Impact on policies

MoU 2011 on Transboundary Sundarbans: action-oriented roadmap for ENGAGE

Overview: On September 6, 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the governments of India and Bangladesh, countries that share the common social ecological landscape of the Sundarbans delta. The MoU was entrusted to the respective ministries of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the two countries, calling for an adoption of joint management and common principles of conservation. To oversee the MoU’s implementation, a Joint Working Group was established. As a part of the consortium, the Bangladesh-India Sundarban Region Cooperation Initiative (BISRCI) was undertaken in June 2015, to implement a ‘knowledge-based advocacy’, facilitating and supporting effective bilateral cooperation in the region. BISRCI brought together research associations, civil society organizations, think tanks, key members of the strategic community from two countries in order to deliberate on enhancing further cooperation for formation of cross-sectoral platform that will provide actionable plans for management of the delta as well as boost bilateral coordination on Sundarbans.

SOR4D-ENGAGE, a transdisciplinary consortium of three country teams (India, Bangladesh and Switzerland), is motivated to conduct and pursue participatory action research in the transboundary delta with a shared set of objectives and motivation. The project brings together primarily social science researchers, practitioners and user groups, who have long-term experiences on working in delta. The exploratory as well as accommodative approach of the research allows it to deploy archival and ethnographic methods to meticulously explore, map and highlight the physical, political, ecological and social factors mutually operating and driving changes in the transboundary Sundarbans. Through the coupled methodology, a pluri-dimensional realities that have been felt with physical attributes, social demography (migration, assets, livelihoods, gender) and political economy (regulation acts, arrangements, apparatuses, conservation and impacts) in two sides of the common delta, will be sketched, compared and assessed.

ENGAGE acknowledges the MoU as a vital policy template that strategizes mainstream conservation and management of the Sundarbans. Here, we critically read and review MoU articles to understand their current status (from secondary literature) and map the impediments and imperatives to effectuate the provisions, induced by nuanced ‘grounded’ analytics and empirics towards crafting socially resilient trajectories in and for the transboundary delta.

[Note: There are eight articles in the MoU template and among them, three articles (II, III, V) are directly related to the vision and plans of ENGAGE]






Article II


Both Parties, with a view to exploiting the potential of the Sundarbans for development and alleviation of poverty, agree to undertake, but not limited to, the following endeavours: a) consider and adopt appropriate joint management and joint monitoring of resources; b) explore the possibility of implementing conservation and protection efforts, encourage mangrove regeneration, habitat restoration and rehabilitation programs, which would eventually increase the potential for carbon sequestration; c) develop a long term strategy for creating ecotourism opportunities for both countries, which will create synergy and generate greater revenue.


Specific provision Current status Envisioning ENGAGEment (SOR4D plans and visions)
Joint management and monitoring of resources


Fragmented, non-systematic and sporadic


Ø ENGAGE critically interrogates the mainstream conservation-management-monitoring framework and instead, conforms to the theoretical context of ‘social resilience’.
Habitat conservation, mangrove regeneration, habitat restoration and rehabilitation


Confined to the protection of designated species and spaces


Climate change impacts are not taken into account


Ø The ‘social resilience’ approach and agenda, undertaken by the project, advocates ‘staying’ in the delta pitted against technocratic managed retreat and rehabilitation plans.

Ø ENGAGE is anchored to compile and collate place-based, plural perspectives on climate change-induced risks and resilience to offer solution-oriented ‘pervasive and persuasive pathways’, activating an inclusive governance framework.

Ecotourism opportunities


Specific needs and priorities need to be identified Ø We envision participatory, community-agency based ‘eco-educational tourism’ to simultaneously ensure local socio-economic viability, knowledge exchange and augmentation of research practices (practical-empirical-implementation laboratory attracting field schools and propagating ideas on Environmental Humanities) in the site, rather than following a conventional path that is mostly attracted by business models of outside practitioners or organizations.





Article III

The Parties are in agreement that the Sundarban ecosystem is greatly influenced by human use and the human beings living around the Sundarban. The Parties will map and delineate these human settlements on respective sides so that a better understanding emerges of the relationship between human settlements and the ecosystems. The Parties will further develop a management plan that utilizes this information to address issues of livelihood, deprivation by flooding and other climate related disasters, man-animal conflict, pollution, resource depletion, etc. The Parties will through the management plan, also identify opportunities for livelihood generation that do not adversely affect the Sundarban ecosystem.
Specific provision Current status Envisioning ENGAGEment (SOR4D plans and visions)
Map and delineate human settlements on respective sides


Local-level management plans exist but, they are not transformational


Ø A detailed exploration and nuanced analyses of multiple interconnected risks, imbricated in the socio-cultural and political-ecological attributes of the region, will pave the way through which ‘situated adaptive practices’ could be collectively identified, mapped and classified.

Ø We would rather be emphasising (trans)local stories of transformation, facilitating knowledge sharing and actions, and envisioning systematic ‘scaling up’ and ‘scaling out’ approaches.


Develop management plans for:

i. Livelihood improvement

ii. Disaster management


Needs to promote the development of cooperation in fisheries, aquaculture and allied activities between the two countries

Disaster management plans do not include recovery

Ø Co-identification and co-adoption of solution-focused pilot intervention plan for experimentation on small-scale inland fishing and integrated farming in the translocal project sites.

Ø The project’s impact on knowledge co-creation and livelihoods of stakeholders will be felt in forms of economic stability; socio-cultural belongingness and cohesion; gender empowerment, and improved ecosystem functioning through rejuvenatory practices.

Ø The project’s inclusive approach will allow it to create a comprehensive, practice-oriented knowledge base and facilitate policy outcomes (training guides, knowledge products, digital platforms hosted in policy network) on disaster risk mitigation mechanisms and climate-resilient, gender-neutral livelihood strategies.

Article V Both Parties will carry out research to develop a common and shared understanding of the impacts of climate change along with adaptation strategies that can be implemented.
Specific provision Current status Envisioning ENGAGEment (SOR4D plans and visions)
Develop a common and shared understanding of the impacts of climate change




Site-specific knowledge of climate change impacts exists Ø By engaging partnerships among and perceptions of multiple groups of actors (academia, development practitioners, policy makers and local communities) across transboundary, transdisciplinary and within translocal contexts, the ENGAGE platform will bring to the fore prominent drivers of climate change, its varied implications and adaptation ‘tactics’ by communities in the delta.
Design implementable adaptation strategies Small-scale projects have been undertaken without addressing ‘adaptation’


Ø The plural understandings of disaster-induced risks and co-mapping of livelihood as well as adaptive practices, will be mobilized, used and shared through local and regional platforms (workshops, seminars, visual presentation, interactions etc.).