Nature-based Future Challenge

Page 1

Nature-based Future Challenge Create a brighter future for all!

Nature-based Future Challenge

Create a brighter future for all!

© 2024 Wageningen University & Research

All rights reserved: no part of this document may be reproduced, stored in an automated database, or published in any form or by any means, be it electronic, mechanical, by photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Publisher: Wageningen University & Research (

Texts: Nynke Massop, Harm ten Napel, Pauline van Schayck, H.E. Ambassador M. Riaz Hamidullah

Editing: Nynke Massop

Photos: Guy Ackermans, Tim Jacobs, team WUR Student Challenges, jury & participants of the NBF Challenge

Design: GAW, Marieke Eijt

Printing: Modern, Bennekom

We thank our partners and sponsors for their generous contributions. Their support has been invaluable in making the Nature-based Future Challenge an unforgettable and inspirational event, educating the game changers of the future and contributing to innovations for a sustainable future.

4 Nature-based Future Challenge
Impact partner Implementation partners Youth network Media partners Supporting partners
Nature-based Future Challenge | Table of Contents 5 Table of Contents Word from the Rector 6 Nature-based Future Challenge: imagining nature-based future for Bangladesh 8 The best teams tackle the problems at their source 10 Meet the Jury 12 Nature-based Future Challenge in photos 15 Expert coaches help students to dream pragmatically 16 Essay: Bangladesh - a Delta in quest of Future 18 Concepts Borsha Hopes 20 Challenge Impossible 22 Delta Green Team 24 Delta Harmonics 26 Deltability 28 DeltaGo! 30 Dynamic Delta Designers 32 NatureDelta 34 NATURISE 36 PramanaDhara 38 Terraqueous 40 Partners about the Challenge 42

Word from the Rector

A nature-based approach

Climate change and biodiversity loss are amongst the major threats to our future. By working towards a nature-inclusive society, we have the opportunity to not only mitigate the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, but also enhance ecosystem services vital for human well-being, such as clean air, fresh water, and fertile soils. We believe that taking a nature-based, holistic and long term perspective on the development of a region or country helps to activate people and bring them together around a positive outlook on the future. That’s why Wageningen University & Research has invited students from around the world to develop an innovative, nature-based perspective for one of the most climate-vulnerable regions in the world, the Bangladesh delta region.

Inspiring young talent

As a leading institution in the field of sustainability, agriculture and food, we set out to educate and inspire young people, to become the changemakers for a sustainable and resilient future. We provide them with the knowledge and skills to contribute to key global transitions. This Challenge is one of the ways to achieve this. Forty five teams with over seven hundred students from hundred forty seven different universities in forty five countries started on this journey at the end of 2023. After nearly 6 months, 10 teams made it to the finals.

I am very proud of the students that have participated in this edition of the Naturebased Future Challenge. They have developed inspiring visions for a nature-inclusive future for Bangladesh. I am full of admiration for the teams who dedicated so much of their time and energy to make a positive impact on our world. Congratulations to you for your creativity, innovation, hard work and persistence!

6 Nature-based Future Challenge | Word from the Rector

Joining hands to create change

Working together is crucial in tackling the global challenges we all encounter, and this Challenge is no exception. My colleagues at Wageningen University & Research, along with our partners worldwide, have collaborated on this project. I am immensely grateful for their support and would like to express my heartfelt thanks.

I hope the content of this magazine will provide inspiration to anyone interested in contributing to a more sustainable future.

Prof. Dr. Carolien Kroeze

Rector Magnificus

Wageningen University & Research

Nature-based Future Challenge 7

Nature-based Future Challenge: imagining nature-based future for Bangladesh

During the Nature-Based Future Challenge, students learned that nature is key to a hopeful, green future. This international challenge had students collaborating in a pressure cooker to develop a future perspective for a delta. How can the flames be fanned?

Nature-based future

WUR’s Student Challenge topic was not chosen randomly. A green future was also the topic of the Mansholt Lecture delivered by Tim van Hattum in Brussels on 20 September. He illustrated what Europe might look like one hundred years into the future if naturebased solutions are deployed. In an interview after the lecture, Tim van Hattum expressed his contentment at the fact that many students attended the address in addition to the government officials and politicians. Many of these students contributed to the

map. ‘Fortunately, a considerable group of young people are calling for action. Getting them involved is critical’, he said. That was the idea behind this new WUR Student Challenge: the Nature-based Future Challenge.

There is no shortage of interest in the theme. Wageningen Environmental Research’s Martine van Moûrik knows why. ‘Ever since the industrial revolution, we have been trying to solve every issue with technology: increasingly higher dykes, pumping water into the sea to create dry land. We cannot continue along this route indefinitely. Working with nature and basing solutions on the water and soil systems is much better and is in keeping with WUR’s philosophy.’ Solutions such as these are found in the NL2120 and EU2120 future perspectives and have been met with national and international acclaim.

8 Nature-based Future Challenge | Imagining nature-based future for Bangladesh
Text: Pauline van Schayck (WUR)

The Challenge

During the Nature-based Future Challenge more than 700 students from 147 universities on six continents had the chance to explore the potential of the nature-based thinking. Divided into 62 interdisciplinary teams, they developed their vision for Bangladesh and its Bengal delta, one of the most dynamic regions in the world. The densely populated area is rich in fertile soil and supports an abundance of wildlife in its mangrove forests. It is also prone to natural disasters. Student teams proposed innovative interventions aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change and averting the loss of biodiversity taking natural processes as a starting point.

International and local experts

The student teams had quite a formidable task ahead of them. Luckily, the students participated in design studios and received feedback from more than 20 international and local experts, both learning by doing and learning from the best. The coaches were keen to network with the aspiring changemakers, as previous Student Challenges have shown. Of course, the students also learned a lot from each other, as each team was built up out of students with diverse specialities.

The first milestone of the Nature-based Future Challenge was in February. A jury of Bangladeshi and international experts judged the first of the teams reports and selected the top 20 that then moved on to the second round of the Challenge. From these 20 teams, 11 teams were selected in May to go on to the Grand Finals.

“Fortunately, a considerable group of young people are calling for action. Getting them involved is critical.”

Nature-based Future Challenge 9

The best teams tackle the problems at their source

After the first selection moment, twenty student teams remained to compete in the Nature-based Future Challenge and envision a nature-positive future for the Bangladesh River Delta. Two members of the selection committee explain what set these teams apart.

No quick wins or technical fixes

The Bangladesh River Delta struggles with both drought and floods, poor land and water management, issues in governance, and socio-economic challenges. ‘On top of that,’ says De Rooij, ‘the area is extremely densely populated.’ This complex web of challenges needs structural solutions that can stand the test of the future. Nature-based solutions are not about quick wins or simple technical fixes, explains Cora van Oosten, member of the

selection commission and director at research organisation CIFORICRAF. ‘The Delta requires integrated action, and we’ve seen the best teams combine technical projects with social innovation and propositions for institutional change.’

