BANGLADESH: COUNTRY OVERVIEW
Bangladesh is situated in southern Asia, on the delta of the 2 largest rivers on the Indian subcontinent—the Ganges and Jamuna (Brahmaputra). It borders with India in the west, north, and east, with Burma (also known as Myanmar) in the southeast, and with the Bay of Bengal in the south. The country's area is 144,000 square kilometers (55,598 square miles), and it is divided into 6 administrative divisions (Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Barisal, Rajshai and Sylhet) and 4 major municipal corporations (Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi). Comparatively, the territory of Bangladesh is slightly greater than the state of New York. Bangladesh's capital city, Dhaka, is located in the central part of the country. Bangladesh occupies the eastern part of the Bengal region (the western part of the region is occupied by the Indian state of West Bengal), which historically was part of the great civilizations in the northeast of the Indian subcontinent. The population of Bangladesh was estimated at 129,194,224 in July of 2000, making Bangladesh the tenth-most populous state in the world. Having a total area the size of New York state, the country has a population equal to half that of the United States or 8 times the population of New York State. It has almost doubled since the 1960s, due to improved health, medical facilities, and longer life expectancy. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 25.44 per 1,000 (slightly higher than the world average), adding around 190,000 people every month. Meanwhile the death rate stood at 8.73 per 1,000. The estimated population growth rate is 1.59 percent, and if the current trend remains unchanged, the population could double within the next 45 years. In 1970, the population of Bangladesh was about 66 million, and the country at one time had one of the highest birth rates in Asia. The country's population doubled between 1950 and 1977 and almost doubled again between 1977 and 2001, putting severe pressure on the natural resources and leading to land shortages. In the 1970s the government introduced population control and family planning initiatives, aided by various international organizations, including United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank. The fertility rate (the average number of children born to a woman) in Bangladesh declined from 6.8 babies per woman in 1965 to around 3 per woman in 1999. However, these population control initiatives were undermined by the fact that two-thirds of the population still lives in rural areas, where historically population growth was very high, and by the fact that almost two-thirds of the people in the country are illiterate. A number of issues still need to be addressed, including the supply of safe drinking water, malnutrition among children (which remains the highest in the world), early and forced marriages, and illiteracy among the population in general and women in particular. The population growth in the country was offset by rapidly rising emigration of people, both permanent and temporary, in the 1980s and 1990s. The major destinations for Bangladeshi workers seeking temporary jobs are Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, where they are employed mainly in the low-skill and low-wage construction and service sectors and in agricultural plantations. Other popular destinations for emigration are Western Europe, the Americas and Australia, where large Bangladeshi communities formed during the last 3 decades. According to the CIA World Factbook, the emigration rate stood at the 0.77 migrant(s) per 1,000 populations in 2000, or around 1 million a year.
The main commercially viable natural resource in Bangladesh is gas, although there are reports of the existence of moderate-sized reserves of coal. Total gas reserves are estimated at 21,000 billion cubic feet. In 2000 Bangladesh utilized 370 billion cubic feet, mainly for...
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