Sunday, October 26, 2008

Flooded and parched in Bangladesh

New Nation (Bangladesh): Drinking water in Bangladesh is often full of salt as rising sea levels force water further inland. Expensive technology offers solutions but who will foot the bill?

Momtaj Begum, holding her baby daughter, is among hundreds of women queuing for a pitcher of drinking water at a desalinisation plant in Tafalbaria, a remote village in the Bagerhat district in south-west Bangladesh. 'We have to walk this long way to the desalinisation plant as the water in the pond in our village has turned too salty and muddy to drink,' says Khadiza, a neighbour who had joined in the scramble for fresh water. The women make several trips a day along muddy roads and paths from their home in neighbouring Khuriakhali in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and a UNESCO world heritage site. Their village pond is full of water, but today not a drop of it can be drunk.

The tidal surge whipped up by Cyclone Sidr in November 2007 has contaminated the pond with salt and dirt. The nearby Baleswar River used to provide fresh water, but it is also full of salt and dirt.

Residents of coastal areas have put up with saline surface water for years, but it is getting worse. Researchers have discovered saline water further inland than in the past, as far as 130 km. This is partly because global temperature rises are causing sea levels to rise, occasionally flooding low-lying areas.

….International donors have advised the government in Bangladesh to undertake 'climate-proof' adaptation projects. Indeed, many people are already doing this at a household level. In the coastal belt, people usually drink water from ponds, sometimes purifying it with lime and medicines. Or they rely on the few water desalinisation plants operated by NGOs and government agencies.

…Earlier this year, the head of the present caretaker government of Bangladesh, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, told businesses and global leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about the devastating impact of climate change on Bangladesh. He made an international appeal to establish a global fund for assisting vulnerable countries in adapting to the new challenges faced by climate changes….

No comments: