The Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta runs along the border between India and Bangladesh. It is one of the most important wetland ecosystems in the world. The region is best known for its many mangrove forests. But in the last few decades the bad influence of humans has become more and more visible. Many experts date the beginning of the problem to the Indian partition in 1947. At that time the British colony was divided into a Hindu part – today’s India – and a Muslim part – today Pakistan and Bangladesh. This brought an unbelievable amount of human suffering and set in motion large flows of refugees. The displaced or fled people then often settled near the new border – also in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta. As a result, the demand for raw materials and food in the region increased. The consequence: More and more mangrove forests were simply cleared.
Hurricanes and rising sea levels make the problem worse
This is now proving to be highly problematic. For many years the mangroves served as a kind of natural protective shield that prevented seawater from entering the rivers and other water points. In the meantime, however, the shield has become too full of holes to offer sufficient protection. This effect is reinforced by climate change. On the one hand, this ensures that sea levels continue to rise. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of seawater getting inland. In addition, extreme weather events such as cyclones are becoming more likely. These can also cause natural water reservoirs to become too salty. The competition between the neighboring states of India and Bangladesh further exacerbates the problems. Reference is made again and again to the Farakka dam in India, which was built in 1975. This ensures that too little freshwater gets into the area, especially in the dry season, so the allegation. Whether this is true has so far been neither proven nor refuted.
Salty water can lead to infertility
It is clear, however, that women in the region in particular are suffering from the increasingly salty water. Because they often have to work in the water, wash their clothes in it and drink it too. Studies by non-profit organizations have already shown that women who live in coastal areas with high levels of salty water are more likely to develop uterine infections and ulcers in the uterus. This has to do with the fact that the salty water destroys the immune system in the vagina, making it easier for germs to play. The problems with the uterus, in turn, can lead to infertility or problems during pregnancy. Doctors therefore often advise women to minimize contact with the salty water. In many cases, however, this is simply not possible for economic reasons. Afforestation projects that would repair the mangrove protective wall again do not seem to have a political priority.