Population problem in Bangladesh and futuristic cautions

Bangladesh is an overpopulated country having a total of 165 million people living in a small tiny land of 147,570 sq km, with an impenetrable density of 1,116 persons living in per square kilometer which is very much alarming for its sustainable survival in terms of its per capita resource allocation. 

Although it has often been applauded that Bangladesh has been quite graceful in reducing its population growth rate to 1.39 yet, as compared to other Asian countries, it is however, not very much plausible.  China, Thailand, Sri Lanka have been able to reduce their population growth to less than one, whilst, many such countries have abundance of land and forests in their reserve to keep them sustainable to their ecology. 

Bangladesh has taken innumerable steps in regard to their family planning programs and these have been appreciated by the international population agencies and networks like, UNFPA, IOM and others. But due to shortage of land and its continuous squeezing rate having impact on  per capita GDP index and showing man-land ratio, it is still in highly problematic situation. 

Appropriately, it suggests that population growth of this country has to be brought at zero level; otherwise, its multiplication will make the country unlivable in future.

While I was a graduate student in Canada, I had the opportunity to travel around the country by rail and road where I observed that they still conserve their environment without destroying a single inch of land and forest. The whole country is full of vacant land, rivers, ditches and hills remaining unabridged to breathe enormous fresh air and natural oxygen. 

In Canada and Australia, there lives one person in one kilometer of land where per capita land ownership is 346 times greater than Bangladesh. China and India are the most populous countries of the world, yet in terms of density, Bangladesh superseded China 6 times more, and in regard to India, it surpassed 3 times greater density per kilometer.

Bangladesh is perhaps the only country in the world which already had exhausted 63 per cent of its cultivable land for growing food crops. In this scaffolding, India has used 50 per cent of its land, Pakistan used 25% and Sri Lanka had used only 14% of its land for purpose of growing crops; surprisingly, this percentage is only 10, in China. 

We know that to increase and to recover the soil fertility, each country usually requires and should keep a portion of its cultivable land to be fallowed at least for a season. This model of agro-environmental sustainability however, does not work at any point in Bangladesh now-a-days, only because of its acute demographic pressure. 

Jhum cultivation in Chittagong Hill Tracts has almost gone abandoned; Sundarbans Mangrove Forests and the hills of Chittagong and Sylhet are also in tremendous pressure of population having severe impact on its surrounding ecology. Being shelterless, people have now started living on the slopes of forests and banks of rivers; they build houses in the char-lands which causes the rivers to get diverted and transformed into human settlement. 

Furthermore, the refugees coming from Bihar left by Pakistan and stranded at Mohammadpur and Mirpur areas and the Rohyngas in Cox’s Bazar are creating terrible national crisis creating socio-environmental complicacies in the country. 

Both these two communities do not have any proper education to realize the significance of economic value of life; and with this inborn ignorance, they are most incapable of realizing the social significance of birth control. Our government should think about these issues judiciously to intervene these communities and find out proper demographic master plan for them. 

Myanmar Government should be pressurized politically for taking the Rohyngas back to their own land immediately. It requires some international interference for solving the Rohynga issue immediately and the neighbouring countries from South and South East Asia including China, India, Malaysia and Thailand have to be directly involved side by sid, seeking cooperation of the Western countries and Middle East. 

As population continues to grow at an alarming speed, it is suspected that within a short time, Bangladesh will face tremendous loss of their agricultural land. I have been able to prove this hypothesis while I conducted a longitudinal ethnographic study on two villages in northern part of Bangladesh from an anthropological perspective. 

The research clearly evidenced to show that the loss of cultivable land since the British time when the Revenue Survey of land was conducted in Bangladesh in 1850, and almost after one century, there has been a conduction of the Revisional Settlement Survey in 1968, Bangladesh has been a good example of loss in cultivable land. 

It is evident from the research that with a period of one century there has been an expanded demand of land for settlement five to six times more which continued to increase with a proportionate expansion of population. If the population is not checked, its severity will go on increasing further having an adverse effect on our future generation. 

Based on the foregoing narratives and documentations, this part of the paper will now judiciously present a brief critical discussion on the issue. First of all, we find that we have so many urban-based gorgeous Family Planning Offices within the country having received good amount of government grants and fund from international donors; but, do we actually need them in the big cities and towns or they should be decentralized being located in the country sides?. 

In the urban areas, we are frequently organizing social mobilization programs to convince the people to popularize family planning programs and accordingly, they are hosting many seminars, symposiums as part of professional requirements. What I am saying here is that these programs are usually launched in such a way that as if they are intended to educate the audiences in the urban areas displaying their professional power and epistemological knowledge-base. 

Based on top-down strategies, they usually speak and organize seminars for such people who for the most part, are urbanized, educated and have much self-awareness about family planning. We have to be very practical about these issues as these audiences are not practically the persons to be mobilized for practicing family planning. 

Administrators should go to the field inspiring the local people who are actually the stakeholders requiring to adopt family planning in the countryside. Family planning programs could not however be effective until bottom-up policies are taken to popularize them in the rural and marginal areas. 

Nevertheless, it will foresee any successful effect as long as those rural people and slum dwellers are not treated as partners to be socially mobilized.  All campaigning programs sponsored by different population agencies and networks are striving for checking population growth will be futile unless they are pragmatically targeting the real beneficiaries needing them. 

AHM Zehadul Karim is a Professor at Department of Anthropology, Jagannath University.