Bangladesh is bordered by India on the north, east, and west, and the Bay of Bengal and Myanmar on the south. It is a low-lying country, and is formed by the Ganga-Brahmaputra River system, which is the largest delta in the world. It is extremely prone to cyclones and floods, which are a regular occurrence in the region.
- Geographical location: 24° N, 90° E; in Asia.
- Population: 144,233,000
- Capital: Dhaka
- Total Area: 147,570 sq. km. (56,977 sq. miles)
- National flag: It is dark green and shiny, with a bright red circle in the center. The green color symbolizes the villages of this country, while the red circle stands for freedom.
- Currency: Taka; 1 USD = 68 Taka (as of April, 2009)
- GDP per capita: USD 1,800.
- Literacy: 43%
- Languages: Bengali, English, and tribal dialects
- Religions: Muslims - 85%, Hindus - 14%, and Buddhists - 1%
- National Days: Martyrs Day - February 21, Independence Day - March 26, Victory Day - December 16
- Major tourist attractions: The vibrant and colorful tribal life, world's longest beach: Cox's Bazar, the famous Royal Bengal Tiger, old architecture, vast tea gardens, rich wildlife along its rivers, etc. The best time to visit this country is from October to March.
Bangladesh has a rich and a varied past dating back to 3rd century BC. However, frequent floods and the damp climatic conditions have ruined most of the archaeological remains. Traces of the Megalithic culture can be found in various archaeological sites, which are spread across the length and breadth of this country. The Mughal monarchs, who ruled the Indian subcontinent during the 16th and 17th centuries, had a noteworthy influence on the life in this country. It was one of the first areas to come under British rule, during their ascendancy over the Indian sub-continent, in the 19th century.
In 1905, a division in the administrative set-up resulted in the Muslim community leaving the Indian National Congress Party, and forming the All India Muslim League. Later, some circumstances led to the creation of two countries: India and Pakistan, after the British left this region. Present-day Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan. Later on, the Bangladeshi population revolted against the ruling establishment, and hence, Eastern Pakistan became an independent country.
The political situation in Bangladesh was always disturbed due to unprecedented turmoil. The first leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated in a military coup in 1975. In 1981, President Zia was also killed. Recently, the Bangladesh Rifles revolted against the establishment, which resulted in a bloody coup in March 2009. 148 people, including senior officers were killed. Despite such grave concerns, this nation has maintained a strong military set-up. The forces of this country consists of the army, navy, and the air force. A part of the Pakistani army and navy defected to form their own force and fight for independence. They played a significant role in making Bangladesh a free country, in the 1971 war against Pakistan.
Presently, the navy has 28,000 personnel and 5,000 officers, while the army and the air force have 250,000 and 22,000 personnel, respectively. The navy has ambitious security plans to protect its sea borders. The country's armed forces also play an important role as a major component of the UN peacekeeping force. The newly-elected government, which came into power in February 2009, has decided on growth plans, to equip the country's forces with latest weapon systems, equipment, and hardware such as the anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile systems.
Floods: An Unrelenting Menace
Bangladesh is located on the floodplain regions of four large rivers: Ganga, Brahmaputra, Meghna, and Wang. The first three rivers converge in Bangladesh, creating the world's largest delta, before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. As a result of the mighty river systems, a very fertile and cultivable land is available for agriculture. But the same system is accompanied by heavy monsoons, which wreaks havoc in this country. Bangladesh is also prone to recurring tropical cyclones. This nation has been at the receiving end of one of the world's worst natural disasters. 300,000 to 500,000 people were killed in a cyclone in 1970. Similar series of cyclones and floods have hit the country in 1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006, and most recently in 2007.
There are many physical and human causes that worsen the flood situation in this nation, like:
- 70% of the land is just 1 m above sea-level, and every year, melting of snow in the Himalayas (where the rivers originate) causes the water levels to go up.
- Bangladesh experiences heavy monsoons, especially in the hilly areas, and almost 10% of its area is covered by lakes and rivers.
- Tropical storms and coastal flooding significantly raises the water levels.
- Deforestation in Nepal and the Himalayas, along with urbanization of the entire region, has worsened the flood situation.
- Global warming has increased the magnitude and frequency of the floods, while an increasing population has caused an immense strain on the land resources.
- Mr. Muhammad Yunus, and his creation called the "Grameen Bank", were the Nobel Peace Prize recipients in 2006. The bank provides financial aid to the poor, especially to Bangladeshi women. This model is a huge success, and it's being tried out in many places around the world.
- The national game of Bangladesh is kabaddi, national animal is tiger, national bird is Doyel (Magpie Robin), and the national flower is Shapla or water lily.
- 200 daily newspapers are published in this country with more than 1800 periodicals, but the average constant readership is only about 15%.
- Its auto-rickshaws cover 29,000,000 km a day, which is more than twice the total distance covered by the London Underground transport. This is the mode of transport for more than 65% of the Bangladeshi population.
- This nation ranks 140 out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index as of 2005.
Today, Bangladesh is growing at a much faster pace than some of the developed countries of the world. As it steps into the modern era, the unwavering spirit of its people is testimony to a bright and confident future.