Bangladesh (officially: Ghana Prajatantri Bangladesh) is located in South Asia. Bangladesh is completely enclosed by India (4083 km), and in the extreme southeast it also borders Myanmar (Burma, 193 km). In the south, Bangladesh borders the Bay of Bengal (580 km). The surface of Bangladesh is approximately 145,000 km2.
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Bangladesh is predominantly flat and consists of 80% large plains along the river deltas of the rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra, and about 15% forests. Southeastern Bangladesh, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, consists of low hills covered with remnants of tropical rainforest. The highest peak in Bangladesh is Keokradang (1230 m), about 80 km southwest of the city of Chittagong. The Sylhet region in northeastern Bangladesh is the only hilly region with altitudes between 30 and 240 meters. Some hills are completely covered with bamboo forests.
Bangladesh has about 250 rivers, of which the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna are the most important. The Ganges and Brahmaputra come from the Himalayas and merge with the Tista. The river that then arises is called Jamuna. In the rainy season, the fresh river water flows tens of kilometers into the salty Bay of Bengal. A remarkable phenomenon are the "dancing" rivers, which change their course in an easterly direction tens of meters per year every year. The people who live on such a river then come to live on a dry river on so-called "char-soil".
The low-lying areas suffer annually from flooding in the wet season (May to October). Very large floods are called "bonnas". They almost always have a disastrous effect; in 1999, a "bonna" claimed the lives of more than a thousand people and one million people were made homeless. Harvests were largely lost, thousands of kilometers of roads and 4,500 km of dikes disappeared into the water.
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With a length of 120 km, the beaches along the southeast coast are the longest uninterrupted beaches in the world. Inani Beach is considered the widest beach in the world: 180 meters wide at high tide and 300 meters at low tide. Parallel to the beaches are the forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The "Sundarbans" is the largest mangrove forest in the world with an area of approximately 10,000 km2. This area is located in the southwest of the country in the river delta of the Ganges. Although it is a transboundary area, it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a natural heritage site twice: once with India in 1987 and once with Bangladesh in 1997. About half of the Sundarbans are under water. The rest of the area is characterized by low-lying alluvial islands, mud banks, forests and sand dunes.
Located in the middle of the Chittagong Hills, Kaptai Lake is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world with an area of 777 km2. In the rainy season, the surface of the lake exceeds 1000 km2.
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The area of Bangladesh's largest island, Bhola, has decreased by half in 40 years. Only half of the surface of 6,400 km2 in 1965 is left. Located in the Bay of Bengal, the island has been severely affected by the increasing currents of the Meghna and Tetulia rivers caused by rising sea levels. Scientists fear that if erosion continues at this rate, the island will cease to exist in a few decades.
Bangladesh has a tropical climate with very mild winters (October-March), hot, humid summers (March-June) and a humid warm monsoon period (June-October).
In the monsoon season, floods and cyclones often cause natural disasters. Causes for this include the location on the very troubled Bay of Bengal and the deforestation of the Himalayas. Due to the expected rise in sea levels, low-lying Bangladesh will suffer even more from flooding.
Cyclones with wind speeds above 150 km per hour occur mainly in the coastal area and can cause a lot of damage. Drought can also have unpleasant consequences. In the dry season (November-April) there can be so little rainfall that the (rice) harvest is seriously affected. Also in the rainy months (May-October) there may be too little rainfall.
The average annual precipitation is 1400 mm in the "dry" Rajshahi region and more than 5000 mm in the Sylhet region. Three quarters of the rain falls between June and September and the humidity of about 90% makes it almost unbearable for humans.
The coldest month is January with temperatures below 20 °C and the hottest month is April with temperatures as high as 40 °C. The best time to visit Bangladesh is between October and February.
In January 2007, a colder record was set with a minimum temperature of 5 ° C. 130 people died as a result of the cold.
According to the local population, Bangladesh has six seasons:
Basanto (spring) February to April
Grishma (summer) April to June
Barsha (rain) June to August
Sharat (fall) August to October
Hemanto (fog) October to December
Sheet (winter) December to February
Climate data Dhaka
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The basis for the monsoon period in Bangladesh is laid over Central Asia in winter. A strong high pressure area then creates a northeasterly to northerly wind, creating a period with relatively low temperatures. In February, the temperature in Bangladesh rises rapidly again and a very powerful low-pressure area is created in the west that will determine the wind direction. In Bangladesh the wind then changes from northeast to southwest in the months of May and June. This brings in warm moist ocean air with a lot of rainfall as a result, especially in the higher parts of Bangladesh.
