Geochemical variability in the soils of Bangladesh as affected by sources of irrigation water and inundation land types

M. Tanvir A. Chowdhury*, Andrew A. Meharg, Adam H. Price, Gareth J. Norton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Paddy soils in Bangladesh experience extensive irrigation with groundwater and surface water, both having variable geochemical constituents. The soils also have topological variations across the landscape. To understand the geochemical variability in the soils as affected by the different sources of irrigation water and the topographical variability, cultivation zones of paddy soils irrigated with both groundwater (n = 904) and surface water (n = 281) across Bangladesh were sampled and analyzed for a suit of seventeen geochemical elements. This study also assessed the extent and distribution of arsenic and the other geochemical elements in the paddy soils (n = 1209) as well as in a set of neighboring non-paddy soils (n = 235) within the different inundation land types (highland, medium highland-1, medium highland-2, medium lowland, lowland and very lowland) of Bangladesh. The mean concentrations of aluminum (26,000 mg/kg), cobalt (13 mg/kg), copper (32 mg/kg), iron (28,250 mg/kg), lead (18 mg/kg), magnesium (8050 mg/kg), molybdenum (1.02 mg/kg), nickel (41 mg/kg), potassium (4870 mg/kg), sodium (750 mg/kg) and zinc (70 mg/kg) in the surface water-irrigated paddy soils were found to be significantly (0.001 ≥ p ≤ 0.05) higher compared to the concentrations in the soils irrigated with groundwater (23,400; 12; 28; 25,650; 17; 7000; 0.96; 36; 4350; 600; and 62 mg/kg, respectively). Therefore, surface water used for paddy irrigation could increase the inputs of a number of toxic elements in the paddy soils having potential risk of crop contamination. Arsenic in the paddy and non-paddy soils varied significantly (F = 24.74, p < 0.001 and F = 3.42, p < 0.01, respectively) within the inundation land types, the very lowland (9.95 and 6.72 mg/kg, respectively) and lowland (8.33 and 5.20 mg/kg, respectively) having the highest mean arsenic concentrations and the medium highland-1 (5.27 and 5.17 mg/kg, respectively) having the lowest. The concentrations of the other geochemical elements analyzed were also observed to be higher, in general, in the soils of very lowland and lowland. Since the low-level lands are predominantly used for paddy cultivation, higher concentrations of various toxic elements, particularly arsenic, in such soils pose an increased risk of rice toxicity in Bangladesh. The results of this study present an inimitable geochemical database for the surface soils across Bangladesh which can be used in any future studies on the geomorphologically variable agricultural and non-agricultural Bangladeshi soils, providing a basis for environmental pollution assessment and sustainable mitigation approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number256
Number of pages12
JournalSN Applied Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date2 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was done as part of a doctoral fellowship plan funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK. We gratefully acknowledge Bangladesh–Australia Centre for Environmental Research and Department of Soil, Water and Environment of the University of Dhaka for the support during the processing and preparation of the soil samples in Bangladesh. We also gratefully acknowledge the Computer and GIS Unit of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) for providing GIS files for mapping of soils and land types. The soil samples were imported into the UK under import license IMP/SOIL/6/2013 issued by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture.

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK.


  • Arsenic
  • Heavy metal
  • Inundation land types
  • Irrigation water
  • Paddy soil


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