Salting the womb

A look at how high level of salinity in water is harming the current and future generations of Satkhira.

Asma Khatun, a 26-year-old living in Munshiganj Union of Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila.

Came to Mehendinagar Community Clinic seeking medical advice. 

For the past three months, she has been prone to a gynaecological problem.

Which almost every woman in the coastal region is struggling with.

Cradling her two-year-old daughter, Asma said she was suffering from vaginal irritation.

She visits the clinic only when it becomes unbearable.

Sufiya Khatun and Abul Hossain suffer from skin diseases on their hands and toes which have festered.

Into lingering wounds that have not clotted even after two weeks.

Abul works on a fish farm and the pair depend on saltwater for daily use and pond water for drinking.

Sufiya has had two miscarriages, a case all too common in the region.

Of the 7,000 people living in Kaikhali Union, 500 monthly visitors seek treatment solely for their salinity.

Anup Kumar Mondal, a community health care provider, said most people in the region come.

As well as respiratory and waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery.

And typhoid with the latter group more common among children.

They are suffering miscarriages because of the saline water.

Although we have not done any dedicated research yet,  it has been prevalent in this region

In my five years here, I have witnessed about 20-30% of women suffering from early pregnancy loss.

A 2020 study, titled Salinity and Miscarriage: Is There a Link?

Impact of Climate Change in Coastal Areas of Bangladesh, by the European Journal of Environment.

And Public Health, said about 53% of the coastal areas are affected by salinity. 

It is believed that excessive salt intake during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of miscarriage.

Excessive salt intake and its impact on health have prompted much research.

And various institutions have noticed a higher rate of miscarriage and altered blood pressure level.

The Satkhira Health Department says water with up to 1,000mg of salt in a litre is drinkable.

But the coastal water has between 1,000 and 10,000mg of salt per litre.

The drinking water crisis in the coastal areas like Satkhira has been going on for a long time too. 

Due to its proximity to the sea, Shyamnagar and Assasuni upazila’s water crisis is more significant.

Local residents confirmed their dependency on one source each season to provide drinking water. 

The people obtain drinking water directly from the ponds or from any individually set up.

Some spend several hours to obtain the water. During summer, natural resources are mostly inactive.

As a result, people have to buy a litre of water for Tk1.

Russel, a student at local school Tripani Bidyapith, says his family of four spends 40-45 litres of water.

Tenth-grader Disha added that many female students like her would skip school for up to a week.

But the new toilet facilities are clean, have fresh water and sanitary pads.

We are ensuring its safety by testing some parameters, like fecal coliform and pH level.

If it is 100% safe after laboratory tests, we will open it for public use, he added.

However, these water filtration tanks only cater to a few dozen schools and clinics.

The 318,254-strong population of Shyamnagar remains vulnerable to the ravages of salinity.

Mohammad Abdul Based, government relief and rehabilitation officer in Satkhira.

Ruled out tube wells as there is no layer of clean water.

While there are efforts to mitigate salinity, the lack of a master plan which would provide a central.

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