Salinization of the Bangladesh Delta worsens economic precarity

Joyce Chen, Valerie Mueller, Fabien Durand, Erika Lisco, Qing Zhong, V. Raju Sherin, A. K.M. Saiful Islam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anthropogenic environmental changes are having complex effects on all aspects of the hydrological cycle. In estuarine areas, these factors are coalescing to increase saline contamination. Between 2006 and 2007, coastal Bangladesh experienced a sudden and dramatic increase in water salinity, with the saline front shifting inland by roughly 20km. We use this exceptional event to explore the impact of salinity on economic activity and agricultural production. Our results indicate that locations that experienced a sudden increase in water salinity incurred a 33% reduction in economic activity, as measured by nightlight intensity. This coincides with a decline in the cultivation of high-yielding rice varieties, which are not salt tolerant, as well as the removal of land from production. There is no robust evidence that changes in population drove these losses in economic activity. While sea level rise may be only one factor in this shift of the salinity front, our findings suggest that the future impacts of sea level rise have the potential to be quite large and may not be limited to coastline locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-247
Number of pages22
JournalPopulation and Environment
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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