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Bangladesh’s landmass has increased in recent years, thanks to sedimentation in its southern rivers, a study has revealed.

The study shows that the country has actually grown in landmass equal to five times the size of Dhaka city. The new land has emerged in the Meghna estuary.

The 8.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Assam in 1950 increased the sediment flow and has added a net increase of 1,790 sq km to the country’s land mass, it said.

This should ease Bangladesh’s concern that it could partially shrink in size due to global warming, experts said.

“More charlands (dried up river beds) have emerged than we have lost due to river erosion over the years,” Maminul Haq Sarker, a geo-morphologist who conducted the study, told The Daily Star newspaper.

The new land, which emerged mostly in Noakhali, was discovered when Sarker and his research team analysed satellite pictures and other data from 1943 to 2008 and tracked sediments coming from the Himalayas and flowing down the Padma and Jamuna rivers.

The rivers deliver about one billion tonnes of silt a year from India, Nepal, China, and Bhutan to the Meghna estuary within the Bay of Bengal.

Besides Noakhali, new land has been found at the southern Patuakhali, Shariatpur, Barisal and Chittagong districts.

The findings released Thursday said that this “shines a ray of hope on otherwise dire predictions by groups such as the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) that Bangladesh will lose about 17 percent of its land area because melting polar ice caps will increase sea levels.”

However, Sarker cautioned that more research was needed.

“This is an indicative study. We need to continue our research to say something concrete,” he was quoted as saying.

“Now we might think to battle the climate change challenge in different way if we can use the sediment in planned way. We can recover certain amount of our land mass from the aggression of rising sea level.”

ThaiIndian News, 23 April 2010