The unusual salinity in the soil of Satkhira isn’t caused by climate change alone
Climate change has been the cause of the sea-level rise and this slow onset event has resulted in salinity intrusion in the coastal zones of many countries, especially in Bangladesh. Satkhira, located in the south-west coastal region of the country is currently facing the adverse effects of saltwater intrusion and it is posing a grave threat to the rural living and food security. Since agriculture is the mainstay of the people in this region, uncultivable land is nothing but a fountain of sorrow for the farmers.
As salt concentration increases, water becomes highly challenging for the plant to absorb. A plant can as well perish from water stress or drought in such saturated soil if the salt concentration is more than adequate. There has been a progressive escalation in soil salinity in terms of intensity, and affected area over the past decades. There are numerous interacting drivers that influence soil salinity in Bangladesh other than sea-level rise. Satkhira was not always this saline. When the Farakka Barrage was built over Ganges River, it was made to divert water from the Ganges river of India to the Hugli river of Bangladesh.
As Bangladesh is a downstream country, water supply significantly decreased with increasing entry of seawater into the Ganges basin. Consequently, it increased the river and groundwater salinity in this region (Gain et al, 2007; Shamsuddin, Xiaoyong, & Hazarika, 2006).
Further, followed by many other human-induced actions making the region extremely vulnerable to hazards and such natural calamities. Building unplanned dams, polders, embankments, and spread of saltwater shrimp farming that requires large bodies of saltwater is why salinity intrusion is increasing bit by bit in this region.
A possible solution for soil salinity reduction
According to the SRMAF Project of The Ministry of Agriculture (2010), it is encouraged to adopt various land and soil management practices including agronomical techniques for reducing the adverse effect of salts. For example, having protective embankment with the provision of the sluice gate, well-levelled land to prevent the accumulation of water in the low-lying patches and to facilitate uniform drainage of excess water, selection of Kharif rice variety, the introduction of winter rice and shrimp cultivation, or storing of excess rainwater for irrigation.
Other than adopting the soil management practices, the least expensive and rapid desalination process that could be used by the Agriculture Ministry may be phytoremediation. As plants are able to extract salt from the soil. However, the necessary step will be to select the appropriate plants with a high tolerance to salinity. In addition, it does not have any after-effect as it is not degrading the soil fertility.
The total amount of salinity affected land in Bangladesh was 83.3 million hectares in 1973, which had been increased up to 102 million hectares in 2000 and the amount has risen to 105.6 million hectares in 2009 and is continuing to increase, according to the country's Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI).
It is high time for the authorities to take uncompromising policies to transform these barren lands to fertile ones, as agriculture is the largest employment sector of Bangladesh, it is greatly affecting the country’s GDP and most importantly the livelihood of the farmers in those regions.
Sarah Farheen Khan is working at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) as an Intern and Research Assistant. Her research interest lies in – Food security, Effects of climate change on natural resources and Human health, Behavioural dimensions of climate change mitigation and adaptation, Limnology, Endangered species conservation, Agriculture and Environment, etc.