As sea levels rise and the fierce cyclones, the salinity intrusion into coastal areas, impacting the lives of millions of residents of Bangladesh.
Around 35 million people are living on the edge of a climate catastrophe, at the coastal belt of the Bay of Bengal.
We often spoke about the immediate impacts of storms and tidal upsurges. But we hear less about the resulting salinity increase and its long-term consequences. Each time saltwater from the sea contaminates farms and water sources when a tidal surge sweeps the inland. Along with drastic economic effects, as its consequences, worsening of crop yields, malnutrition, and diseases are significant concerns.
Nearly 98% of freshwater reservoirs and ecosystem is lost.
As consequences, high and long-term salinity exposure has deteriorated the coastal lifestyle, and acute health crises emerged while sub-surface and surface water is contaminated by salinity intrusion in the coastal area. Approximately 98% of freshwater reservoirs and ecosystems were abolished, and it has created potable water scarcities.
The salinity gradients in groundwater increased several-fold over previous decades. A significant change is observed in the salinity of the groundwater aquifer over the last ten years. The salt content is at its highest level during the summer season.
45% of people drink pond water without taking any disinfection measures.
Here, life is so miserable when access to fresh drinking water. That is why local people can’t regularly drink enough water to meet their bodies ‘ demands owing to severe drinking water shortages.
Unfortunately, the average potable water collection time takes around four hours a day. Moreover, around 45% of people use pond water for drinking without taking any disinfection measures. However, it is hardly found the number of households used to drink pond water after boiling it. Very few people use water from desalination plants during emergency periods to fulfil their needs.
Not enough money to get treatment for their disease.
The regional water crisis cause residents suffering from high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, a high prevalence of kidney diseases, skin diseases, and diarrhoea.
Thus, more than 95% of residents do not get proper treatment because of high treatment costs and lack of medical support at the community level. They only receive some medical support only during the immediate aftermath of devastating disasters.
First food, then treatment.
Despite having no adequate money to meet the regular household needs, their average health treatment cost has increased by around 24%. So, most low-income people try to ignore their health diseases. It leads to a thought process of “first food, then treatment.”
Why integrated policy measures?
Over the last few decades, local peoples are highly exposed to drinking water salinity. So, a severe water crisis turns into a coastal public health crisis.
Within the disaster-affected economy, health expenditure is one of the most influential factors. That can increase population migration considering coastal environmental hazards.
So, integrated policy measures can secure coastal communities facing coastal disasters. Now, we should identify social perceptions regarding the high salinity intrusion.
How can we reduce its impact? What are the best social actions between government and non-government organizations regarding the salinity intrusion?
Also, it requires regular health check-ups to measure the impact of potable water access and salt intake and to monitor health diseases.
To understand the level of salt intrusion, this study was carried out in the Shyamnagar sub-district in the Satkhira district of Bangladesh. The five unions are Atulia, Burigoaliny, Gabura, Munshigonj, and Padmapukur. Those unions are highly vulnerable to cyclonic storm surges, waterlogging, and flooding hazards.
Khan, R. (2020). COP25: The case for a sincere investment in loss and damage. Dhaka: The Daily Star.
Rakib, M., Sasaki, J., Matsuda, H., & Fukunaga, M. (2019). Severe salinity contamination in drinking water and associated human health hazards increase migration risk in the southwestern coastal part of Bangladesh. Journal of Environmental Management, 238-248.