De Rooij agrees. ‘Nature-based strategies, as I like to call them, call for a deep understanding of the natural systems but also consider cultural and social issues. For example, one team proposed floating farms, a solutions that elegantly deals with floods, provides food, and promotes biodiversity.’ On her part, Van Oosten was most impressed by visions that incorporated action at the local level and analyses that took into account more than just the coastal regions. ‘These teams tackle the problems at their source and they realize that systemic change starts locally.’

The people involved need to believe in the future you envision and become motivated to act.
Text: Harm ten Napel (WUR)
10 Nature-based Future Challenge | The best teams tackle the problems at their source
“The different perspectives of scientists and local stakeholders should come together on a nature-based solution.”

Nature-based solutions are integrated

‘In the seventies, polders were built on the coast of Bangladesh, with the support of the Dutch,’ tells De Rooij. ‘Now, about fifty years later, due to soil subsidence, more extreme river discharge and rising sea levels, the polders are like bathtubs with substantial waterlogging. The solution didn’t take enough of the environment, the natural systems, into account.’ It is a poignant example of the limits of a technical intervention. During the Challenge, the teams tried to move beyond this narrow perspective, to offer integrated solutions. To do so, Van Oosten stresses the importance of collaboration: ‘The different perspectives of scientists and local stakeholders should come together on a nature-based solution.’

Beyond the content of their proposals, the student teams also needed to keep working on its form. As one of the minds behind the widely-supported vision for a nature-based future for the Netherlands, NL2120, De Rooij understands the importance of an engaging narrative. ‘Deep analysis, well-found concepts and smart solutions are important, but you also need to tell a story that brings your ideas together. The people involved need to believe in the future you envision and become motivated to act. I call that: making people owners of their hope. Not just passively supportive, but actively engaged.’

Nature-based Future Challenge 11

Meet the Jury

Cora van Oosten - Head of Capacity Development & Education at CIFOR-ICRAF

Cora van Oosten, a Human Geographer with 30 years of international experience in natural resources management, landscape approaches, governance, capacity development and education. She is currently the Head of Capacity Development & Education at CIFOR-ICRAF in Bogor, Indonesia. Throughout her career, she has focused on harnessing landscape natural resources for local sustainable development and strengthening the bond between people and their environment. Cora’s experience aligns with the concept of nature-based solutions, as she has worked extensively with local communities and governments to address the challenges of degradation and promote sustainable development. CIFOR-ICRAF’s work over the last 40 years has focused on harnessing the power of trees, forests, and agroforests to combat global challenges, echoing Cora’s own approach.

“The most important aspect of the challenge in my eyes is developing a spatial approach to Bangladesh’s challenge and integrating the multiple drivers and impacts of degradation into one integrated approach. This requires interdisciplinary collaboration, and a strong interaction with local people who are the owners of both the problems as well as the solutions.”

“I really like the visions that have been produced by the students, as the ones that are now running for the first price are the ones that do represent an interdisciplinary approach, and that are solidly built on local peoples’ insights. The visions have not been developed overnight, they are really the product of a thorough analysis, and deep interaction with local stakeholders on the ground. Moreover, their visualisations are really fantastic. This is important, as it increases their credibility, and their chance of being operationalised in real life.”

Dr. Haseeb Md. Irfanullah - Independent Consultant in Environment, Climate Change & Research System

Dr. Haseeb Md. Irfanullah, a biologist-turned-development facilitator, has over 25 years of experience in environment, climate change, development and research systems. As an independent consultant and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, he has been actively involved in promoting nature-based solutions and locally led adaptation. Haseeb’s involvement in various projects and capacity development initiatives in Bangladesh and beyond has focused on integrating nature-based solutions into climate change adaptation and resilience building efforts. He has been extensively involved in training and capacity building to mainstream nature-based solutions into policies and programs in Bangladesh.

For Haseeb, the most important aspects of the challenge are comprehensively exploring present knowledge, envisioning a future using this knowledge, and fostering passion and inspiration. He emphasises the importance of an emotional connection in developing long-term plans for Bangladesh, a dynamic delta nation. Haseeb finds the students’ visions very impressive. He appreciates their comprehensive analysis, innovative approaches and focus on scaling up existing good practices. And he believes their visions offer inspiration for Bangladesh’s sustainable development.

“Uncertainties posed by climate change for Bangladesh in attaining high-income status and in maintaining it is always a challenge to define a future over the next 10 decades. Despite these, the teams could create amazing visions for my delta nation. And, I congratulate them for their fantastic team efforts.”

12 Nature-based Future Challenge | Meet the Jury

John Reich - Scientific Program Director at FFAR

John Reich, a Scientific Program Director at the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), has been actively involved in building partnerships between the public and private sectors to advance food and agriculture science. Including involvement in FFAR’s first multi-stakeholder consortium, the Crops of the Future, creating a model for FFAR consortia. John continuously works on developing partnerships and programs that catalyse new areas of multi-disciplinary, cross-sectorial, and participatory research that builds on current investments to benefit the public. With a background in genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry, John applies his expertise to address nutrition security, health, and economic opportunities through scientific advancement.

According to John, the most important aspects of the challenge include the interconnectedness of resources within a region, the collective impact of multiple solutions, and the consideration of economic sectors. He stresses the need for holistic approaches that minimise environmental tradeoffs and maximise the benefits of nature-based solutions.

“For me, the most important thing to take into consideration for this challenge is the interconnectedness and sharing of resources within a region, in addition to the interconnectedness and collective impacts of multiple solutions. This of course involves meeting regional stakeholders’ needs and desires. I think it is also important to consider multiple economic sectors, especially as the world transitions to a more sustainable economy, and the solutions nature can provide by working with these sectors . We know that as we transition, that this transition comes with tradeoffs, including environmental tradeoffs. How we utilise nature to minimise these tradeoffs will be important to think about, and should include the economic sectors of importance to a region whether that is mining, manufacturing, agriculture, etc.”

Dr. Selim Reza Hasan - Country Manager Bangladesh for Solidaridad

Selim Reza Hasan has over 33 years of leadership experience in agri-business, food system development, and climate change adaptation. He serves as the Country Manager for Solidaridad in Bangladesh. Solidaridad is an international network organisation working across 52 countries to co-create nature-based solutions for sustainable agriculture and food supply systems. Selim believes that nature-based solutions are essential for addressing the interconnected challenges of agricultural productivity, economic prosperity, biodiversity preservation, and climate change adaptation. He emphasises the importance of deep understanding of the ecosystem and landscape in creating a business case for land and water use to maximise agricultural productivity while sustaining ecosystems and the environment.

For Selim, the most important consideration in the challenge is the development of a business model that ensures the wellbeing of the landscape and sustains nature-based solutions for agriculture, food systems, and economic prosperity. He stresses the need for strategies that bring stability to the earth system, create resilience in the economy, and harmonise ecosystems for the wellbeing of both ecosystems and communities.

“The visions set by the students have rightly taken into consideration nature- based solutions for developing/restoring a functional ecosystem that enables sustainable land use, improvement in biodiversity and water management as well as to build resilient communities.”

