Millions of smallholder farmers in Bangladesh pump huge amounts of groundwater for irrigation, helping to triple the country’s rice production and possibly mitigate floods during monsoon season. From a report: Intensive irrigation and other agricultural improvements since the 1980s have enabled Bangladesh to produce enough food each year to be nearly self-sufficient. “In Bangladesh we rely heavily on groundwater for irrigation,” says Kazi Matin Ahmed at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. He says Bangladesh has a lot of groundwater but there are concerns it could be depleted. Using millions of groundwater measurements from 465 sites across Bangladesh, Ahmed and his colleagues estimated how much groundwater was pumped by more than 16 million farmers between 1988 and 2018.
Together, the farmers operate more than 1 million diesel and electric pumps to flood rice paddies during the dry season, which has enabled more food to be produced on more land. Thanks to irrigation and other agricultural improvements, rice production in the 2018-2019 season was more than triple what it was in the early 1970s. At roughly 25 per cent of the sites, the records showed depleting groundwater levels. At around 40 per cent levels during the dry season and monsoon remained steady. In the remaining 35 per cent, levels declined during the dry season due to irrigation but aquifers were completely refilled during the monsoon.