The Khulna region has not seen any rainfall in the last seven months.
In some areas, not a drop of rain has fallen. Boro and watermelon fields lie scorched due to the drought and glaring summer sun, leaving farmers depressed about yields.
Thousands of shrimp enclosures are also struggling to operate, having dried up.
On the other hand, tens of thousands of coastal people in the region lack sufficient drinking water for most of the year, barring the rainy season.
Pabitra Roy of Khalashibunia of Batiaghata, who cultivates Boro on four bighas of land, has been facing irrigation problems since the start of the season.
He tried to use water from his shrimp pond but he was not able to extract any water last month as his enclosure dried up.
“I could not water at the last moment and almost the entire Boro field is cracked and dried up.
“My green field turned to straw. It is my ill fate to cultivate Boro this season,” said Pabitra.
A visit to Batiaghata villages including Khalashibunia, Sailmari, Badamtala, Bosu Rabad, Boyarbhanga, and Sukdar, revealed almost all ponds and canals in the area to be dried up.
Over two lakh farmers like Pabitra in the region have been suffering due to the lack of rain, said the local DAE office.
Eagerly awaited every year, watermelons are not growing to their usual size due to the lack of water in the region this season, said several farmers The Daily Star spoke to.
In other years, a watermelon usually weighed between six to seven kilogrammes or more; this year, most watermelons look to weigh less than two to three kilograms.
LEAST RAINFALL IN 21 YEARS
According to the Khulna Met office, rainfall from November last year to May 16 constituted only 26 millimetres.
According to the Met office data, this is the least amount of rainfall in the region in the last 21 years.
During roughly the same period, 411mm rainfall fell between November 2019 and April 2020 — 385mm more than this year.
Md Amirul Azad, senior Met officer of the Khulna regional office, told The Daily Star that due to global climate change, there will be less rainfall in Bangladesh this year and Khulna is also getting less rain for the same reason.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) Khulna, a total of 77,669 hectares of land have been planted with Rabi crops this year.
This constitutes 60,150 hectares of Boro paddy, 615 hectares of mustard, 7,512 hectares of watermelon, and 7,175 hectares of vegetable cultivation.
LACK OF POTABLE WATER
Most of the rainwater harvesting tanks are also empty and ponds have largely dried up in Khulna’s coastal areas — creating a shortage of potable water during the driest months of the year.
Farida Khatun, a resident of Kailashganj area of Dacope, adjacent to the Sundarbans, said, “We are waiting for the rainy season for drinking water. We pray for the rainy season to be long lasting.”
“We can use rainwater for three to four months. The rest of the months, we face an acute shortage of drinking water in these areas.”
Often in the summer, a pitcher of water is not available even if you pay Tk 25 to Tk 30, she added.
Mehedi Hasan Khan, agriculture officer of Dacope upazila, said the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation has offered to dig 102 canals.
“If all the canals are dug in phases, the water problem will be reduced.”
Executive Engineer (Khulna) of the Department of Public Health Engineering Akmol Hossain said a shift to using surface water and larger rainwater containers are needed to address the potable water shortage in the coastal areas.