The Business Standard talked to Dr Hamidur Rahman Molla, former principal scientific officer of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, and Dr M Maksudur Rahman, professor of geography and environment at the University of Dhaka, about how rising sea levels will affect Bangladesh
Dr Hamidur Rahman Molla
The rise in sea level water is nothing new. Due to this, the salinity of water in the mainland is rising day by day. Earlier, salinity was a problem in coastal districts but now it has reached other districts such as Jashore, Khulna and Narail.
Although Bangladesh is a riverine country, it is sad that we do not have much water in our rivers. Generally, water coming from rivers pushes seawater down but as our rivers are getting dry, sea water is flowing upstream and entering the mainland.
Water salinity directly affects local inhabitants as it is linked to their livelihood. As a result, people from coastal areas are migrating to highlands. In some cases, they are trying to go abroad illegally.
It is true that the Himalayan Glacier is melting at a faster rate but we are not getting that water due to the dams established on the India-Bangladesh border. Also, we need to start dredging our rivers to increase their capacity to hold water. This is to ensure that local residents are not affected by floods in the monsoon.
The government is trying to solve water distribution issues with India but it is necessary to get results fast. Because without proper distribution of water, our rivers will get even drier and in the near future, seawater might enter northern districts as well.
Dr Hamidur Rahman Molla is the Former Principal Scientific Officer of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute
Dr M Maksudur Rahman
We have two schools of thought – local scientists and global scientists – when are talking about the rise in sea levels. According to a report of local scientists, there is no land in coastal areas that went under sea in the past 50 years.
What actually happened is that due to many natural disasters such as Sidr and Aila, seawater is stuck in the mainland. As a result, salinity is increasing in those areas.
The global scientists on the other hand have been saying that many coastal districts will be submerged in the sea. However, they could not provide any local data to support their statement.
We have 19 districts in our coastal belt. As these districts are prone to natural disasters, the local inhabitants are migrating to highlands such as Dhaka or Sylhet. Due to this influx, the districts are facing problem. We have to think about this and we have to create proper accommodation facilities for these people.
Global warming and sea level rise are crucial issues. But we always do research on the water level of rivers and until now, we have not conducted any research on the rise in sea level.
We need to start doing this type of research so that we can keep a record of the water level and take necessary measures in a timely manner.
Dr M Maksudur Rahman is a Professor of Geography and Environment at the University of Dhaka