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Volume 22, issue 10 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 5159-5173, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-5159-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Oct 2018

Research article | 04 Oct 2018

Socio-hydrological spaces in the Jamuna River floodplain in Bangladesh

Md Ruknul Ferdous1,2, Anna Wesselink1, Luigia Brandimarte3, Kymo Slager4, Margreet Zwarteveen1,2, and Giuliano Di Baldassarre1,5,6 Md Ruknul Ferdous et al.
  • 1Department of Integrated Water Systems and Governance, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, 2611 AX, Delft, the Netherlands
  • 2Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam, 1012 WX, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 3Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 4Deltares, 2600 MH, Delft, the Netherlands
  • 5Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden
  • 6Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science, CNDS, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract. Socio-hydrology aims to understand the dynamics and co-evolution of coupled human–water systems, with research consisting of generic models as well as specific case studies. In this paper, we propose a concept to help bridge the gap between these two types of socio-hydrological studies: socio-hydrological spaces (SHSs). A socio-hydrological space is a geographical area in a landscape. Its particular combination of hydrological and social features gives rise to the emergence of distinct interactions and dynamics (patterns) between society and water. Socio-hydrological research on human–flood interactions has found two generic responses, fight or adapt. Distilling the patterns resulting from these responses in case studies provides a promising way to relate contextual specificities to the generic patterns described by conceptual models. Through the use of SHSs, different cases can be compared globally without aspiring to capturing them in a formal model. We illustrate the use of SHS for the Jamuna floodplain, Bangladesh. We use narratives and experiences of local experts and inhabitants to empirically describe and delimit SHS. We corroborated the resulting classification through the statistical analysis of primary data collected for the purpose (household surveys and focus group discussions) and secondary data (statistics, maps etc.). Our example of the use of SHSs shows that the concept draws attention to how historical patterns in the co-evolution of social behaviour, natural processes and technological interventions give rise to different landscapes, different styles of living and different ways of organising livelihoods. This provides a texture to the more generic patterns generated by socio-hydrological models, promising to make the resulting analysis more directly useful for decision makers. We propose that the usefulness of this concept in other floodplains, and for other socio-hydrological systems than floodplains, should be explored.

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Socio-hydrological space (SHS) is a concept that enriches the study of socio-hydrology because it helps understand the detailed human–water interactions in a specific location. The concept suggests that the interactions between society and water are place-bound because of differences in social processes and river dynamics. This would be useful for developing interventions under disaster management, but also other development goals. SHS provides a new way of looking at socio-hydrological systems.
Socio-hydrological space (SHS) is a concept that enriches the study of socio-hydrology because...
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