SciDev.Net

The disappearing rivers of Bangladesh

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Courtesy of SciDev.Net

Bangladesh is a land of rivers, but changing climate has caused a third of the country’s more than 300 large rivers to disappear.

The rivers are drying out as a result of barriers built upstream to divert water and protect people from floods that have become more frequent as the weather becomes more erratic. A drop in rainfall has also gradually reduced water flow.

The loss of the rivers has affected local people’s livelihoods. Many of those who previously earned a living from fishing have turned to farming because their former work was no longer profitable.

To ease the problem, the government and NGOs are establishing programmes aimed at promoting the creation of temporary markets where people can sell goods such as jute, molasses, and lentils. There are also efforts to improve transport so local people can move to nearby cities until their economic situation improves. The government also plans to assign property rights over land that has emerged from the water to people whose families have lived for centuries near the now-vanished rivers.

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Customer comments

  1. By Jasim Chowdhury on

    Hi, I am from Bangladesh and from my own experience, find the information in this article quite conflicting and unsubstantiated. If Mr. Haq's messages are correct, changing climate is not the cause of rivers to disappear in Bangladesh, but it is more related to human interventions such as indiscriminate deforestation, upstream barriers for water, unplanned human settlement and land disturbance. Several barrages upstream in India has made the situation worse - this is partially a political issue in the area. Plus Bangladeshi rulers are corrupted and do not care for poor rivers to be dredged or to help people living on them. Thanks. MJC

  2. By Vicki Peters on

    Much of Bangladesh is near sea-level, the area is subject to monsoons, has a high water table and is in a delta region. Flooding in much of the area is to be expected and historical data bears this out. When we try to manipulate the natural environment rather than adjust to it, the results are usually disastrous - like causing 1/3 of the country's river to dry up.