Monday, 2 May 2011

Buoyant Bangladesh

Do you read National Geographic? Well, if you don't, I would strongly recommed that you do but if you struggle to find the time, I definetly recommend you read the latest article in the year long special series, 7 billion people as it links very closely to not only the population module but also the last section of the coasts module, rising sea levels, that we finished off last week.

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and is 'a place where one person, in a nation of 164 million, is mathematically incapable of being truly alone'. Despite a sharp drop in it's CBR, the population is expected to grow to 220 million by 2050 and, due to trends in sea level, much of the landmass would be permanently underwater - further increasing the population density of this region. Sea level rise is not just something that will affect those in poor, low lying countries like Bangladesh as more than a third of the worlds population live within 62 miles of the sea. It has been predicted that by 2100 there could be as many as 250 climate refugees (related, the majority of which displaced by rising sea levels and as many as 30 million coming from the coast of Bangladesh.

Click on the link to see the full interactive version

Where are these people supposed to go? That is a question being asked by many at present............. India is building a six foot barrier of barbed wire and concrete along its 2,500 mile border with Bangladesh to prevent immigration from Bangladesh. With this option being taking away from those displaced by the encroaching sea, many choose to move to the urban areas further inland which is causing huge problems for cities like the capital Dhaka. It has been predicted that by 2030, 41% of the population will live in urban areas with only 52% having access to sanitation. This predicted scenairo is the perfect breeding ground for disease and crime and would further hold back Bangladesh's development.

However, climate change not only threatens the coast but also the inland communties as, like neighbouring India, the main rivers in Bangladesh are fed by the Tibetan Plateau snowfall and the monsoon rains - both of which have been disrupted by changes to the climate. Although some may consider monsoons to hamper economic progress, my personal experience of them in India made me realise how much people rely on them and plan their year around then - even right down to day to day lives. When I was in India the monsoon arrived late (although when it did finally appear, its presence was definetly felt!) and this uncertainity to when it was going to arrive caused a lot of distruption and worry to the local people who explained that, over recent years the timing of the monsoons has never been as predicted. Adapting to these changes is not easy but, in Bangladesh, many new ideas have been implemented to help people cope with the rising sea levels. These include altering farming practices to enable them to farm on floating gardens and therefore still grow the crops required to survive. Many farmers have totally altered what they grow. Rising sea levels have increased the salinity of farm land and rivers to such levels that rice can't grow, whilst other fields remain flooded for most of the year. Therefore many farmers have changed from growing rice to growing crabs and shrimps in the ponds that have been created and then vegetables on the embankments. Solar-powered school boats have also been introduced so that kids can attend schools even if it floods whilst limiting the potential damage to infrastruture.

So, can the developed world learn from anything from Bangladesh? The attitude that many of the Bangladesh people share towards the problems they face is admirable - they don't complain but just shape their lives around the frequently changing conditions, with many saying they have moved more than 40 times within their life times. I am unsure if as many people in the developed world would be as resilient as many of those affected in Bangladesh have been. They have utilised their limited resources to the best of their ability but this problem is not likely to go away. In the near future, it is likely that Bangladesh will recieve more international aid to help it deal with the effects of climate change because due to the target set, by the developed nations in the Copenhagen conference of 2009, to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 for poor countries who face many problems which they played only a minimal role in creating. However, this is clearly not an problem that can be remedied by money.

Before I end up re-writing the whole article in my own words I had better stop - I have just picked out the main points but the article is honestly a really good thing to read as part of your revision. Although this is after our summer exam keep your eyes open for the July article related to this series which will discuss what it will take to feed 9 billion people in 2045.


  1. Thanks for the post. I'm on my way to Dhaka and will be needing all the information i can get.

    call Bangladesh

  2. I havent't been to Bangladesh but a couple of years ago I went on a Indian exchange trip. In preparation, the teachers got me to read and watch lots of related things but, being totally honest, nothing prepared me for the culture shock or what I saw. It was the most life changing and eye-opening experience of my life - I am sure your experience in Dhaka will have a similar effect!