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Dhaka Tribune

Salinity wreaking havoc on agriculture in south-west

Update : 28 Aug 2013, 02:04 PM

Intrusion of saline water has kept crop farming in the south-western region at stake, causing an ultimate reduction in the supply to the food bank here.

Several thousand hectares of arable land have disappeared in five districts of the region due to impact of saline water used in shrimp farming.

Farmers use saline water lifted from the rivers in their shrimp enclosures from where the water enters the crop fields damaging planted aman, aus and boro paddy.

The saline water also causes a huge damage to the environment here.

Shrimp Farmers Association sources said shrimp cultivation in the south-western region started commercially in 1973-74.

The period form 1980 to 1995 was the golden era for shrimp cultivation.

During this time, many of the farmers gave up paddy and jute cultivation and started farming of 'white gold shrimp' expecting to make a mega buck overnight.

People from different professions also joined the trade.

They gradually started cultivating shrimp making enclosures in the crop lands.

Abdul Wahab of old town of Satkhira said he started shrimp cultivation by setting up enclosures in 1987.

He added he built an enclosure on about 600 bighas of land for shrimp cultivation expecting huge profit.

For five consecutive years, he cultivated shrimp but at one stage virus attacked his shrimp enclosure and he has become pauper.

Now he cannot cultivate other crops on the land due to the use of saline water.

Later, he started business of iron rod and cement at Golshamari in Khulna with a heavy debt on his shoulder.

A Shrimp farmer Mohiuddin Ahmed of Beledanga village of Kaliganj upazila of Satkhira made an enclosure on about 60 bighas of land to cultivate lobster.

He spent about Tk15 lakh building cross dam, lifting water and releasing fry.

After doing business for two-three years, virus attacked his farm killing all lobsters.

In 2000, he joined a different profession losing all his capital.

Deputy director Solaiman Ali of the Department of Agriculture Extension, Satkhira, said several thousand hectares of land in the district are losing fertility due to shrimp cultivation by using saline water.

He added about 50,000 to 60,000 hectares of crop land have disappeared due to impacts of saline water shrimp cultivation in the last seven years.

According to him, there were 2, 29,607 hectares of cultivable land in Satkhira in 2006-07.

Due to shrimp farming in the last seven years, the total area of land now stands at 188,626 hectares.

Of the total, land affected with saline water is 57 percent.

Like Satkhira, crop lands in Khulna, Bagerhat, Jessore and Narail are also gradually being damaged due to shrimp cultivation.

Bangladesh Shrimp Farmers Association president Dr Aftabuzzaman said if shrimp is cultivated in a planned way, it will not damage environment or crop lands.

He added the government earns foreign exchange of several thousand crores of money by exporting two types of shrimp. On the other hand, employment was created for lakhs of people in the southern region due to shrimp cultivation. 

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