• Bayesian Belief Networks;
  • Development;
  • Environment;
  • Probabilistic models;
  • River basin management


The use of Bayesian Belief Networks (BBNs) in modeling of environmental and natural resources systems has gradually grown, and they have become one of the mainstream approaches in the field. They are typically used in modeling complex systems in which policy or management decisions must be made under high uncertainties. This article documents an approach to constructing large and highly complex BBNs using a matrix representation of the model structure. This approach allows smooth construction of highly complicated models with intricate likelihood structures. A case study of the Ganges river basin, the most populated river basin of the planet, is presented. Four different development scenarios were investigated with the purpose of reaching the Millennium Development Goals and Integrated Water Resources Management goals, both promoted by the United Nations Agencies. The model results warned against the promotion of economic development policies that do not place strong emphasis on social and environmental concerns. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2012; 8: 491–502. © SETAC