The Food and Water Security at the Edge of Climate Change in Southwest Coastal Bangladesh (a: Tasin Islam Himel)

Author: Tasin Islam Himel

About 19 districts of Bangladesh are considered to be coastal Bangladesh which covers 32% of the total land area and 30% of the total cultivable land of the country. This huge amount of land is the place of diversified livelihood activities. Having a population density of 743/ square kilometer in 2011, the coastal population was 35.1 million which is forecasted to be increasing up to 57.9 million by the year 2050. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics 2011, the country’s 60% of the total population depends on the agricultural sector for their livelihood which contributes to 20% of the total GDP. Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, and Borguna-the five districts are the most Southwestern Coastal Districts of Bangladesh are highly susceptible to climate induced disasters (i.e., cyclone, tidal surge, flood, salinity intrusion, tornado). These are also addressed by the scholars as well as the researchers as hard to reach areas as well.

The alarming thing is with time, the net-cropped land area has been decreasing due to climate induced factors (i.e., saline intrusion, cyclone, flood). As it is directly affecting agriculture, the country’s food security is also going under threat. Along with food insecurity, this huge population has a massive safe drinking water issue as well. People from the southwestern coastal region of Bangladesh have been exposed to water insecurity, as the groundwater is laced with salinity and toxins. According to a study in 2009, approximately 30 million people in this region are estimated unable to get portable water whereas 15 million are drinking saline water having no other alternative. About 12-34% of inhabitants are using alternative drinking water sources such as rainwater, surface water, and other unimproved water sources.

In this circumstance, ensuring food and water security in southwestern coastal Bangladesh has become a prior concern from both national and international organizations which is witnessed through different national policies aiming at attaining SDGs with the help of relevant UN organizations. INGOs, GOs, and local NGOs are working together in order to safeguard these marginal people. Different livelihood strategies (i.e., Crab farming, Crab nursing, Hydroponics, Homestead gardening, Crab and fish feed processing, Sesame cultivation, Salinity tolerant plat nursing, for drinking water purposes: Household based rainwater harvesting, Community-based rainwater harvesting) are being offered by the INGOs (i.e., UNDP) which is yet to be adequate enough to eradicate the marginality among the people from southwestern coastal Bangladesh. Against the soil salinity in 1985 shrimp aquaculture was introduced to the southwestern coastal Bangladesh aiming at economic growth. Since then, the natural landscape of the southwest has changed a lot. Importantly, crab farming is keeping a negative impact on groundwater and surface water resulting from salinity. In 2010 a study from Soil Resources Development Institute ensures the yearly increasing rate of salinity intrusion is around 0.74%. Nowadays, rotating cropland into shrimp has become a common practice and this is resulting in up to 77% loss of agricultural land.

Therefore, Salinity tolerant plat nursing is more encouraged and adopted by the inhabitants in terms of getting food security in the southwest. In terms of providing safe drinking water, massive rainwater harvesting both at household and community level has to be promoted and all supports have to be provided. Along with these, rainwater harvesting, and feasibility regarding the installment of a number of WasteWater Treatment Plants and thus Water ATMs can be studied. The Drinkwell Water ATM model can be followed as well which will ensure more efficiency with innovation. Programs and Projects that can engage the life of many have to be launched more and more if we really want to fulfill the current SDGs by the year 2030. 

Tasin Islam Himel

Research Associate

@Unsung Heroes Foundation