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The Disappearing Delta: An Environmental Concern - IELTS Reading Passage With Questions & Answers

Updated on 21 November, 2023

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team


Deltas, where rivers meet the sea, are some of the most fertile and ecologically significant areas on our planet. However, many of these vital landforms are disappearing at an alarming rate due to a combination of human activity and natural processes. Understanding this topic is not only crucial for environmental awareness but also for students preparing for the IELTS reading test. The following passage explores the causes and consequences of this global issue.


Deltas have long been celebrated as cradles of human civilization. These landforms are created from the sediment deposited by rivers as they slow down and fan out into the sea or a lake. However, many of the world’s deltas are facing an existential threat, with their surfaces sinking and shorelines retreating.

One primary reason for the disappearing deltas is the extensive damming and diversion of rivers upstream. These practices trap sediment that would typically replenish the deltas. Without this vital sediment, deltas are more susceptible to the erosive forces of ocean waves and currents. Climate change compounds this problem by causing sea levels to rise, which leads to saltwater intrusion and further erosion.

Human activities are not the only culprits. Natural subsidence, the gradual sinking of land, also plays a role. In some regions, the extraction of oil and gas has accelerated this process. The result is a significant loss of deltaic land, which is crucial for agriculture, biodiversity, and human habitation.

The consequences of this phenomenon are severe. As deltas subside and erode, they jeopardize the livelihoods of millions who rely on these fertile grounds for farming and fishing. Additionally, the loss of deltas removes a vital protective buffer against storms and flooding for inland areas. The disappearance of these deltas signals a loss of unique ecosystems that support a diverse range of species.


Q1: What is the primary cause of disappearing deltas mentioned in the passage?

A. Global warming

B. River damming and diversion

C. Excessive rainfall

D. Deforestation

Q2: Fill in the blank: Deltas are more susceptible to erosion without the sediment that is trapped due to __________.

A. (blank) activities upstream.

Q3: True or False: Climate change does not contribute to the disappearing delta problem.

Q4: What is a natural process that contributes to delta disappearance?

A. Earthquakes

B. Subsidence

C. Volcanic eruptions

D. Tsunamis

Q5: Fill in the blank: The extraction of __________ has accelerated the natural subsidence in some regions.

Q6: True or False: The loss of deltas only affects the local ecosystems and not human activities.

Q7: How does the disappearance of deltas affect human livelihood?

A. Increases agricultural yield

B. Destroys farming and fishing grounds

C. Has no significant impact

D. Improves soil fertility

Q8: Fill in the blank: The loss of deltas removes a protective buffer against __________ for inland areas.

Q9: True or False: Deltas are not important for biodiversity.

Q10: What does the passage suggest about the future of deltas if current trends continue?

A. They will grow larger

B. They will stabilize naturally

C. They will continue to disappear

D. They will transform into mountains

Answers & Explanations:

A1: B. River damming and diversion

Explanation: The passage specifies that the trapping of sediment due to upstream damming and diversion of rivers is a primary cause of delta disappearance.

A2: Damming

Explanation: The blank is filled with 'damming,' which relates to the practice mentioned in the passage that contributes to sediment trapping.

A3: False

Explanation: The passage explicitly states that climate change, through the mechanism of rising sea levels, contributes to the problem.

A4: B. Subsidence

Explanation: Natural subsidence is mentioned in the passage as a contributing factor to the disappearing deltas.

A5: Oil and gas

Explanation: The passage indicates that the extraction of oil and gas speeds up the natural sinking of land, affecting deltas.

A6: False

Explanation: According to the passage, the disappearing deltas affect both the ecosystems and human activities such as farming and fishing.

A7: B. Destroys farming and fishing grounds

Explanation: The passage clearly outlines the severe consequences for agriculture and fishing due to delta disappearance.

A8: Storms and flooding

Explanation: Deltas act as buffers against natural disasters; their loss exposes inland areas to such events.

A9: False

Explanation: The passage describes deltas as unique ecosystems supporting diverse species, indicating their importance for biodiversity.

A10: C. They will continue to disappear

Explanation: The passage suggests a grim future for deltas if the current trends of human activity and natural processes persist.

IELTS Reading Test Preparation Tips:

Tip 1: Understand the main idea of each paragraph to answer global questions about the passage accurately.

Tip 2: Look for keywords related to the questions in the passage to find the section where the answer is likely located.

Tip 3: Practice skimming and scanning techniques to quickly identify relevant information.

Tip 4: Be familiar with synonyms and paraphrasing since the questions may use different words than the passage.

Tip 5: Develop the ability to differentiate between main ideas and supporting details to answer specific questions correctly.

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

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