Call for proposals: Story grants on the ecology and the economy of the transboundary Brahmaputra / Jamuna River basin, Meghna River basin and Teesta river basin

The Third Pole is offering grants to journalists based in Bangladesh, Bhutan and India to support in-depth stories on the ecology and the economy of the transboundary Brahmaputra / Jamuna River basin, the Meghna River basin and the Teesta river basin. The Brahmaputra river basin includes the Saralbhanga and Jinjiram sub-basins. The stories should have a focus on vulnerable communities, and aimed at helping policymakers and such communities to make better decisions.

Application Deadline: June 15, 2020 


The Brahmaputra River – called Jamuna in Bangladesh – and its tributaries including the Teesta, and the Meghna River are essential lifelines to the people living in these basins in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and India. They are crucial sources of irrigation and hydropower and form inland waterways; they are also serious sources of floods and erosion. The rivers can be sources of friction or cooperation between national governments.

Major changes have come and are coming to this region that was relatively remote till recent years. Hydropower remains a controversial topic within and between countries, while all the basins are suffering various effects of climate change. Transboundary waterways may transform some of the basins, and so may various infrastructure projects being executed and planned by all four countries in all the basins.

Communities living in the basins – especially the women in these communities – are affected most directly, though the economic, ecological and geopolitical effects go far beyond. The effects may be positive, negative or a mix of the two.

Call for proposals

We are inviting proposals for story grants with one or more of these and similar issues in focus. We have a particular interest in the impact of changes in the basins on women and other marginalised groups (including youth, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities) and their ability to adapt.

We encourage stories that report on potential solutions and address how vulnerable communities are responding to challenges. We are also highly interested in stories that utilise relevant data to illustrate the issue in a compelling and easy-to-understand way.

We are looking for stories with the potential to inform policy decisions by addressing domestic or transboundary water governance and related concerns/issues.

All fieldwork required for the stories must be done after the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Nine story grants will be provided. This is being done in partnership with the Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) project of Oxfam.

Who should apply:

Journalists from Bangladesh, Bhutan and India (online, print, television, radio) with a track record of reporting on climate change, deforestation, water issues, wildlife trafficking, natural resource management and other environmental issues. We encourage applications from freelancers and staff from all types of media – international, national, local and community based.

Grantees have to publish or broadcast their stories in their affiliated media. The Third Pole and TROSA shall have the right to edit, publish, broadcast and distribute these stories freely, once they have been published/broadcast in the original media outlet. Freelance reporters should demonstrate a plan for publication and provide a letter of interest from an editor.  

We expect to award grants averaging $1,000 depending on the proposal and reporting format. We will consider larger awards for in-depth stories using innovative or investigative approaches. Applicants should provide a proposed timeline and a detailed budget with justification for the amount requested, using the template provided.

We expect that stories will be produced with equipment the applicant already has access to (including cameras, lighting, tripods, laptops etc.) and will not consider budgets that include procurement of new equipment. 

We also encourage the use of multimedia and new or unique media platforms to present and share the stories. Applicants with ideas for long-form and multimedia narratives should include plans and budget for accompanying multimedia elements (i.e. video, photos) and distribution channels in their pitch. 

Stories can be produced in English or local languages, or both. Applicants who intend to write or produce stories in local languages need to include an English translation. Please include the cost for translation in the budget, if necessary.

Expected story lengths:
Text-based stories: 1,500 to 2,000 words

Photo stories: 10-20 images with descriptive captions and a short 200-400-word introduction

Multimedia package:  Text between 600 to 1,500 words with 2-4 minute video and/or graphics, photos and maps

Broadcast: Video piece around 4-6 minutes in length with a short, roughly 200-word introduction

Audio report/podcast: Feature of up to 20 minutes in length with short text to summarise the audio.

Judging criteria

Applicants should consider the following points when devising their story proposals

Relevance: Does the proposal meet the criteria and objectives? Why does this story matter and to whom? Is the main idea, context and overall value to the target audience clearly defined?

Angle: If the story has been covered by other media outlets, does your proposal bring new insights into the topic or offer a fresh angle? 

Impact: Does the proposal have a compelling narrative or investigative element that will inform and engage, draw attention, trigger debate and urge action? 

Timeframe: Propose a realistic timeframe, taking into account ongoing and possibly repeated lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. No proposal that envisages any fieldwork during a lockdown will be accepted.

Innovative storytelling: The use of creative approaches and data visualisation will be considered a plus.

Diversity: We will take gender and geographical distribution into account when selecting the grantees in addition to the criteria above; local journalists and journalists from indigenous communities will be given preference.

Transboundary proposals: Joint proposals by journalists from across international borders will be given preference.

How to apply

Applicants should copy-paste the form below into an MS Word file, complete it, and mail to [email protected] as an attachment. Also attach 

A letter from the editor in the official letterhead, confirming that your report will be published/broadcast. Freelancers should attach a letter from the editor of the media outlet in which they plan to publish/broadcast;

Your resume/CV;

Two samples of your reporting. If the samples are too heavy to attach, attach a separate MS Word file with the links to the samples.

Remember the application deadline: June 15, 2020 

Application form

Full Name:

Full Address:




Phone Number:

WhatsApp Number (if different):

Media Outlet Name (freelancers should give the name of the outlet where they propose to publish/broadcast):

Media Outlet Website:

Editor’s Name (freelancers should give the name of the editor of the outlet where they propose to publish/broadcast):

Editor’s Email:

Biography (Maximum 300 words):


Story Idea (Maximum 500 words):


Proposed Timeframe:


Budget (Detail as much as you can):