Sampling The Ganges

by | 2.19.2013 at 5:35am
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Humayun interviewing farmers about the history of shrimp and rice farming in the area.

We got to Khulna about 5 pm and met up with Chris Small, who was brought from the boat with all the Vanderbilt University people by Bachchu.  This is the last segment of my trip. The next day, we went to an area near the compaction site.  Chris had analyzed 10 years of MODIS satellite images and just west of the compaction site was an area that stood out for having increasing vegetation over that time.  We drove to the site and then continued on the small dirt road that followed the small creek.  We went around a bend and followed the road as far as we could with Chris snapping photos the whole way.  We talked to locals at two places and the second one had the answer.  Most of the rice fields were still fallow, but one area had a pump watering some fields.  We walked over and immediately

Downloading the GPS data from the compaction site in the Islam family home.

became a center of conversation.   This area had previously been converted to shrimp farming. About 15 years ago the BWDB built and embankment, which was the road we were on.  This stopped the tidal flooding of the land inside the embankment.  The shrimp company pulled out and as the land was cleared of its salt by successive monsoons, everyone switched to rice farming.  That started about 8 years ago and the land has become more productive with time.  This is what caused the long-term trend.

On our way out, we stopped at the compaction site.  The Scotts had done everything but download the GPS data. Only the mother and youngest son were home. We were welcomed warmly and served cookies and pakan-pitha, a

The house of Humayun’s aunt in Kushtia where we stayed for 3 nights.

pastry filled with a dal paste.  Then I downloaded the data and visited the wells.  We were invited for lunch and told that Mr. Islam would be upset if he knew we left without lunch, but we were already behind schedule.  We had to go on to Kushtia near the Ganges.  During the long drive, we found out that there was a hartal called for Monday.  We had to rework our plans since we had a lot of driving to do that day.  It was dark when we got to Kushtia, Humayun’s hometown.  We were surprised to find we were staying in his aunt’s house.  Only the caretaker was there and we split the 3 bedrooms.  Staying in a home reinforced the plan we had come up with.  We would need to stay here three nights. An added plus is we’re close enough to hear the protesters singing every night.

We gathered in the rain for a photo to commemorate reaching the Ganges for the first stop on our river survey.

For our new plan, we went to the Ganges downstream of Rajshahi and back so we can go locally at Kushtia during the hartal.  During the long drive it started raining.  We also had trouble finding a ghat (dock) to rent a boat.  We ended up driving to the river and then walking out on a semi-attached char (sandy island).  The mud was incredibly slippery in the rain, but I only fell once.  Chris sampled along the riverbank and then the two of us waded over to the char to sample some more.  Chris will measure the spectra of these samples back home to calibrate his satellite analysis. He will be able to distinguish the percentage of different sediment types for each pixel of the satellite image, which we will then use to better understand the changes in the rivers.  The chars move around, appear and disappear

Chris prepares to take his first sediment samples along the Ganges in the rain at Charghat.

every year during the monsoon.  Meanwhile, we were getting soaked and called it quits.  Good thing we didn’t go out on a boat for hours.

Today, is another hartal (general strike), however, we were able to walk to the Gorai River here in Kushtia.  We went to a park where a lot of boats come to take people on rides, but none were here this early.  Still, we managed to flag one down and hire it for the day.  We went up the Gorai into the Ganges and headed upstream to Ranakor Char.  We spent the day visiting three chars (sandy islands), stopping at multiple sites on each.  The cold overcast day brightened as it went on.  We did sampling and a lot of walking around examining the bedforms and varied sediment deposits.  We could see 5 different scales of bedforms from the

We spent our first day on the water using a local boat to visit several chars.

chars themselves to the tiny ripples in the lows of larger waves.  This area by Kushtia now has numerous chars and they are much more accessible than the ones we tried and failed to visit yesterday.  When we returned in the late afternoon the empty park was filled with people.

Humayun and Meredith discussing the bedforms they see on one of the chars.

 

After dinner, we walked over to the nightly peaceful protests calling for the death penalty for the convicted rajakers, collaborators with the Pakistani army during the 1971 liberation war. The one on the left was given a life sentence for complicity in ~380 murders prompting the popular protests.

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