"Salt"
An Ocean in Focus Conservation Photography Contest Essay
by
Mohammad Hasan

woman in barren landscape in front of grass hut

After cyclone Aila (2009), Hazera Khatun (68) was taken to a government cyclone shelter. Her family later rebuilt their house using leaves stripped from the forest.

man holding bag of baby shrimp up with sunlight shining through

An agent checking baby shrimps in a local shrimp market. Shrimp farming in the coastal areas is a lucrative business but the increase of salinity is likely to jeopardize shrimp farming.

children playing cricket in a barren field

Children playing cricket in a barren field. Due to salinity crops cannot grow anymore. After cyclone Aila, many children had to face diseases, physical abuse, chronic malnutrition, forced labor, and even death.

honey collectors in Sundarbans forest at risk of Bengal Tiger attack

Mawalis (honey collectors) in the Sundarbans Forest,the largest mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans and its 300 species of flora and 425 species of wildlife are threatened by overexploitation.


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"Salt"
An Ocean in Focus Conservation Photography Contest Essay
by
Mohammad Hasan

Global warming seems to have more severe impacts on certain countries than others because of the way 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 an obvious victim of global warming. An increase in natural disasters like cyclone and oceanic tidal waves are affecting the coastal area of Bangladesh. The coastal lowlands of this country are inhabited by millions of people 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.

Low lying coastal areas of Bangladesh are speculated to be submerged in the not-so-distant future 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) totally 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.

As the rising sea levels and unusually high tidal waves encroach the lowlands of Bangladesh, the coastal areas face increased salinity. In dry season, when the flows of upstream water reduce drastically, the saline water goes up to 240 kilometers inside the country and reaches distant regions. Agricultural activities as well as cropping strength have been changed; now farmers are unable to grow various crops in a year. Food and work opportunities are getting reduced. An additional factor that helps continuous sustentation of salinity in main land is shrimp cultivation – an activity that involves trapping seawater in the agricultural lands for a long time.

The Sundarbans is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world. It 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 cyclone gusts. However, as agricultural lands continue to diminish, a lot of people are being forced deeper into the jungle to procure livelihood by means like honey or firewood collection, making them prone to become victims of deadly Royal Bengal Tigers, which often break into nearby localities. These unfortunate fortune seekers may also be 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 nearest cities and many of them trespassed the Bangladesh-India border at the Bay of Bengal. A 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 the climate refugees, this is definitely not the case. 'Salt' is what made their life simply bitter, salt is the tragedy that they are left with; on their lands and in their tears.

portrait headshot of Mohammad HasanMohammad Hasan is a documentary photographer based in Bangladesh, represented by Falcon Photo Agency, Australia. Hasan has studied "film & video production" at UBS Film School, University of Sydney, and later completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Photojournalism through a scholarship program of World Press Photo at Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism, Ateneo De Manila University. He was nominated for Joop Swart Masterclass, UNICEF photo of the year, short listed in Ian Parry scholarship, short listed in professional category in Sony World Photography Awards 2013 and also achieved several accolades in photography worldwide. Hasan is currently studying art history through an online program at the University of Oxford.