River salinity in the region intensifies during dry season which invariably leads to significant shortage of drinking water and scarcity of water for irrigation in dry-season agriculture
The sudden rise in the salinity level of the Madhumati River in Tungipara upazila of Gopalganj is having a devastating effect on public health and the environment of the region.
River salinity in the region intensifies during the dry season (October to May), which invariably leads to a significant shortage of drinking water and scarcity of water for irrigation in dry-season agriculture.
Moreover, the brackish water spreads across the whole upazila, causing an outbreak of various water borne diseases.
In recent times, the number of patients at local hospitals suffering from water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid has risen.
To combat the scarcity of potable water in Tungipara municipality, the Department of Public Health Engineering has been supplying 18,000 litres of purified water through a mobile water treatment plant every day.
Meanwhile, people of the remaining five unions, with limited sources of safe water have continued to contract water-borne diseases.
At the same time, as regional agriculture is mostly dependent on water from the Madhumati River, the livelihoods of farmers are now being threatened.
Robin Biswas, a farmer from Lebutala village, said that using saline water for irrigation during the dry seasons caused severe damage to crops.
Mini Begum, a farmer from Kushli village, said crop production had declined at a time when production cost happened to be the highest.
Arun Biswas, from Gopalpur village, said: “Our lives have become miserable due to the crisis of potable water. By drinking saline water we are falling sick with various diseases.”
Upazila Agriculture Officer Jamal Uddin said the rising salinization in the Madhumati River was a yearly phenomenon that usually lasted three months and disappeared during the rainy season.
“Meanwhile, the saltwater contamination in the farmlands have resulted in lower yields and a decline in agricultural productivity. So, farmers have been asked to refrain from using river water for irrigation purposes,” he added.
Speaking on the issue, Upazila Health and Family Planning Officer Dr Jasim Uddin said: “Saline water is toxic to humans because your body is unable to get rid of the salt. Your body normally gets rid of excess salt by having the kidneys produce urine, but you need freshwater to dilute the salt in your body for the kidneys to work properly.”
“We are telling people to refrain from drinking saltwater and instead recommending boiling the water they get from deep tube wells or ponds,” he added.