Bending to the water's will

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Science  02 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6379, pp. 980-985
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6379.980

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Bangladesh is buffeted by natural forces as varied as flooding rivers and cyclones. Over decades, the country has developed defenses: warning systems, storm shelters, salt-resistant crops, and 139 artificial islands called polders near the coast—a 5700-kilometer network of walls to protect farmland from inundation. But artificial infrastructure is not infallible and can cause problems of its own. That's starkly apparent across the country's polders, which have disrupted a fragile standoff between water and land and are now straining to hold back the water. As climate change compounds that threat with rising seas and stronger storms, Bangladeshis who have spent years building barricades are considering what was once unthinkable: letting the water in. It's resilience by bending, not resisting. And it's tougher to do than it sounds.

  • This project was supported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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