Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Now, a House Made of Mud

Viterbo, Italy – When he built his first house in 1975, Jalaluddin Saha used bricks. In 1982, when the sea claimed his house and that of 100 families, he used bricks but built the new house farther from the shore.

In 2005 he – and 60 other families – again had to build a third house as the sea destroyed the 17 meter embankment that protected the farms.

So for his third house, the retired teacher and farmer used mud since it is cheaper than brick. He built his house in the middle of Mousuni Island, one of the 105 islands that dot India's part of the Sundarbans delta in West Bengal.

His present house is about 1.5 kilometers from his first house, nearly in the middle of Mousuni.

"Either our island is sinking or the sea is rising,” Saha said. “I do not think I have to build another house...I would not be surprised if my sons and grandsons are forced to move again.”

Today, only half of his two hectare farm is productive. Seeping salt water has rendered the rest of his farm – and nearly a fifth of Mousuni – unsuited for agriculture. They used to be able to produce three crops of rice a year, but now, only two because the monsoon rains come later.

Jalaluddin Saha and his neighbors are replanting mangrove forests and planting new crops like watermelons and green chillies to adapt to climate change and rising sea levels.

But their efforts may be futile. Since 1940, Mousuni Island has lost 11 square kilometers; it is now only 24 square kilometers. Scientists predict that in 30 years, the island will be totally submerged.

Adlai Amor is director of communications at Bread for the World. He spoke with Jalaluddin Saha at the GreenAccrod International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, Viterbo, Italy, Nov. 25-29.


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