“Creation of local ownership and engagement of the multistakeholders are the key enabler for scale uptake of naturebased solutions”

Nature-based Future Challenge 13

Dr. Farhana Ahmed - Head Research & Training at CEGIS

Farhana Ahmed, with 22 years of experience in planning, strategy formulation, and vulnerability assessment, has worked as an urban, rural, and regional planner and environmental, climate change adaptation, and resilience expert. She has been involved in various national and international projects focusing on Bangladesh’s sustainable development. Specifically in projects that integrate locally practised nature-based measures to achieve long-term environmental, social, and economic benefits. She played a crucial role in formulating Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, focusing on region-specific strategies and interventions that address the country’s unique bio-physical, socio-economic, and environmental characteristics.

According to Farhana, the challenge should focus on tackling climate change impacts while ensuring minimal hindrance to socio-economic development. She emphasises the need for region-specific nature-based solutions that consider the diverse characteristics of different hydrological regions and the integration of local knowledge and practices. Farhana is impressed by the students’ understanding of Bangladesh’s critical problems and issues and their ability to envision a sustainable future for the country. She appreciates the students’ visionary thinking, comprehensive analysis, and strategic formulation of nature-based solutions that align with climate change adaptation, development targets, and sustainable agriculture

“Visions set by some teams are aligned with the climate change adaptation and development targets. The naturebased solutions are nicely formulated and well matched with regional variations for transformation towards sustainable development.”

Tim van Hattum - Program Leader Green Climate Solutions at WUR

Tim van Hattum, head of the Green Climate Solutions Programme at Wageningen University & Research, is a naturebased solutions expert. Tim was involved in several naturebased solutions studies. In 2019 a group of WUR-colleagues developed a nature-based vision for The Netherlands in 2120. With this vision they aimed to create more awareness for the importance and potential of nature-based solutions. The vision had a large impact. It was picked up by the media and they were invited to discuss the vision by many stakeholders. It led to a research and innovation programme of €150 million where research institutes, companies, NGOs and governments in the Netherland join forces to accelerate the implementation of nature-based solutions. In 2023 together with a group of students we developed a nature-based vision for Europe in 2120.

According to Tim, moving beyond alarming messages about climate change and biodiversity loss requires the power of storytelling and imagination to create visions for the future. He believes that the challenge generates positive energy and hope for the future, emphasising the importance of developing visions and transformation pathways.

“It is very inspiring that so many students from so many countries joined forces to develop a nature-based vision for Bangladesh. The results are very impressive and food for thought for Bangladesh and other delta regions.”

14 Nature-based Future Challenge | Meet the Jury

Colours of Bangladesh

Nature-based Future Challenge | Colours of Bangladesh 15

Expert coaches help students to dream pragmatically

Text: Harm ten Napel


Industry experts coach each team competing in the Nature-based Future Challenge. Specialists in ecology, landscape architecture, international governance, and all the other aspects of nature-based solutions lend their insight to help the student teams envision a nature-positive future.

The student teams were supported by experts from the partner network of the Challenge. These professionals work at knowledge institutes, NGO’s and associated industry leaders, doing what students are now learning to: devising nature-based solutions to complex, international challenges. Their advice helps take the teams’ ideas to another level, although the teams need no encouragement to dream big. “The students are ambitious and use big words for big goals,” says Katie Minderhoud of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. “I’ve tried to provide a reality check: how do ideas translate to practice?”

Reality cannot be pigeonholed

“We can never welcome enough input,” says Ignacio Andueza Kovacevic, who is enrolled in the Masters Climate Studies and is a member of team Terraqueous. Like other teams, the team was coached to focus their attention on a specific part of the region,

zooming in. “The coach’s comments alerted us to the scale of our plans. We were reluctant to make changes there but we reacted by making our proposals as concrete as possible. We believe our team sports the knowledge to assess the complexity of our chosen area, but without this input, that assessment might have stayed too general.”

Jelle Vincken, a hydrologist and stakeholder manager at WSP, advised the team he coached in a different kind of segmentation. “I saw a tendency to divide the land into tidy sectors, but reality cannot be pigeonholed. When making your cross-section, you should remain aware of transition areas.” The variety in landscape is what makes the Bangladesh river delta so interesting, he says. “Bangladesh shows the full range of problems that coincide with water. Some areas need to retain it, others have far too much of it. It’s a real challenge.”

Formulate clear questions

Both Minderhoud and Vincken praise the capacities of the teams they coach. “Beyond their scientific and intellectual capabilities, the team’s report was also presented in an attractive way,” says Vincken. “In my line of work we see a rising demand for clear, evocative illustrations and diagrams—ways to give a real

“We’ve had such interesting and productive discussions and dialogues inside our team, and our coach’s commentary was definitely a part of that.”
16 Nature-based Future Challenge | Expert coaches help students to dream pragmatically

“The Challenge has allowed me to look beyond my own discipline, hydrology,” says Vincken, “to learn more about solutions that deal with different aspects of the landscape.”

impression of the proposed plans, not just construction plans.”

Vincken has asked the team he coaches to present their completed plans at a meeting of his peers in the UK and the Netherlands. When he himself visited a conference on climate adaptation, he took back what he learned to the team. “The conference focused on the development pathways to a more climate resilient future exactly what the team was so busy tackling.”

“Say clearly what you know and what you don’t know,” emphasized Minderhoud, with regards to how Nature-based Solutions are presented by the students. “Formulating clear questions is the bedrock of iterative research.” Minderhoud also motivated the team she coached to take stock of the policies and practices already present in Bangladesh. “There can be a tendency to swoop in as an outsider. That is where a governance perspective comes in: understanding the local context across scale levels and working with existing institutions, norms and practices, to explore what change is desired and possible, learning from the past and anticipating the future.”

The importance of teamwork

“The members of my team all shared a drive to think about the future, but also a consciousness about reality. We can be pragmatic as well. It’s what has connected us,” says Andueza. The coaches agree that teamwork is one of the most essential skills the challenge tests. “Soft skills are so important once you leave university. My impression is that teams that connect and know how to work together are the teams that go far,” says Minderhoud. Especially on a project as big and diverse as this, where so many areas of expertise come together, communication is key. “Teamwork might well be the most useful skill,” says Vincken. At the end of April, the selection moment will show which teams know how to use it best.

Andueza explains how the Challenge has allowed him to meet like-minded people who are as interested as he is in learning more about Nature-based Solutions. “We’ve had such interesting and productive discussions and dialogues inside our team, and our coach’s commentary was definitely a part of that.” The coaches, too, have taken the Challenge as an opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of Nature-based approaches. “The Challenge has allowed me to look beyond my own discipline, hydrology,” says Vincken, “to learn more about solutions that deal with different aspects of the landscape.”

Nature-based Future Challenge 17

Essay: Bangladesh - a Delta in quest of Future

Text: H.E. Ambassador M. Riaz Hamidullah

In a populous and dynamic Bangladesh delta, imagining ‘future’ can little be based on delving into the accomplishments. Which Bangladesh do we imagine? How will 170 million people exercise their aspirationsperceptions-preferences where the median age is just 27.5 years (2020)? How would the land shape as it moves from a long-known agrarian economy to a manufacturing and service one? In the ‘land of rivers’, what future awaits hundreds of rivers heaped by a stupendous one billion ton of sediments?

