SERVIR-Himalaya Small Grant Programme

Using GIS to address water scarcity problem in Bangladesh

The Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) in Dhaka, Bangladesh will develop a geospatial database and information system to identify potential water harvesting and storage options and examine the impact of climate change on water availability in Panchhari Upazila. 

Panchhari Upazila in Khagrachari district suffers from acute drinking water shortage. The project site is in a remote part of Bangladesh and accessible only by foot. The main sources of water are river runoff, ditches and charas (creek) on the hills located far from the settlement. The long dry winter, which begins in January and lasts for almost five months, aggravates the problem. People walk long hours to collect scanty water from sources located about 2 - 3 kilometres away from the settlement. Water collected from ‘patkua’, chara, waterfall, and small holes are often mixed with mud and dirt, making it unsafe for drinking. But people have no choice but to use it for drinking and cooking purposes. This has triggered various water borne diseases.

To overcome this severe water crisis, farmers in the area have built small earthen dams in different charas to conserve water. But the water collected thus is only just enough for drinking, and cannot be used for agricultural activities. 

CEGIS will use geospatial tools and techniques to identify potential water harvesting and storage options and examine the impact of climate change on water availability. It will thus develop a geospatial information system in the study area. The project will help in creating a Base Map and Land Use Map for the decision makers, along with digital elevation model, small reservoir map, potential storage map that shows water sources, estimated rainfall, evaporation, and temperature. The study will record possible changes in water availability due to climate change and create a GIS web application for the study area.

The collected data and the GIS web application can be used by the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB), local administration and development organizations in planning development activities aimed at addressing water-related challenges. The geospatial system will visualize spatial information and the potential water storage locations in the project site.