Photographer: Mohammad Rakibul Hasan
Title: Salt
Location: Across Coastal Belt Area, Bangladesh
Period: 05/2010 - 09/2021
Category: Environment

Global warming seems to have a more severe impact on certain countries than others because it affects the world climate. An immediate effect of global warming is the increased natural disasters like storm surge and flood, while sea-level rise is a slow yet inevitable process.

Bangladesh, the largest delta of the world, is a direct victim of global warming. An increase in natural disasters like cyclones and oceanic tidal waves are affecting the coastal area of Bangladesh. The coastal lowlands of this country have inhabitant of millions who, ironically, are dependent on the sea for their livelihood. Thus, Bangladesh is one of the scapegoats of climate change, a direct function of global warming.

Bangladesh's low-lying coastal areas are speculated to be submerged due to sea-level rise as the world temperature continues to go up. This situation is worsened by immediate natural calamities like cyclones and tidal floods. Two recent cyclones, Sidr (2007) and Aila (2009) devastated the coastal territory of Satkhira, Barguna, Patuakhali, Khulna, and Bagerhat. Gabura, a region adjacent to Sundarbans of Satkhira district, stands as the epitome of how dreadful the effects of climate change could be.

Cyclone Aila hit Gabura on 27 May 2009 and claimed 330 lives on its way, while 8,208 or more remain missing to date. The storm wiped away natural resources and shelters, leaving 1 million people homeless. Health officials in Bangladesh confirmed a deadly outbreak of diarrhea on 29 May 2009, with more than 7,000 people being infected and four deaths. In Bangladesh, an estimated 20 million people were at risk of post-disaster diseases due to Aila. Damage totaled a shocking figure of 552.6 million USD.

As the rising sea levels and unusually high tidal waves encroach the lowlands of Bangladesh, the coastal areas face increased salinity. In the dry season, when the upstream water flows reduce drastically, the saline water goes up to 240 kilometers inside the country and reaches distant regions. Agricultural activities and cropping strength have been changed; now, farmers cannot grow various crops in a year. Food and work opportunities are getting reduced. An additional factor that helps continuous sustentation of salinity in the mainland is shrimp cultivation, which involves trapping seawater in agricultural lands for a long time.

The Sundarbans is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world. Sixty percent of Sundarbans is shared in Bangladesh, covering significant parts of Satkhira and Khulna districts, while the rest of it lies in West Bengal of India. Sundarbans works as the shock absorber of natural disasters in the coastal regions of Bangladesh, partially protecting the communities from the surge of tidal waves and gusts of the cyclone. However, as agricultural lands continue to diminish, many people are being forced deeper into the jungle for procuring livelihood by means like honey or firewood collection. It makes them the victim of deadly Royal Bengal Tigers, which often break into nearby localities. These unfortunate fortune seekers are also often kidnapped by pirates roaming inside Sundarbans.

This cascade of events triggered by climate change robbed the coastal community of Bangladesh of their right to live a solvent and peaceful life. Hope is what keeps us alive, but it is not possible to avoid the harsh reality. A lot of these people turned into what we call 'climate refugees.' Many moved to the nearest cities, and many of them trespassed the Bangladesh-India border at the Bay of Bengal. Silent climate migration is going on. The fairy tale of the king and his daughter teaches us that everything becomes tasteless without salt, even love. However, for climate refugees, this is not the case. 'Salt' is what made their life simply bitter; salt is the tragedy they are left with, on their lands and in their tears.

It is never too late to take the proper action. A significant number of national and international policies must be directed towards mitigating the effects of climate change on people's lives. Small countries like Bangladesh must be provided with adequate international support to rehabilitate the affected people and protect their coastal resources. Otherwise, an ominous change in the landscape of human civilization will be inevitable.



Salt

Gabura a union of Satkhira District comprises twelve villages and an island near the mainland About 35 thousand people live here This area was washed out by the cyclone Aila in the year 2009 Hundreds of people drowned and died in the water Survivors took immediate shelter Some went to the nearest cyclone center And the others went to their roofs and trees For about two years after the cyclone thousands of people had to stay and live on the embankment

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Women in developing countries like Bangladesh mostly live in poverty and natural disasters These are making them more vulnerable affecting their livelihoods and security

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Many areas around Shahporir Dwip will be drowned by seawater as the frequent cyclones and tidal floods often hit these territories Construction of dams and bridges is going on but those get eroded by the floodwater within a few years

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A young girl digs deep into soil saturated with salt water hoping to find logs to burn as fuel Two years from Cyclone Aila Bangladesh s southwest coastline communities are starting to rebuild their lives In the course of the cyclone which struck in May 2009 surges of water up to three meters high battered the coast along the Bay of Bengal in Khulna district It was already weakened by Cyclone Sidr the worst ever in the region Aila needed a tiny hit to destroy the defenses

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Hazera Khatun witnessed many cyclones and is traumatized She was taken to a cyclone shelter by her son at the time of cyclone Aila Her family later lived on the water and rebuilt their house using leaves stripped from the forest

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Nargis Khatun lost one eye while bathing in a contaminated pond after the cyclone Aila in 2009 Safe water recourses have been destroyed all ponds and tube-well are filled with saline water and the soil is also affected by salt

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Mohammad Al-Amin Islam operates a small poultry farm jointly with his father His father received microloans that helped him to start with his business Many people take loans from NGOs to repay the previous loans a productive business or investment in existing professions may help out these people

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Official Mawalis honey collectors generally start entering the forest from 1 April and stop on 15 June every year A Mawali group comprises 7 to 9 persons who collect the honey from the Sundarbans Before entering the forest they perform rituals and pray to Banbibi Hindu Goddess of the woods The government forest department issues license and Mawalis have to pay a certain amount of money The Sundarbans are surrounded by pirates who also demand a fee per head to enter the forest Tiger is another life threat for Mawalis every year many people get eaten by tigers

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The Sundarbans is threatened by overexploitation The Royal Bengal tigers are also endangered as they come closer and closer to human settlements in search of food As a consequence the man-tiger conflict is increasing day by day Hungry tigers attack human beings The rates of these attacks are growing every day Hashmat Sardar is a tiger attack victim who lost the left part of his face now leading an unbelievably tricky life

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According to a study by UKaid P K Das increase in frequency and extent hazards like cyclones storm surges droughts sea level rises put 63 million children in social and physical vulnerability in Bangladesh The physical vulnerability may include death injury diseases physical abuse chronic malnutrition and forced labor The social vulnerability includes loss of parents and family internal displacement risk of being trafficked loss of property and assets and lack of educational opportunities

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Bangladesh is on the frontline of climate migration due to global warming From each family who lives around the coastal areas at least one person has moved somewhere else to find work In Dhaka the growth of slums and their density is getting thicker every day Due to the lack of space in Dhaka slums built of bamboo are being made into two stories A climate migrant from Shyamnagar Satkhira District finds work as a rickshaw puller in Dhaka Unemployment and salinity both encourage people to move from their usual habitat

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Nijhum Dwip is one of the climate-prone islands that face several cyclones and tidal floods every year Many people are migrating to the nearest cities due to land erosion and securing their lives