Call for solutions that capture complex social or cultural realities

Here is a land where man continues to triumph against the limits of nature. Climatic stress and their impacts though add to growing complexities. All combined, we are much challenged to make foolproof assumptions and in projecting apt scenarios. And, so often, basing on the past two to three decades’ average helps little. In shaping the developmental interventions, the ‘unknowns’ onthe-ground get difficult to fathom. ‘Meta models’ often cannot capture complex social or cultural realities in a largely traditional setting. Sometimes even mid-way through a project, certain realities crop up that could not be assumed apriori. In such a milieu, factoring in risks or uncertainties and making those understandable to all stakeholders gets challenging.

In shaping the developmental interventions, the ‘unknowns’ on-the-ground get difficult to fathom.

In policy-space, research or development administration, an overriding dilemma is to balance the wider context of a problematique as against its cross-sectoral linkages. Many in Bangladesh often miss out that e.g. 15 million Bangladeshis live in Chars; that wetlands constitute 10% of our landmass; that farming continues to thrive in an informal economy with a sizable footprint of women.

Dealing with difficult trade-offs

At the same time, solutions to many challenges often involve difficult trade-offs. For instance, over 40% people now live in urban spaces. By 2030, 48% (nearly half the population) will be in urban

space. This comes against the fact that Bangladesh is losing 1% of her arable land, every year. While we have to go for (labourintensive) industrialisation, the horizontal expansion also stretches the limits of economic resources (e.g. water) that is in equal (if not more) demand in farming. Similarly, precious topsoil fell prey to high demand for clay-fired bricks in Bangladesh.

Furthermore, the dominant narrative portrays Bangladesh as a most water-endowed country. That is little a monolith: while five months of the year the land is soaked courtesy monsoon rain, more than half the year, the land stays dry. As for water demand, it’s considerably uneven, even for irrigation. In the past five decades, round-the-year navigable waterways has shrunk by more than half. Much of our indigenous flora and fauna are under stress e.g. riverine fish. Growing erraticity in rainfall and seasonal changes or, onset of heatwaves or, changing pathogens and the climatic disturbances stands to risk the delta’s water future. On the other hand, competing demand for water between factories and farms, between cities and industries, looks certain to intensify in the years ahead. With most of the trans-boundary rivers’ headwaters far beyond borders, one should not be struck if small-holders in otherwise water-endowed chars or wetlands fall into water stress.

In tackling such complex inter-sections, one would need to be forthright in facing the puzzles:

- How to minimize risks across farming? How to make agriculture resource-intensive for the dominant small-holder population?

- With rising farming intensity to feed a large population, how do we balance the stress on soil or, offset rising dose of chemical inputs?

- How to save natural capital (i.e. common property resources) thwarting private ownership and profit? How to attract millions of youth to fields as against the back-breaking farming that their parents engaged in?

Balancing profit, wealth and prosperity

In the Bangladesh delta, farming is not just a livelihood, but also identity and heritage for the vast majority of small/marginal farmers. Unlike neo-classical diktats, they can little be left to

18 Nature-based Future Challenge | Essay: Bangladesh - a Delta in quest of Future

market-driven efficient resource allocation. So, how do we make farming beneficial to them? Steadily get cost-effective solutions to them? Create an optimum space where treasured traditional practices (across rural societies) are optimally blended with contemporary science-technology? Scale up their innovations or let them adapt to niche solutions?

In the past five decades, Bangladesh has been successful in attaining food security for her people. A significant feat. With much of stress-complexities in distance, an overarching question would be: how do we ‘balance’ profit (private capital), wealth (nature) and prosperity (small-holders) in the long run?

Yes, in addressing complex problems or issues in future Bangladesh, #digitalisation and #technology hold promise. But, in order for technology(ies) to be an ‘essential enabler’, their accessibility needs to be democratised. For instance, reaching some of the life-saving (global) technologies to the vast majority of small-holders. Or, ensuring societal stability by meaningfully factoring in global dimensions of the local problems.

Every challenge in Bangladesh, therefore, stands as a potential opportunity for any to unleash imaginative solutions.

Unleashing imaginative solutions

As an optimist and doer, I am not to portray Bangladesh merely in terms of the gaps or limitations. Let me also underwrite a land endowed with fertile soil, abundant freshwater, diverse agroecology, rich biodiversity and millions of small-holders’ farming heritage. Every challenge in Bangladesh, therefore, stands as a potential opportunity for any to unleash imaginative solutions.

Imagining the future is fun – be it bleak or bright. We can counteract little staying within our comfort zone or known domain.

Nature-based Future Challenge 19

Borsha Hopes

With the Borsha comes the hope of a new nature based future.

A dynamic Bangladesh

Bangladesh faces significant challenges, with a densely populated urban environment and a high poverty rate. Internal migration from rural to urban areas is driven by issues such as natural hazards and limited job opportunities. Rice and fish are staples, making Bangladesh the 4th largest rice producer, but challenges like water contamination and salinity affect the fishing industry. Environmental problems, including earthquakes, erosion, sea-level rise, and cyclones, are exacerbated by climate change and human activities.

Uncovering potentials

Bangladesh, including the Chattogram region, faces numerous challenges but also has significant potential for economic, environmental, and social advancement. By embracing strategies that safeguard biodiversity, preserve natural resources, and promote equitable income distribution, Bangladesh can serve as a global exemplar in combating climate change and enhancing the quality of life for its citizens.

“It was interesting to think about the different problems and solutions in a transdisciplinary way.”



The Chattogram division was chosen as a study area due to its unique history, geography, economy, and environmental conditions. Divided into four zones, this region demands focused research and sustainable development initiatives. Transition pathways must encompass energy, biodiversity, water, food, economy, and urbanisation, respecting local specificities while promoting sustainable transitions.

“We are very much hopeful that the knowledge we gained throughout the journey will be helpful for our future career.”

Making technological solutions fit a better future for all

To ensure a positive future for Chattogram in 2120, technological solutions must respect biodiversity, local culture, and mitigate climate change. Priorities include renewable energy sources, decontamination of polluted waters, and better water resource management. Sustainable agricultural practices, improved infrastructure, and equitable access to basic services are also essential for economic development and environmental preservation.

20 Nature-based Future Challenge | Borsha Hopes

Ana Laura Cardoso Santos, Bianca

Perin Malaghini, Carlos Alberto

Beretta de Lima, Joana Gabriela

Coutinho Soares, Renan Rosalis da Silva, Mir Raisul Islam, Amit Ranjan

Kar, Isabela Rodrigues dos Santos, Ester de Carvalho Pereira, Júlia De Barros Rodrigues, Lorena Avallone Mendonça, Guilherme Farovola Boaventura

University of São Paulo, Brandenburg University of Technology

Nature-based Future Challenge 21

Challenge Impossible

Establish interconnected floating cities, Fight against climate disaster

Diversity of Bangladesh

Bangladesh, with its unique geographical environment, boasts rich biodiversity and cultural diversity. The country’s rivers provide fertile land, supporting its primarily agriculture-based economy. However, Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change, particularly rising sea levels, which lead to soil erosion and frequent natural disasters like hurricanes and storm surges. These environmental changes contribute to the gradual decrease in biodiversity and an increase in endangered species, threatening both the livelihoods of the people and cultural diversity. Despite these challenges, Bangladesh’s cultural diversity and traditional wisdom have helped mitigate the effects of natural disasters to some extent.

