Sharifuzzaman Choudhury graduated from BUET in 1969 and then joined Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and later Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), where he worked until 1983 when he joined the Master Plan Organisation (MPO) to work on the National Water Plan. In 1986, he joined Danish Hydraulic Institute as a local consultant to work on the SWSMP, which began within the MPO in 1986 and then continued in several phases until 1997 within WARPO and RRI, creating a series of computer models that continue to play an indispensable role in water resources planning and management as well as flood forecasting everywhere in Bangladesh since 1987.
I met Sharif on the very first day I started work on the Surface Water Modelling Programme in Gulshan as one of a group of four expatriates advising five modelling groups. Sharif was the Group Leader responsible for the South West Region Model, the most complex of them all.
The south-west region model eventually came to represent a network of 6300 km length of tidal rivers comprising more than 260 branches, and later expanded to cover the entire riverine area of Bangladesh south of the Ganges and west of the Lower Meghna. Sharif coordinated the surveys and the complex field measurement campaigns we had to mount and carry out prior to setting up the models. He was systematic, competent and utterly dependable. He was the ultimate “safe pair of hands.” However, he was not simply a paragon of virtue; his dependability was frequently leavened by a mischievous sense of humour, his interest in sports and travel which made our interactions extremely enjoyable, both professionally and socially.
After my departure in 1994 upon the completion of my assignment, Sharif continued as the Deputy Director of the Surface Water Modelling Centre (SWMC) which absorbed the technology and the skilled personnel created by the modelling project. The SWMC was then converted to the present-day Institute of Water Modelling (IWM), and Sharif continued for 10 more years as Deputy Executive Director until his retirement in 2009.
During this period, I continued our interaction through several assignments I undertook in Bangladesh, all of them in collaboration with the IWM.
The IWM today is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for modelling water resources, river hydraulics and the state of the environment. The contribution made by the IWM and its predecessors to flood forecasting, flood management, water resources planning, modelling of cyclonic storm surges, and sediment dynamics in Bangladesh (and now increasingly in other Asian countries) is immeasurable. The success of IWM is based on its scientific and professional independence, its experienced and highly skilled and motivated staff, its ability to sustain and renew itself over the last decades.
The contribution that Sharifuzzaman Choudhury made to building the foundations of this exceptional institution—and establishing its independent professional and scientific character—must never be forgotten.
Dr Ranjit Galappatti is a former Team Leader of the Danida Surface Water Simulation Modelling Programme in Bangladesh.