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Food Security in the Face of Climate Change, Population Growth, and Resource Constraints: Implications for Bangladesh

Abstract

Ensuring food security has been one of the major national priorities of Bangladesh since its independence in 1971. Now, this national priority is facing new challenges from the possible impacts of climate change in addition to the already existing threats from rapid population growth, declining availability of cultivable land, and inadequate access to water in the dry season. In this backdrop, this paper has examined the nature and magnitude of these threats for the benchmark years of 2030 and 2050. It has been shown that the overall impact of climate change on the production of food grains in Bangladesh would probably be small in 2030. This is due to the strong positive impact of CO2 fertilization that would compensate for the negative impacts of higher temperature and sea level rise. In 2050, the negative impacts of climate change might become noticeable: production of rice and wheat might drop by 8% and 32%, respectively. However, rice would be less affected by climate change compared to wheat, which is more sensitive to a change in temperature. Based on the population projections and analysis of future agronomic innovations, this study further shows that the availability of cultivable land alone would not be a constraint for achieving food self-sufficiency, provided that the productivity of rice and wheat grows at a rate of 10% or more per decade. However, the situation would be more critical in terms of water availability. If the dry season water availability does not decline from the 1990 level of about 100 Bm3, there would be just enough water in 2030 for meeting both the agricultural and nonagricultural needs. In 2050, the demand for irrigation water to maintain food self-sufficiency would be about 40% to 50% of the dry season water availability. Meeting such a high agricultural water demand might cause significant negative impacts on the domestic and commercial water supply, fisheries, ecosystems, navigation, and salinity management.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge the valuable help, comments, and suggestions provided by the following individuals during the course of this study: Dr. Ahsan Uddin Ahmed, Head, Water and Environment Division, Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad (BUP); Dr. S. Golam Hossain, Principal Scientific Officer, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC); and Mr. Mozaddad Faruque, Director General, Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO).

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Correspondence to Islam M. Faisal.

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Faisal, I.M., Parveen, S. Food Security in the Face of Climate Change, Population Growth, and Resource Constraints: Implications for Bangladesh. Environmental Management 34, 487–498 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-003-3066-7

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KEY WORDS

  • Food security
  • Climate change
  • Population projection
  • Crop productivity
  • Cultivable land
  • Irrigation