Co-prosperity between nature and humans

Bangladesh’s future is deeply intertwined with its water resources, particularly the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Mekong rivers, which not only sustain life but also shape the country’s landscape and culture. Our vision for Bangladesh in 2120 revolves around the co-prosperity between nature and humans, focusing on five keywords: Water, Biodiversity, Agriculture, Human, and Dynamic. Building on the Bangladesh 2100 Vision and Nature-based Solutions Goals, our vision aims to create a sustainable future by leveraging the country’s natural and cultural characteristics.

“We set out on an exploration of the river pathways, engaging in a harmonious process of combining the forces of nature with human effort.”

Zone 15

Our focus is on zone 15, comprising offshore islands, for further study due to its proximity to Chittagong and the Sundarbans National Park, rich biodiversity, and potential for shipping, industry, and settlements. Situated at the junction of rivers and seas, Zone 15 is rich in water resources, with a varied habitat pattern and three important endangered species: the Bengal tiger, the Ganges crocodile, and the Ganges dolphin. This region aligns well with the national vision of Bangladesh and our theme.

Transitioning through two phases

Our transition pathway includes short-term goals and practical measures from 2024 to 2075, as well as long-term goals and plans from 2075 to 2120. During the initial phase (2024-2075), international organisations will provide fund support and publicity, while the Bangladesh government will formulate and implement policies. We aim to improve the participation of local residents and activate individual sponsorship. In the later phase (2075-2120), we plan to innovate traditional practices, establishing “Floating City Groups” and “Regenerated Floating Ecological Islands” to increase production and living space while providing a barrier against floods and storms.

22 Nature-based Future Challenge | Challenge Impossible

Huazhong Agricultural University

“The Challenge was a process of cultural exchange, giving us the opportunity to ‘wander’ through Bangladesh.”

Nature-based Future Challenge 23
Tao Yang, Zichen Wang, Qingqing Zhang, Siyu Liu, Siyu Chen, Shiyu Shen, Cheng Cheng, Xiyue Wang

Delta Green Team

Barishal 2120: Pioneering NbS for Climate Resilience and Community Empowerment

Climate Challenges in Bangladesh

Bangladesh faces significant climate challenges, with its population disproportionately affected by global warming, largely due to emissions from more industrialised nations. Traditional adaptation methods are increasingly inadequate to address the complexities of climate-related issues such as flooding, droughts, and salinity intrusion, threatening agriculture and livelihoods. Nature-based solutions offer cost-effective, sustainable alternatives that support an ecological balance and provide essential services to enhance community resilience and economic stability.

Target region: Barishal

Barishal was selected as our focus area due to its high vulnerability to climate impacts such as flooding, droughts, and river erosion. This region’s unique geographical setting makes it particularly susceptible to environmental stressors. Nature-based solutions including mangrove restoration, sustainable agriculture, and wetland conservation will mitigate these challenges and bolster long-term resilience and socio-economic stability.

Barishal as a pioneering model of resilience

By 2120, we envision Barishal as a pioneering model of resilience, where Nature-Based Solutions are integrated across all sectors to address multifaceted climate challenges. Comprehensive Ecological Water Management (CEWM) will effectively manage seasonal floods, combat salinity intrusion, alleviate water scarcity, and enhance food security while preserving biodiversity. Barishal’s transformation will feature adaptive infrastructure designed to coexist with dynamic aquatic systems, fostering a thriving economy rooted in sustainable practices such as eco-tourism and green technologies. The successful implementation in Barishal can serve as a scalable blueprint for the rest of Bangladesh, promoting sustainable development and enhancing community well-being nationwide.

The road to 2120

The transition to 2120 requires a multi-scale approach integrating NbS and strategies. Utilizing frameworks like the DPSIR model, MLP model, and the Master Transition Pathway enhances long-

“Participating in the Challenge has been transformative, pushing us to innovate and integrate nature-based solutions in ways we hadn’t imagined.”

term implementation dynamics. The DPSIR framework prioritizes interventions by elucidating environmental challenges and responses. The MLP model contextualizes NbS within socio-economic dynamics, identifying transition opportunities and challenges towards sustainability. The Transition Pathway envisions adaptable strategies over a century, emphasizing flexibility and adaptability to changing circumstances. Strategic foresight, adaptive management, and a commitment to sustainable progress are crucial for Barishal’s journey to 2120.


Challenge allowed us to deeply collaborate with an interdisciplinary team, all while working within a well-structured timeline and under the guidance of our dedicated coach.”

24 Nature-based Future Challenge | Delta Green Team
Nature-based Future Challenge 25
Ramazan Dauzov, Avgusta Chiriaeva, Jonie Agas, Moushan Fatima, Thotsaphon Wanphen, Rand Hamdallah Glasgow Caledonian University

Delta Harmonics

Prospering in harmony with water and nature

Fast development of Bangladesh Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries globally, is located in the world’s largest delta, making it highly vulnerable to natural disasters like floods, cyclones, and sea-level rise. Despite these challenges and political unrest since its independence, Bangladesh is emerging as one of the fastest-growing economies globally. To ensure a sustainable future, addressing challenges from various perspectives is crucial. In this NBF Challenge, our team focuses on Northwestern Bangladesh, a rural agricultural region between the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, home to around 45 million people. Intensive agriculture has degraded the natural environment, leading to significant challenges such as extreme droughts, groundwater depletion, and water scarcity. However, nature-based interventions in this upstream area can benefit both the resilient people in the region and positively impact the downstream delta.

Envisioning an harmonious future

We envision a future where people live in harmony with water and nature, using natural resources respectfully, with a focus on restoration and regeneration approaches. Nature-based solutions are co-created and managed by local communities, emphasising empowerment and engagement. Clean rivers, climate-resilient cities, and sustainable economic growth detached from environmental degradation are central to our vision. Circular principles of reusing and recycling materials drive socio-economic development, creating new employment opportunities in a circular economy. Equity and high-quality education for all are fundamental elements underpinning all development efforts.

To address groundwater depletion, we propose widespread watershed regeneration, involving intercepting rainfall at the source, slowing it down, and managed aquifer recharge. Agricultural productivity will increase through climate-resilient seed varieties, innovation such as nitroplasts research, and the integration of agroecology. We aim to preserve natural areas using a zonal approach, with native forests and wetlands surrounded by buffer zones hosting agroforestry, fishing, and ecotourism activities, while providing ecological corridors.

“Participating in the Nature-Based Future Challenge required exceptional teamwork, self-motivation, and perseverance, but allowed us to explore and develop skills in new areas.”

Dynamic path to the future

We developed several transition pathways based on the key principles of our vision, focusing on rivers, cities, agriculture, and natural areas. These pathways will involve input and participation from essential stakeholders identified through our stakeholder analysis. Our plan emphasises dynamic adaptation, collaboration, and inspiration to address unpredictable challenges and incorporate essential thresholds, such as urbanisation and the transition to renewable energy. Our plan outlines policy and economic strategies necessary to motivate and inspire stakeholders, with defined goals to be reached over time.

