The High Barind Tract: a challenging drought-prone agricultural environment

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Riches, C.R. (2008)
  • Publisher: International Rice Research Institute
  • Subject: S1 | SB

The Barind Tract is a distinctive physiographic unit comprising a series of uplifted blocks of terraced land covering 8,720 km2 in northwestern Bangladesh between the floodplains of the Padma (known as the Ganges in India) and the Jamuna rivers (the main channel of the lower Brahmaputra). Spread over parts of the greater districts of Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rangpur, and Bogra of Bangladesh, and Maldah District of West Bengal in India, the Barind includes 773,000 ha in Bangladesh, of which 532,000 ha are cultivable. Rainfall is comparatively low in this region, with the long-term average being about 1,250 mm in the west and 2,000 mm in the northeast, occurring mainly from late April to October.\ud With a variable rainfall and temperature ranging from 25 to 35 °C (regularly exceeding 40 °C) in the monsoon season, the area is considered semiarid and drought-prone. The aman rice1 (monsoon)-growing season ranges from 180 days in the west to 220 days in the northeast but the frequency of dry periods, particularly in July and August, is the highest in the country. The Barind is at a comparatively higher elevation than the adjoining floodplain and there are two terrace levels—one at 40 m above sea level and the other between 19.8 and 22.9 m. Therefore, when the floodplains go under water during the monsoon,the Barind Tract remains relatively free from flooding and is drained by a few small streams. About 47% of the Barind region is classified as highland, about 41% as medium highland, and the rest is lowlands. Although 55% of the Barind was forest in 1850, subsequent rapid population growth resulted in 70% of the land being converted to arable land by 1970. The area is now characterized by terraced slopes with bunded fields without water control other than drainage by gravity to lower-lying fields and streams.
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