Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bangladesh – an overview

Bangladesh is a small country and is situated at the head of the Bay of Bengal. On its landward margins India almost surrounds it. The Tropic of Cancer passes through the middle of the country. Bangladesh is a low lying country, 3/4 of it under a.s.l. It can be divided into 2 main regions. The first is a vast alluvial plain, dominated by the delta of the Ganges. The second consists of the only areas of highland, which are in the east and southeast. The Chittagong Hills in the southeast rise to an average height of 650m and in Silhet there are similar ridges that only reach 60 – 90 m. The country has a Tropical monsoon climate and the main features of this include high temperatures, high humidity and heavy rainfall and a marked dry season. COUNTRY STATISTICS Area: 50,260 sq. miles (130,200 sq. km) Population: 120,400,000 Population Density: 836 people/sq. km Population Growth: 2.16% Capital: Dhaka Languages: Bengali, English Religions: Muslim, Hindu Total GDP: US$ 215,400,000,000 Imports: US$ 4,600,000,000 Birth Rate: 35.5/1000 people Death Rate: 11.7/1000 people Life Expectancy: 55.6 years Per Capita PPP: US$ 1,510 Exports: US$ 3,000,000,000 Aid: 26 billion dollars a year 80% below poverty line RURAL ACTIVITIES Bangladesh is 84% rural and the majority of the population lives in villages. There is no defined pattern of urban use and cultivated fields can be found inside towns. 80% of the population depends directly or indirectly upon farming and it accounts for 33%of the country's GNP. Most farms are small i.e. less than two hectares and are often fragmented. Not all farmers own their own land and many are share-croppers. For winter crops to be grown, irrigation is essential but of the total land cropped only 20% is irrigated. The main crops are: rice, pulses, winter wheat, vegetables, bananas, jute, tea and sugar cane, the last three of these being cash crops. Jute has been the leading cash crop for over 100 years. It is used for sacking, carpet backing and string. Since the 1970s jute production has suffered from competition by other countries like China and India. The majority of farmers in Bangladesh are subsistence farmers many of whom have been encouraged to grow cash crops such as jute and tea. However the cultivation of rice is the single most important activity in the economy, and nearly 80% of farmed land is occupied by rice. There are numerous fisheries in Bangladesh and fish products account for 13% of exports and 70% of animal protein in the diet. Land use in Bangladesh: 67% arable land, 2% permanent crops, 4% meadows and pastures, 16% forest and woodland, 11% other. ISSUES OF CHANGE In Bangladesh like in many other LEDCs, rural-urban migration is dominant. Many people especially from the younger generation flock to the cities such as Dhaka and Chittagong in search of work and a better quality of life than in the rural areas. They hope to find better healthcare and education, better paid jobs and improved housing. However when they arrive in the cities they usually find this not to be the case. There is often not enough housing for the new influx of people and so shanty towns, made of poor quality- makeshift housing, develop on the edges of the city. These shanty towns have no access to clean water or sanitation and as a result disease spreads easily in them. The increased population of the urban areas has a strain on the local services and this creates further problems relating to water supply and sewage. Rural-urban migration has caused the process of urbanization to increase and the capital city Dhaka has grown in size significantly. PROBLEMS FACING GOVERNMENT Bangladesh has many problems both natural and human that the government has to try and tackle but being one of the poorest countries in the world and having little capital to invest in solutions, it is not easy. Bangladesh is prone to cyclones which travel northwards up the Bay of Bengal. These cyclones can be devastating and can destroy villages and infrastructure but can also cause storm surges which can cause flooding. Flooding is the most severe problem that faces the country on an annual basis. About one third of Bangladesh is flooded each year during the monsoon. The country is so prone to flooding due to a number of reasons both physical and human. Most of the country consists of the huge floodplain and delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. 70% of the country is less than 1m above sea level and rivers, lakes and swamps cover 10% of the land area. Snowmelt from the glaciers in the Himalayas in the late spring and summer increases discharges. There are heavy monsoon rains especially over the Himalayas, the uplands in Assam and the Central Indian Plateau. Of these, the heavy monsoon rains are the main physical cause of the flooding. In some years including 1998 the rains were exceptionally heavy, (see graph) causing river levels to rise and severe floods to occur. Various other problems in Bangladesh such as deforestation and overpopulation are also responsible for the problem of flooding. The Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers have their headwaters in Nepal and Tibet where in recent years the rapidly increasing populations have caused the removal of vast areas of forest, to provide fuel, timber and grazing land. In Bangladesh the forests are in crisis. There has been a rapid depletion of forest in the last 20 years for crop land, fuel and due to illegal logging. The forests play a major role in the hydrology of the upland drainage basins absorbing water from the ground, binding the soil particles and reducing the impact of rain droplets on the ground surface. Overall the forest cover slows the journey of the water to the river channels reducing the flood risk. The removal of the forest cover has reduced interception and increased landslides, soil erosion and overland flow. The silt and soil is deposited in the river channels causing the raising of the riverbeds and reducing the capacity of the rivers. It is estimated that soil is being lost 400 times faster in deforested areas and is raising the river bed of the Brahmaputra by 5cm per year. Urbanization is also a factor that effects flooding in Bangladesh. Recent development schemes involving the construction of networks of roads and embankments have probably added obstacles to the free drainage of water from the land. The problem that the government faces is that it can not afford to provide sufficient precautions and safety systems, like cyclone shelters, to safeguard against flooding, whilst it has to pay off a huge national debt. Many countries do not see Bangladesh as a viable state and so therefore are reluctant to invest money in it.

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