“I really enjoyed learning about Bangladesh through the Nature-Based Future Challenge and exploring and envisioning Nature-Based Futures together!”
26 Nature-based Future Challenge | Delta Harmonics

Smrcek, Hana Chourová, Carla Leone, Nathaniël Rosegg

Wageningen University, Noakhali Science and Technology University, University of Edinburgh, Mendel University in Brno, Hogeschool Inholland

Nature-based Future Challenge 27
Victoria Haskins, Isabelle Alten, Isabella Anglin, Md. Saiful Islam, Maud Vink, Jiří Svatoš, Lubomir

Barisal 2120: Climate-resilience in Interconnected Region

Potential of the Barisal Division

The Barisal Division of Bangladesh faces a complex scenario with a mix of advantages, disadvantages, possibilities, and threats. Its abundant biodiversity, including mangrove forests, marshes, and rivers, supports a strong fishing industry and offers potential for tourism. However, the region is vulnerable to climate change risks such as cyclones and flooding. Despite its potential for agriculture and tourism, inadequate infrastructure hinders economic progress. Over-reliance on farming and fishing makes the local economy vulnerable to market fluctuations, exacerbating poverty and social inequality. Nonetheless, Barisal Division has opportunities for sustainable growth through initiatives such as sustainable tourism development, resilient infrastructure, renewable energy projects, and mangrove conservation.

Student Challenge

Inclusive vision

In 2120, Barisal Division exemplifies an interconnected, climate-resilient region, where food production and clean water are sustained by natural ecosystems. Five missions support this vision: conservation, water access, eco-tourism, regional connectivity, and food security. To bridge the gap between the current and desired situations, concrete solutions have been identified, focusing on resilience, sustainability, and inclusive development. These solutions include mangrove expansion, phytofiltration, transportation corridors, eco-tourism based on local heritage, and aquaculture improvement through capacity-building and training initiatives. Close collaboration with local entities ensures that solutions meet the needs of those most affected.

“This voyage has been a true challenge that has heightened my adrenaline and made me more critical and aware of my surroundings as the execution of my academic knowledge”

Putting the vision into work

The transition pathways outline how the proposed vision will be realised and what policies are needed for success. Six main spatial plans, each requiring similar policies or measures, are proposed. Market-based policy mechanisms, such as the Payments for Environmental Services (PES) approach used in Costa Rica, are recommended to change people’s behaviour. Under the PES program, local landowners are paid to protect watersheds, conserve biodiversity, or mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. Financing for this program can come from an Ecosystem fund, collecting revenue from multiple sources. Regulation, monitoring systems provided by local facilitators, support for landowners, and guidance from local NGOs are essential for successful implementation and conservation efforts.


motivation and personal interest for this challenge grew over the time as I was learning from this topic and seeing my friends being dedicated to this issue”

28 Nature-based Future Challenge | Deltability
Nature-based Future Challenge 29
Putri Nabilah, Rahmad Siregar, Ayoub Rozanes, Ramadhan Ramadhan, Nidya Putri Wageningen University, Universitas Gadjah Mada Institut Teknologi Bandung
Envisioning nature-based solutions for Bangladesh’s Khulna District is a MOSAIC of pieces, which come together to create resilient societies in the face of climate change.

Bangladesh under threat

Bangladesh is confronted with significant challenges due to climate change, primarily sea level rise and erratic precipitation patterns. These factors threaten water availability, uprooting economic and social stability particularly for vulnerable communities. Rising sea levels force mass internal migration away from the coast, straining already fragile urban areas. Erratic precipitation leads to prolonged droughts and intense flooding, impacting crucial sectors like urban infrastructure, agriculture, and nature reserves. The country’s main economic sector, agriculture, is under severe strain, necessitating resilient measures against climate change.

Alleviating the strain on water infrastructure

We aim to address water infrastructure strain in Bangladesh by incorporating nature-based solutions. Anticipating increased urban populations and more frequent natural hazards, we propose a zoning scheme called MOSAIC (MultifunctiOnal Sustainable Agroecology Zones for Coastal LIvelihoods). Our vision includes a coastal zone of blue-carbon ecosystems, a nature conservation zone with a double dyke system, an agriculture and aquaculture zone, and a blue-green urban zone. This approach ensures long-term, climate-smart livelihoods for farmers while enhancing economic security and resilience against natural hazards.

Khulna District

We have chosen the Khulna District in the south-central region of Bangladesh as the focus area for our MOSAIC approach. This region, connected to the coast, is highly vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surges, and cyclones. Our analysis identified multiple hotspots within the area, including biodiversity, agriculture, urban centres, rural communities, and nature reserves. Leveraging the strengths and weaknesses of these hotspots, we aim to create a holistic approach to climate change adaptation and resilience.

Roadmap to 2120

Our transition pathway begins with prioritising and strengthening existing nature, including implementing oyster reefs, enhancing mangrove ecosystems, and afforestation. Simultaneously, transitioning farmers away from unsustainable practices towards climate-smart agriculture is essential. Once nature and food systems are established, the focus shifts to building a double dyke system to buffer against sea level rise and storms. Cities will incorporate stormwater management and interconnected wetlands. Continuous monitoring and reassessment will ensure the effectiveness of these measures up to 2120.

“When our team encountered difficulties, mentors were readily available to refine ideas collaboratively.”
30 Nature-based Future Challenge | DeltaGo!

NBS challenge has pushed me to develop my interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration.”

Nature-based Future Challenge 31
Alexis Drevetzki, Dwiva Anbiya Taruna, Reksa Kridawasesa, Woon Jo Cheng, Jee Su Yoo, Bonivasius Pradipta Retmana, Thais Mauron, Taufik Rachmat Gumilang, Phuu Thit Kyaw Wageningen University, TU Delft

Dynamic Delta Designers

A group of close-friends that together try to achieve the ultimate climate resilient future for Bangladesh through nature based solutions.

Bangladesh: geographical diversity and vulnerability

Creating a vision for Bangladesh in 2120 requires acknowledging its geographical diversity and the vulnerability of lowland chars to flooding, as well as the challenges experienced in the drier hill and mountain regions. Elevation significantly shapes climate, ecosystems, and agriculture. A fitting vision should explore specialised farming options based on this elevation variety and corresponding climatic conditions to ensure future food security. Collaboration with neighbouring countries in water management is crucial to adapt to fluctuations in water supply. The plan should consider different emission scenarios and address threats such as higher variability in precipitation, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events, enhanced by climate change. Options such as mangrove preservation, agricultural diversification, and disaster-resilient infrastructure should be explored. Addressing current social inequalities through spatial interventions is also crucial.

A thriving future for all

In our vision for Bangladesh in 2120, the country thrives. We aim for a future where Bangladesh navigates through the challenges of food security, nature, and biodiversity, water management, energy, transport, and socio-economic equality. The vision includes

ensuring enough food and clean water for everyone, protection from seasonal floods and salinization, and promoting diverse and healthy ecosystems along with eco-friendly agriculture. Social inclusivity, where everyone has equal opportunities, is a key part of this vision. Our dream for Bangladesh involves growth, environmental well-being, and fairness for all.

