‘White gold’: why shrimp aquaculture is a solution that caused a huge problem

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, 30/06/2022, 5:15 am

In the 1980s, farmers in Bangladesh went from paddies to ponds, letting salt water flood their land. Now millions are left counting the cost

Asadul Islam peers into his pond in south-west Bangladesh and watches as hundreds of caged crabs float past beneath him. He is looking for those that have shed their hard shell. When he finds one, he has a short window to freeze it and send it off for sale to westerners with a taste for soft-shelled crabs.

He hopes this new business venture will provide the wealth that eluded his father. For generations, Islam’s family farmed rice. But from the 1980s, rising seas and storm surges began pushing saltwater over the banks of tidal rivers and ruining their crops. His father, along with millions of other coastal farmers, decided to flood the family’s paddies with brackish water and stock the briny ponds with black tiger prawn fry.

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