The livestock business on the island of Bhola is being severely disrupted by lightning storms and rising saltwater levels caused by global warming.
Buffalos, cows and other cattle have been regularly struck by lightning or have died from a lack of access to freshwater in recent years.
Although Livestock officials are aware of the deteriorating situation, there have been no significant efforts to combat this problem.
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Buffalos frequently graze on the wetlands as there is very little grass lands in the area Dhaka Tribune
Buffalos are a prime source of livelihood for Bhola’s people, with the industry estimated to be worth tens of millions of takas to the island economy. Buffalo milk, and yoghurt, cheese and other products made from the milk are also a major source of protein for the region.
Because there is very little grass on Bhola, buffalos frequently graze on the wetlands. But climate change has increased saltwater levels, creating shortages of freshwater.
Frequent lightning storms have also led to a rise in numbers of buffalos dying from strikes, say herders.
Salam Hawladar, chairman of the region’s Dhalchor Union, told the Dhaka Tribune that more than 100 buffalos and other livestock had died in the last six months from these two causes.
In the region’s Kukri Mukri Union, a further 100 cattle had died from lightning strikes alone in March and April, the UP chairman Hashem Mohajon claimed.
There has been a more acute human cost of the crisis In Bhola’s Monpura upazila. Here, buffalo forced to drink from water bodies used by the people have caused the supply to become unfit for human use, spreading disease and illnesses among the locals.
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Buffalo are forced to drink from water bodies used by the people in many areas of Bhola due to a shortage of freshwater Dhaka Tribune
According to the Livestock Department, there are 91,000 buffalos in Bhola. The population is suffering from other health issues, beside the lack of freshwater and grass on the wetlands.
However, the Livestock Department was found lacking when it came to taking steps to address the problem. Even after repeated demands by locals to dig flooding canals in the wetlands, the Department has been unable to act.
“We have sent in a request to the ministry to dig canals, and will begin work on it as soon as the request is approved,” said Dr M Alamgir, director of Bhola’s Livestock Department.
He also said that a project titled ‘Improved Methods of Raising Buffalos’ of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Polli Kormo Shohayok Foundation (PKSF) was currently underway.
IFAD began work in Bhola’s Chotkimra region on July 21, following a tour of the affected areas by IFAD’s country program manager Benoit Thierry and Consultant Methilod Rifevli and the PKSF’s general project manager Akand M Rafiqul Islam.
The goal of IFAD and PKSF’s project is to cover the Chotkimra, Tojumoddin, Chorfashion and Monpura regions, which are home to thousands of buffalos.