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POST TIME: 15 November, 2017 12:43:48 AM
Salinity leaves 5 lakh hectares of land still uncultivable
10 years of cyclone Sidr
ANISUR RAHMAN KHAN

Salinity leaves 5 lakh hectares of land still uncultivable

Around 5 lakh hectares of cultivable land in five southern districts have remained uncultivated for the past 10 years due to excessive salinity caused by Cyclone Sidr. Cyclone Sidr lashed the southern coastal region of Bangladesh on November 15, 2007, leaving 3,363 people dead. Damage to property, livestock and crops was estimated to be USD 1.7 billion, with houses accounting for half of it, according to the government. According to the Soil Science Institute, around four lakh hectares, out of a total 7.41 lakh hectares of arable land, are highly contaminated by saline water. The farmers of the region are unable to cultivate their land due to the high level of salinity, as much as 16-18 deci-semen per cubic metre water, sources said. The salinity level is high in Barguna, Patuakhali and Bhola and arable land of these areas is in high risk, they added. According to DAE sources, rice production has fallen by around four lakh tonnes in the last five years due to the high level of salinity. Saline water is continuously entering arable land through the breached embankments damaged by Cyclone Sidr.      

 

The tolerable limit is 4-8 deci-semen per cubic metre to cultivate rice, Omar Ali Sheikh, additional director of the DAE in Barisal, told The Independent yesterday (Tuesday).

“We need high salinity-tolerable new varieties of rice. Production will increase in coastal areas if scientists can develop such a variety of paddy,” he said in reply to a query.

The canals are filled up due to siltation, he said, adding that if the canals are dredged, farmers could use the water for irrigation. According to the Bangladesh Water Development Board (WDB), which maintains these embankments, about 46 per cent, or about 2,600 km, of the 5,160 km flood embankments protecting the southern region were partially or completely destroyed by Sidr. Even after 10 years since Sidr struck, repair work of the embankments is yet to begin properly, with lack of funds cited

as the primary reason. About USD 100 million is required for the repair work, according to WDB estimates. About 2,600 km of embankments in Barguna, Patuakhali, Jhalkathi, Bhola and Pirojpur are either partially or fully damaged due to Sidr. Most of its flood embankments were washed away and people are faced with the daily predicament of tidal seawater inundating their land.

The WDB has taken up a Tk. 1,800 crore project to repair the damaged embankments in the current fiscal year, the director general of the WDB, Mahfuzur Rahman, told this correspondent. The WDB's chief engineer of Barisal zone, Sajidur Rahman Sarder, said the World Bank had allocated Tk. 300 crore to repair the damaged embankments in 2010. Around 300 km of the affected embankments will be repaired to prevent tidal surges from affecting crops and properties, he added.

“A total of 871 people are still missing due to Cyclone Sidr,” Iftekharul Islam, director (relief) of the disaster management department, told this correspondent. A total of 30 districts had been affected by Sidr. Of them, four were the worst affected, eight badly and 18 moderately affected, he said. A total of 2,064,026 families were victims of Sidr directly, while 8,923,259 people were affected in 30 districts, he added.

MK