The monsoons invariably start around June 15 in the southwest and around June 18 in the northeast. Although heavy showers don't fall for more than a few hours a day (especially in the afternoon and early evening), streets often turn into churning rivers. The rain showers are almost always accompanied by thunderstorms, tornadoes and gusts of wind. Nighttime temperatures are around 26 °C during monsoons and around 31 °C during the day. The average humidity is between 80 and 85%.
After the monsoons, the climate from October to February is very pleasant with little rainfall and a lot of sun. The night temperature drops to about 10 °C. From mid-March, the humidity increases again and it becomes more unpleasant for humans and animals, with temperatures in April and May exceeding 40 °C on the low plains in the south. The seawater in the Bay of Bengal will then have a temperature of 28 degrees.
During the three monsoon months there is between 1000 and 1500 millimeters of rainfall. Much more falls in the Khasis Mountains just north of Bangladesh. The Indian places Mawsynram and Cherrapunji are the wettest places in the world. Annually in Mawsynram 11887 millimeters of rain falls and in Cherrapunji at 1300 meters altitude 11440 millimeters of rain. In 1861, 22,987 millimeters of rain fell in Cherrapunji, of which 9299 millimeters in July alone. Also in other places in the northeast of India enormous amounts of up to 6000 millimeters fall annually. It is therefore logical that Bangladesh has to deal with floods so often. Bangladesh is intersected by rivers from north to south. These drain all rainwater to the Bay of Bengal. The rivers flood annually between May and October. Only one quarter of the country remains flood-free during the wet season.
The combination of low plains, suddenly rising landscape and a wet south-westerly wind are largely responsible for the heavy rising rains.
During the monsoons the sun shines very little, in August only about 60 hours. The capital Dhaka has an average of just over 2000 hours of sunshine per year.
In addition to flooding, Bangladesh is also sometimes hit by a hurricane, especially in the periods from 1 May to mid-June and from 1 September to 1 December.
The tropical and subtropical climate provides an exuberant, varied flora. Fruit trees can be found everywhere, such as the banyan, the coconut palm and the mango tree. Much water is covered with a thick layer of water hyacinths and red, blue and white lilies. The white lily is also the national flower. In addition, hibiscus, magnolia, jasmine, bougainvillea and many types of orchids grow there.
The Sundarbans are named after the very common 25-meter high sundari tree there. The hardness of the trunk makes it very well suited for building houses, boats and electricity poles. The most common plant in Bangladesh is a large bamboo species.
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The Bengal fauna is very varied with 109 native mammal species, 684 bird species, 119 reptile species, 19 amphibians and approximately 200 marine and freshwater fish species.
The fauna of Bangladesh belongs to the oriental region and is home to the rare Bengal tiger, Bengal fox, swamp crocodile, honey bear and rhesus monkey among others. Of the Bengal tiger, which only lives in three special tiger reserves in the Sundarbans, only about 400 are still alive. The Bengal tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh. Other predators include leopards, fishing cat or fish cat and three types of civets, including the rare Indian civet.
Other large mammals are the Asian elephant (still about 300 wild specimens), wild boar and various deer species, including the sambar, the chital (kind of fallow deer) and the muntjac or bark deer. Smaller mammals include otters, mongoose, and the Asian subcontinent's only anthropoid, the Huah gibbon. After the siamang, the hulah are the largest gibbons. The black Bengal goat is a very small goat species whose meat and milk is widely used.
Reptiles include the sea turtle, river turtle, pythons, crocodiles and various poisonous snakes. The gecko is called "tik-tiki" in Bangladesh.
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The Dayal Thrush is the national bird of Bangladesh. The weeping maina or Indian maina (Bengali: Shalik) is found throughout Bangladesh. There are 12 kingfisher species (Bengali: machhhranga) in Bangladesh, including the brown-winged kingfisher, the black-capped kingfisher, the white-collared kingfisher and the relatively rare red-tailed kingfisher. There are also 22 species of woodpeckers (Bengali: kaththokra) including the special cockade woodpecker.
The Madhupur Forest is an important habitat for several owl species, including the rare brown tawny owl, Coromandel eagle owl, brown fishing owl and Bengal eagle owl.
Other regions with special bird species:
Sylhet: Baer's pochard, white-banded sea eagle
Srimangal near the Indian border: Blue-bearded bee-eater
Noakhali region: spoon-billed sandpiper, Nordmann's or spotted green-legged horseshoe, Indian scissors beak
In addition to the endangered animals mentioned above, the following mammals are also more or less seriously endangered: crested langur, bushy hare or Assam rabbit (also called: Bengal rabbit), Asiatic golden cat, Assam macaque, lion macaque, bear macaque, Barasinga deer, deer goat antelope or black goat, clouded leopard , dhole (aka: Asiatic wild dog, rubella, alpine dog or adjak), Indian manatee, Irawadi squirrel, Sumatran forest gems, sloth bear and slender otter.
