutting embankments to allow tidal flooding for up to five years. This helped drain out excess water.

Khan said that engineers' efforts on tidal management have not yielded uniform results in all areas, and exchanging knowledge with the Netherlands could help them improve river management.

The research project dubbed 'Communities and institutions for flood resilience: enhancing knowledge and capacity to manage flood risk in the Bangladeshi and Dutch Deltas'', is funded by WOTRO, a Dutch funding organisation for research on global issues.