Focus on Barisal District

Our vision for Bangladesh in 2120 focuses on the Barisal District, where various challenges converge, leading to a poor standard of living. Despite these challenges, we see possibilities for improvement in this region. We aim to develop mangrove forests and climate-resilient crops to effectively resist flooding and salinization.

“Where to start? Through meetings with experts in the field, we were able to make a design that is on the level of one division in Bangladesh: the region of Barisal.”
32 Nature-based Future Challenge | Dynamic Delta Designers
“Designing solely with the focus on nature based solutions, gave us an important insight.”

Transitioning: short-term to long-term

To transition effectively to the envisaged future, we need a strategy that involves various stakeholders, addresses immediate challenges, and provides the basis for long-term sustainability. Our transition path begins with short-term, small-scale pilots involving locals to test the effectiveness of proposed interventions. Successful pilot projects are then extended to neighbouring communities, accompanied by awareness campaigns. Large-scale implementations of coastal protection, policies, and regulations to encourage sustainable aquaculture, and the integration of nature-based solutions into regional development plans follow.

“Asking experts in the field for help, quickly showed us the right way.”
Nature-based Future Challenge 33
Riva Kramer, Eva De Boer, Jasper Kirpensteijn, Sophie Righolt, Floor Wiegerinck, Félix Sens, Abel Nijsink

Antifragile Khulna district

Bangladesh and water

Bangladesh faces significant climate challenges, especially regarding water resources. Floods, droughts, and rising sea levels are a threat. Adaptive agricultural practices exist, such as cultivating “floating rice” during floods. However, overuse of groundwater and limited crop diversity raise concerns. Urbanisation exacerbates water resource strains, especially in flood-prone areas. Salinization contaminates drinking water and agricultural land. Nature-based solutions are vital for enhancing water accessibility and food security.

Khulna District leading in climate resilience

By 2120, Khulna district will lead Bangladesh in climate change resilience. A nature-based future will see water as the lifeblood of the region, circulating through seasons, nurturing life, and boosting food security. A double dike system, rainwater harvesting, climate-smart agriculture, and resilient aquaculture systems will ensure sustainability. Mangrove restoration and floating solar farms will further secure Khulna’s future.

Meeting water challenges with nature

Khulna’s water challenges will be met with nature-based solutions:

• A double dyke system acts as a sponge, absorbing floodwaters and creating space for farms and aquaculture.

• Rainwater harvesting and urban green spaces reduce reliance on groundwater and absorb floodwater.

• Climate-smart agriculture utilises floodwater and promotes resilient crops.

• Resilient aquaculture systems reduce pressure on freshwater sources.

• Mangrove restoration protects Khulna’s future by promoting biodiversity and sustainable management.

• Floatvoltaic islands generate clean energy and purify water, enhancing sustainability.

Transition Pathway: Khulna’s Journey to Resilience

Khulna, a district in Bangladesh, embarks on a century-long journey toward resilience and sustainability. In 2030, the groundwork for nature-based solutions begins, tailored to local needs and supported by robust institutional structures. By 2045-2050, simple yet effective solutions like rainwater harvesting and salt-resistant crops are implemented, laying a solid foundation for future adaptation. As Khulna progresses, transformative changes occur by 2070-2080, with advanced nature-based solutions such as double dyke systems and floating farms empowering local communities. Finally, by 2100-2120, Khulna becomes a model for sustainable development, scaling up locally managed nature-based solutions across Bangladesh and ensuring a secure future for all.

“A good start is half of the work.”
34 Nature-based Future Challenge | NatureDelta

Wageningen University

Nature-based Future Challenge 35
Monica Bonu, Judd Kevin Maza Quio, Marleen Peeters, Diana Mosquera, Iris van Dongen, Muyun Zhu, Fuyuki Wakayama, Maria Julia Romani Moron, Glenn Ortiz, Franck Gustavo Neyra Jimenez


Stimulating collaboration of people towards the water story and indigenous knowledge

in Chittagong

Unique challenges in Bangladesh

Distinctive regions in Bangladesh face unique challenges. Coastal areas battle cyclones, surges, and salinity intrusion, impacting soil fertility. Hilly areas lack forest cover, leading to landslides and flash floods, threatening livelihoods. Indigenous communities in charlands are eroded by changing rivers, while those in hilly regions face flash floods and winter droughts. Local initiatives like soil-less farming and tidal river management exist, emphasising the necessity of locally led solutions.

Food and nature-based solutions

Our vision entails enhancing food production through nature-based solutions. Coastal areas will focus on food production near mangrove forests and mangrove plantations. Hilly areas will implement agroforestry commons and keyline farming. Floodplains will adopt floating gardens and soil-less farming. Increasing natural spaces like mangrove forests, river areas, and village common forests will be prioritised. Transportation and energy systems will embrace nature inclusivity, emphasising submersible roads, boats, and alternative energy sources.


Chittagong is our chosen region due to its significant indigenous population and their existing practices in springshed management. The indigenous communities have a spiritual connection to natural resources, promoting intergenerational equity. Hilly areas, including Cox’s Bazar, already possess potential in springshed management, requiring conservation and reforestation efforts.

Systemic change through indigenous knowledge

Our transition pathway begins with introducing pilot projects for systemic change, collaborating with indigenous knowledge and communities, and investing in coastal barriers. Awareness and involvement of educational youth are crucial. The second tipping point involves systemic changes like international policies promoting eco-tourism, farmers engaging in springshed restoration, and cities adopting co-management practices.

“Overall it was a challenging and efforttaking project, but along the journey, learning from peers, collision of thoughts, and supporting each other through the end have been worthwhile and memorable.”
36 Nature-based Future Challenge | NATURISE

Julia Nöth, Yumeng Liu, Yalin Chi, Feodor Gabsatarov, Charan krishna Nichenametla, Wenqing Sun, Jane Ferreira, Rubel Miah, Jana Bruijn, Yanran Luo

Wageningen University, ISARA, University of Copenhagen, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Khulna University of Engineering and Technology

Nature-based Future Challenge 37


Innovative Silvoaquaculture: Shaping the Future of Shrimp Farming in Bangladesh’s Coastal Region

Unique landscape of Bangladesh

In coastal Bangladesh, environmental and human-made factors significantly impact both the region’s ecology and its people. Floods and acidity shape soil diversity, with the Sundarbans facing acidic sulphate soils, while Khulna and Barisal have grey floodplain soils. The area hosts biodiversity hotspots like the Sundarbans, home to diverse flora and fauna, including the Bengal tiger. Coastal geology is influenced by freshwater and saltwater environments, contributing to estuarine and tidal plain deposits. The approximately 35 million-strong population faces challenges from climate change and natural hazards such as rising temperatures, cyclones, and salinity intrusion. Seasonal fluctuations affect water quality for irrigation, and safe drinking water scarcity is a significant concern. Opportunities lie in leveraging biodiversity and climate-resilient agriculture, while threats include conservation conflicts, sea-level rise, and climate change impacts on health and ecosystems.

