Surging up Bangladesh’s freshwater rivers, the salty water percolates deep into the soil, fouling ponds and the underground water supply that millions of people depend on for drinking and cultivating their farms.
Bangladesh is particularly at risk from climate change because it is a vast delta plain with 230 small and large rivers, many of which swell during the monsoon rains. Combined with water from the melting Himalayan mountain glaciers and the encroaching Bay of Bengal, this makes the region prone to floods and the effects of intense storms. These storms, like Cyclone Sidr in 2007, also are seen as a sign of climate stresses.
Beyond the long-term peril, however, the immediate threat to Bangladesh comes from soil salinity, which jeopardises food output in a country where agriculture is the key economic driver and 40% of its 150 million people live below the poverty line.
The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) is working on developing a management technology to capture freshwater during the monsoon season, when soil salinity is less prevalent, to be used for irrigating rice in the winter. With soil salinity spreading quickly, however, experts say the key to survival lies in developing “climate-resistant agriculture”.
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