Few words about me
I am a geographer with specific focus on
Human-Environmental Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing, Physical Geography, Fluvial Geomorphology and Ecology.
I have been involved in research on the 'age-old dance between humans and rivers' for over two decades on topics such as ‘Human transformation of the fluvial landscape into a hybrid landscape’, ‘Human perception of and adjustment in the riverine sand bars or char lands,’, and ‘Preparing river catchments for large-scale change’. My book titled “The Lower Damodar River, India: Understanding the human role in changing fluvial environment” was published by Springer-Verlag in 2011.
Recently published book by Kumkum Bhattacharyya
The Lower Damodar River, IndiaUnderstanding the Human Role in Changing Fluvial Environment Series: Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research, Vol. 3
In the foreword for the book, Professor Michael J. Wiley from the University of Michigan wrote “This is a time when the global impacts of human society are pushing governments around the world to actively search for new strategies to protect their social and economic assets from the threat of rapid climate change and its ecological and geomorphic consequences. Nowhere is this more apparent than in South and East Asia. It is appropriate then, that we find ways now to step back, and carefully review our experiences and history with regard to that age-old dance between humans and rivers, a relationship that spawned the earliest civilizations of man. A relationship where man often masters river, but not infrequently river masters man. K. Bhattacharyya’s study of the Damodar River provides us with just this opportunity. Set in a lower tributary of the mighty Ganga (Ganges) this is a story of human ecology, river geomorphology, and hydrologic engineering. Adaptation by both the riparian communities and the river itself to a trajectory of mutually induced change make it also a fascinating ecological study in the truest sense of the word. In this drama of riparian ecology man is not a bystander nor a reference point for determining “ecosystem values”, but an actor and participant.
A review of my book has been published in the Journal of Hydrologic Engineering in 2014 Book Review By Singh, V.P and Khedun, C. P, Texas A and M University
Dams, Riparian Settlement and the Threat of Climate ChangeIn a Dynamic Fluvial Environment Series: Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research, Vol. 2 .
I have co-authored a chapter with Professor Michael J. Wiley (University of Michigan) in a recently published book "Large Dams in Asia: Contested Environments Between Hydro-Power and Resistance".
Few more about me
There is an urgent need for integrating watershed science and management.
Policymakers working in the domain of flood and water resource management are faced with the enormously challenging task of parsing vast amounts of data and, perhaps more importantly, understanding the complex dynamics of physical, biological and social subsystems related to the riverine environment. To arrive at rational decisions that will affect the lives and livelihoods of millions requires a truly “ecological” understanding in the most general sense of the word. The scope and scale of these problems put a premium on developing accessible decision support systems that can link scientific databases, modeling analyses and geographic information systems (GIS) processing. Collaborative exploration of alternate management scenarios using GIS-based frameworks can be an essential component of the link between government policy and action on the one hand and academic expertise and local stakeholder interests on the other.
I have had the opportunity to work professionally at the Washington State Department of Ecology with a group of ecologists and GIS professionals to analyze environmental and cleanup site information in prioritizing cleanup work as well as at Oregon State University on a “Wetland” project where I helped classify and develop a statewide coverage for wetlands . I have also contributed to the projects “Geomorphic Fisheries Interactions” and “Remote inundation mapping and satellite gauging link monsoonal flooding to conveyance constraints on the lower Ganges” with Professor Michael J. Wiley at the University of Michigan.
My teaching and research interests have been fostered by several years of undergraduate and graduate teaching in several types of courses, including Physical/Environmental Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing, Water Resource Management, and coupled Human-Environmental System in changing riparian landscape to hybrid landscape and sustainable environmental development in order to sustaining vital ecosystem services. I obtained my PhD degree in Environmental Geography (2000) from The University of Burdwan, India; followed by Post-Doctoral research at the University of California Berkeley (2002-2003) where I worked mainly on sediment management in aging reservoirs.
My PhD research presents a comprehensive evaluation of the Damodar River control project, modeled on the line of the Tennessee Valley Authority, using an approach that interweaves human aspects of river control with analysis of hydro-physical data including historical data over the last few centuries. Embankments, canals, sluices, weirs, barrages, dams, and reservoirs are now significant physiognomic components of the Lower Damodar landscape. The river started losing its identity as a natural river in the latter half of the eighteenth century with the construction of embankments. The river was disturbed in different phases by artificial base levels created by weirs, barrages and dams. A chain of sandbars locally known as ‘char lands’ or ‘mana’ has emerged within the riverbed below the control structures and most of the ‘char lands’ have subsequently been settled primarily by migrated communities. My supervisor, M. Basu, Ex-Reader in Geography of The University of Burdwan, was instrumental in sparking my interest in the way people interacted with their fluvial environment and responded as a community at both micro and macro levels. According to M. Basu, “Colonization on the riverbed with semi-permanent alluvial sandbars was actually due to the chance discovery of the fertility of the water-bound landmass”. We were fascinated by the complex, sophisticated interrelationships between the riverbed settlers and the natural environment in the presence of floods and dams.
The natural resources of the charlands are now mostly controlled by anthropogenic forces. A cultural landscape resulted from human intervention with the physical landscape through specific culture and, ultimately, components of the inherited physical landscape become inseparable from the superposed components of cultural landscape. The Damodar River landscape that has emerged is, thus, quasi-natural and human-modified i.e., hybrid in character (Bhattacharyya, 1998, 2000, 2011).
My research elucidates the remarkable way in which immigrants unfamiliar with the riverine environment have adapted to the altered hydrologic regime of the river, demonstrating sophisticated understanding of the flood regime and the vagaries of an unpromising environment in their land use, cropping and settlement patterns. Riparian communities have developed adaptation strategies to live in such a marginal environment. Spurred by restricted social and economic mobility and sometimes political constraints, they have learned to adapt to their vulnerable environment. Valuable long-term data from multiple sources, some dating back to more than a century, has been used to track flow and sediment regime and the occurrence of floods for pre-dam and post-dam periods. Data from topographical maps, cadastral or mouza maps, satellite images and geocoded imagery has been consolidated in order to study channel characteristics and formation and evolution of charlands. Detailed field surveys of local land users of 32 “charlands” have been presented in order to assess human perception, adaptation, resource management, and gradual alteration of fluvial landscape into hybrid landscape.
In commenting on this study, Harvard educated Professor. M. Gordon Wolman, Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University wrote- "Bhattacharyya's superb study describes and analyzes the interrelationship of geomorphic setting, resource base, perceived environment and social space as well as the role of legal structures, economic geography and infrastructure in accounting for the way society has adapted to, altered and utilized a once natural dynamic environment. Through historical reconstruction of the riverine scene along with marshalling of data on river behavior and social change, including the presentation of detailed studies of settlements within the alluvial bottomland brought to life with excellent maps, the author makes clear how people, ranging from refugees to local settlers have transformed the landscape driven by diverse cultural, economic, religious, and political forces. The author's description of the sophisticated way in which environment, social status, and culture are interwoven in the distribution of crops and associated microtopography is masterful".
In the Memorandum, dated 24 April, 2000, sent to Dr. M.K. Chatterjee, Registrar, The University of Burdwan , Professor Wolman said “If cum laude can be awarded for a dissertation, I would so vote---I would hope that the dissertation could be published as a monograph---I believe the University would be well advised to seek its publication at its cost---” Professor Wolman kept his correspondence with us in a variety of ways. Subseries 1.3 in National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir, contains correspondence with friends and colleagues through personal letters dated between 1990 and 2009 and which are filed alphabetically. Please see page 4, Kumkum Bhattacharyya’s correspondence with Professor Wolman which is preserved at Johns Hopkins library.