Farmers fear that due to excess salinity, the production of crops including Aman paddy, Rabi crops and vegetables will be affected
A major humanitarian crisis looms large over the Sundarbans region, as cyclone Amphan has left thousands of acres of land inundated with saline water, virtually rendering the land unfit for cultivation.
The farmers of the district said they have become worried with the increased salinity affecting their croplands since cyclone Amphan ripped through the country on May 20, leaving a vast tract of land unfit for cultivation.
A recent visit to the cyclone-hit areas of Sharonkhola revealed that area after area was inundated, with crops on the field ruined. A fear of the long-term loss due to increased salinity in farmland was greatest among the local residents.
There is no way for the water, which is logged in the fields, to ebb. Rather, through the breached embankments, saline water will keep entering with every high tide.
“I am deeply worried about the situation and have started looking for agriculture experts who could suggest ways to reduce salinity from the farmland as early as possible,” said Sharat Chandra Mondol of Chalitebunia village in Sharankhola.
“With loss of jobs and uncertainty over the economic prospects due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the loss of productivity in farmland is coming as a double whammy. A major humanitarian crisis is looming large,” said a private school teacher in the upazila.
Cyclone Aila of 2009 had left a similar effect. As the land turned infertile for four-five years, a section of the local farm-dependent population became dependent on forest produce, effectively increasing stress on the eco-sensitive zone of the world’s largest mangrove forest. However, it is not possible for many reasons, he also said.
The rise in sea levels associated with climate change meant creeping salinity over time, which was already known to be a long-term problem for farming croplands in the coastal districts.
Extreme events such as cyclones that may not cause many human casualties can still leave behind lasting damage as they cause tidal surges in those areas, causing spikes in salinity.
The saline water from the Bay has entered into the croplands and fields of the upazila due to the collapse of the ring embankment along Baleshwar River during the cyclonic storm Amphan, creating waterlogging in many areas.
According to the sources of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), if the salinity stays for a long period of time inside the ground, the nature of biodiversity and crops might be damaged and there will also be a risk of damage of soil.
Farmers fear that due to excess salinity, the production of crops including Aman paddy, Rabi crops and vegetables will be affected.
Nazrul Islam, a farmer of Borgi village in the upazila, said one-acre land of his has been submerged due to the collapse of the embankment on the night of cyclone Amphan and saline has developed on his land gradually.
Anwar Hossain, another farmer of Chaltebunia village, said: “I have four bigha of land and it is the source of the livelihood of my six-member family. As saline water entered into my land during cyclone Amphan, it turned into saline land.”
He also feared that it is not possible to grow any crop on the land.
Nazrul Islam, a village doctor, said most of the people of the upazila are dependent on cultivation and the soil of many lands have lost its fertility due to saline water.
Mohammad Mamunur Rashid, deputy commissioner of Bagerhat District, said: “There is a possibility of facing some problems due to the salt water that got stuck in the croplands. The local administration is trying to remove salinity from the soil.”
Raghunath Kor, deputy director of Bagerhat DAE, said: “Saline water has entered into the cropslands in Sharankhola, Morrelganj and Mongla upazilas of the district. The production of crops may be hampered due to excessive salinity in the lands. It is a long-term damage. Strategies have been taken to recoup losses by cultivating salt tolerant crops.”