The potential of each region

By 2120, Bangladesh envisions an inclusive, thriving economy with equal opportunities for all, focusing on protecting natural heritage, biodiversity, and promoting sustainable practices in agriculture and industry. This goal includes realising the potential of each region. For the coastal areas, integrating mangroves into aquaculture can boost economic activity and food security while protecting biodiversity and the environment, and providing crucial protection against floods and salinity. The plan also focuses on developing a nationwide sustainable transportation and industry network, fostering community connections, economic growth, innovation, technology, and international partnerships.

Focus on coastal regions

Shrimp farming in Bangladesh’s coastal regions is vital for income and food security but poses significant environmental challenges. An innovative solution involves combining shrimp farming with mangroves to create a sustainable, mixed-mangrove shrimp farm-

38 Nature-based Future Challenge | PramanaDhara



ing system. This approach supports organic shrimp farming by relying on natural food sources, reducing the need for external feeds and fertilisers. Mangroves filter excess nutrients, maintain water quality, and promote biodiversity. The plan emphasises technical support, financial aid, and seedlings for sustainable practices to ensure fair and just development while enhancing food production and security.

Transition Pathway: Paving the Way for Change

Past shrimp farming practices in coastal Bangladesh have been detrimental to mangrove health and the environment. The transition to silvoaquaculture across the coastal region involves policy development, piloting projects in Khulna, scaling up to the entire coastal region, and raising awareness while providing education to local farmers. Different transition pathways account for climate change impacts on shrimp, shrimp disease, and seasonal variability. Solutions include creating larger ponds, moving inland, and implementing sluice gates to manage water quality.

“Working with nature-based solutions has made our team more aware of its power in solving societal problems. It’s also pushed us to be more creative in our approach. As a bonus, it’s strengthened our


Nature-based Future Challenge 39

Terraqueous: Innovation where Land and Water Meet

The Terraqueous Future Framework: A holistic, nature-based regional approach to empower communities

Bangladesh threatened by a changing climate Bangladesh faces significant challenges in achieving sustainable development due to its diverse landscapes and dynamic delta characteristics. Ranked 163 out of 182 countries on the ND-GAIN index, the country is highly vulnerable to climate change. With threats including sea-level rise, floods, salinity increase, food insecurity, and human health issues. Despite contributing minimally to global greenhouse gas emissions (0.47%), water pollution and coal burning impact the quality of life. Limited protected areas and climate change impacts pose significant threats to Bangladesh’s rich biodiversity zones, endangering ecosystems and dependent communities.

A terraqueous vision

In our vision for 2121, Bangladesh will emerge as the world’s first developed terraqueous nation, where all residents thrive, and water and local knowledge drive climate resilience and sustainability, health, and economic prosperity for all. Settlements will integrate adaptive architecture and clean energy, while sustainable agriculture enhances production and food security. Mangroves will span the horizon, shielding shores from storms, as wetlands absorb flooding and protect against sea-level rise. Bangladesh’s rich biodiversity will be preserved and celebrated, with people appreciating nature’s gifts and driving equitable development.

In the BDC Triangle

The BDC Triangle, spanning the Barisal, Dhaka, and Chattogram Divisions, was selected for its unique combination of vulnerability and potential. Six High Leverage Points (HLPs) with 18 corresponding projects across micro, meso, and macro scales have been proposed to enhance climate resilience, promote sustainable livelihoods, and drive inclusive growth in the BDC Triangle through nature-based solutions. The success of these projects will serve as a model for the entire nation, propelling Bangladesh towards its terraqueous future.

“Together, we had a lot of fun learning, laughing, and aligning on a bold naturebased vision for Bangladesh.”

“Participating in this challenge gave our team a unique opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other’s diverse backgrounds and expertises.”

40 Nature-based Future Challenge | Terraqueous

Wageningen University, The University of Texas at Austin, Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology

Horizons of the future

The transition pathway for Bangladesh and the BDC Triangle, guided by the Three Horizons framework, navigates from the current state (Horizon 1), characterised by climate vulnerability, governance challenges, and socio-economic disparities, towards a visionary future (Horizon 3) of climate resilience, inclusive growth, and harmony with nature. By leveraging the power of community-driven initiatives and nature-based solutions, Bangladesh and the BDC Triangle will emerge as a global model for sustainable, inclusive, and resilient development.

“This exposure to a wide range of knowledge and experiences greatly enriched our competition journey.”
Nature-based Future Challenge 41
Ignacio Andueza, Mohammad Arfar Razi, Nazmul Hoque Nayeem, Victoria Belcher, Aqib Mohammad Nibir, Arefien Razi, Mahia Mustary Nushin

Partners about the Challenge

“Working for a global organization with nature-based solutions at the core of its work, we found the journey of coaching the teams in this challenge exciting and joyful. We were inspired by their innovative ideas, and we hope we have inspired them to become the next generation of wetland and freshwater champions!”

Jeroen Jurriens & Nupur Jain, Wetlands International

“This Nature-Based Future Challenge clearly showed me the power of new talent. With their creativity and critical questions, they came up with an integrated set of sustainable solutions, providing answers to the complex challenges Bangladesh is facing.”

Tom Wilms, Witteveen+Bos

“It was a pleasure to coach the team in creating their vision for a naturebased future for Bangladesh. I was really impressed by the team’s dedication to the project and their innovative visual storytelling ideas.”

Bente de Vries, Royal HaskoningDHV

”It was very nice to see the team and its members develop professionally and personally due to the challenge.”

Lynn van Wissen van Veen, Royal HaskoningDHV

“The EAGE Student Community is proud to have supported the participating students in the NBF Challenge. We hope to continue supporting the community and inspiring many more students to achieve their full potential.”

EAGE Student Community

42 Nature-based Future Challenge | Partners

“It was a pleasure to be part of this inspirational journey in exploring a nature-based future for Bangladesh, in which the next generation is in the driver’s seat. The entries provide hope and opportunities, showing that students from all over the world are teaming up to inspire and be inspired by the challenges our society faces in a positive way.”

Bertram de Rooij, Wageningen University & Research

“Nature-based solutions require an integrated perspective on challenges and solutions. It was promising to see how the multidisciplinary teams were able to develop such perspectives. The informative and beautiful images enhanced my understanding of the studies.”

Sterk, Wageningen University & Research

“Thanks to Wageningen University & Research for taking this initiative. The vision documents developed by the young researchers would be valuable resources for developing harmonized future economic investment plans for Bangladesh, ensuring the protection of nature and biodiversity for the sustainable economic well-being of future generations.”

Selim Reza Hasan, Solidaridad

“It was impressive to witness the strong technical capacity and creativity of the team, which came to life in stunning visualizations. We enjoyed supporting and collaborating with our interdisciplinary team as they developed a range of naturebased solutions for the challenging environment and dynamics of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.”

Long Hoang and David Mornout , MetaMeta

“Nature-based landscape design in cocreation with stakeholders enables making the right decisions for sustainable development. I truly enjoyed working with students who showed so much passion and commitment to creating a nature-based future vision for Bangladesh.”

Michaël van Buuren, Wageningen University & Research

Nature-based Future Challenge 43

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.