Saltwater Intrusion: Another Impact of Global Warming on Bangladesh

Photo Courtesy: Clean Water Action
Photo Courtesy: Clean Water Action

For those of us who have easy access to pure water, it is pretty hard to empathize with the feeling of one who is not this much fortunate. Occasional spells of water crisis dawns some realization upon us from time to time, reminding us that we should be frugal in our water usage from then on – true, but soon enough we usually go back to our average life once the crisis solves.

But inhabitants of the southwestern low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh are some of those unfortunate  who have to live in this nightmarish experience all the time. This is primarily due to the fact that our country is facing the riskiest situation in the world as a result of sea-level rise caused by global warming. While the result of a rising sea-level is generally taken to be demonstrated through flooding, the serious effect it has on potable water by turning it saline is not something we know much about.

What makes Bangladesh particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon? Two-third of our total land area is less than 5 meters above the sea level. According to studies, many districts will lose access to river water entirely in future during dry season. This is already affecting cultivation of freshwater fisheries, hindering both a good source of protein and a viable way of earning livelihood for the population. This hampers the provision of irrigation water to agricultural lands and last but not the least, posing a dearth of available source for potable water. The scenario is getting exacerbated due to low rainfall and high level of arsenic contamination in the area which  makes people extract water from deeper parts of the earth, lowering the existing groundwater level more and more. According to Ainun Nishat, a climate change expert and vice-chancellor of Brac University in Dhaka, “Salinity in the water of coastal areas has now reached over 20 parts per thousand, but the human body can only tolerate five parts per thousand.”

To tackle this problem, it is incumbent that appropriate technologies are developed and employed fast. Sand filtration system and desalination plants are some of the ways which are to be explored. Not only that, raising awareness among the affected population on water usage and making the farmers conscious about salt-tolerant crops are also needed in order to ameliorate this situation.


1. A World Bank Report  2. The Guardian Report

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