Not much is known about the oldest history of Bangladesh. Well-known groups of residents such as the Kol, the Polinda and the Hadi spoke a language very similar to the Dravidian languages of South India. The current inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are related to the later invaded Tibeto-Burman tribes.
From 1400 BC. Indo-German Aryans invaded southern Asia from Afghanistan. Although these Aryans never reached what was then Bengal, which comprised present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, their influence on Bangladeshi society was enormous.
They introduced Hinduism, and with it the caste system. In this caste system the highest caste, that of the brahmins, got all the ground in hands. After that came the warriors or "kayasthas", and the peasants ended up in the lower castes or even became casteless. The social inequality thus created caused Buddhism from the 5th century BC. got many followers. From that time on, Hindu and Buddhist rulers alternated.
Islam, Portuguese and Dutch
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In a later period, Islam took a lot of influence on Bangladeshi society, also as a reaction to the strict caste system. Muslim rulers ruled the Indian subcontinent for centuries and many Muslim merchants settled along the coasts of South Asia. In addition, Muslim farmers settled in Bengal because of the fertile soil.
Important for the spread of Islam were of course the Islamic religious teachers, who founded mosques and Koran schools. Islamic communities arose around these schools and mosques and Delhi, the current capital, was, for example, an Islamic sultanate. In the 14th century, Bengal broke away from Delhi and one of the capitals in the new area became Dhaka, the current capital of Bangladesh.
In the early 16th century, the Muslim Mogul king Baber of Kabul founded the empire of the Great Moguls from North India with Delhi as its capital. In 1576 Akbar conquered the Greater Bengal and used the conquered territory mainly as a colony.
At the same time, the Portuguese appeared off the coasts of Bengal, followed not long after by the ships of the Dutch Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie. Because the Dutch, unlike the Portuguese, only came to trade, they were soon able to found their own fortress and office. In 1690 the British East India Company established itself in Calcutta and that would later have major consequences for the Indian subcontinent. In the early 18th century, the Mogul Empire, under Aurangzeb, was at its peak, encompassing Pakistan and most of India in addition to present-day Bangladesh. Islam was the largest religion in Bengal at the time.
Bengal part of British India
Around 1750 the Mogul Empire fell into disrepair and from that time the British dominated the history of Bengal. French and Dutch were expelled and everywhere they founded trading bases and political-military bases. After a failed revolt by Mogul governor Siraj-ud-Daulad in 1757, the British gradually conquered all of Bengal and made great profits from exports of cotton and silk products. In 1770, after a crop failure, a famine broke out that killed two-thirds of the Bengal population. In addition, tens of thousands of textile workers were put out of work due to the emergence of mechanized textile production in Britain. As a result, a prosperous city like Dhaka went into total disrepair and hundreds of thousands of inhabitants left the city for the countryside.
But the Bengals also had a hard time in the countryside. Land tax was often forcibly collected by wealthy Hindus ("zamindars"), who were appointed by the British. The Permament Settlement Act, passed in 1793, even deprived the farmers of their age-old fundamental rights, and the imposed usurious interest caused a great deal of misery and poverty. In addition, many farmers were obliged to cultivate indigo plants, which yielded the indigo dye much loved in Great Britain. As a result, the land area for the cultivation of rice and other food crops decreased, the prices of those products rose and poverty increased even further.
Eventually, the farmers stopped taking it and an armed protest ensued in which tens of thousands of farmers in a number of districts took part. However, massive protests against the British did not materialize. In 1860 the British government abolished the compulsory indigo overhang. The zamindar system described above was not abolished until 1950, after independence.
British India is divided into Pakistan and India
In the second half of the nineteenth century, more and more nationalist sentiments arose in South Asia. In 1885 this led to the establishment of the Indian Congress Party, which consists mainly of Hindus. However, in East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh), 60% of the population was Muslim. They felt oppressed by the British and the wealthy Hindus. In response, important Muslims from across British India founded the All India Muslim League. Unlike the Indian National Congress Party, the Muslim counterpart was pursuing a division of British India into an Islamic and a Hindu part. The condition was that every province where Muslims were in the majority would be part of the new state to be formed.
On August 15, 1947 the time had come. British India was divided into the two independent states of Pakistan and India, with Pakistan divided into West and East Pakistan with 1,500 km of Indian territory in between. Immediately a true migration of people started: about eight million Hindus moved to India, and just as many Muslims left India for Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands were killed during religious riots, especially in the Punjab region.
In Bengal, the divorce was much more relaxed when the province was divided into an eastern Muslim part and a western Hindu part. Muslim Sylhet in the northern province of Assam joined East Pakistan, and many Muslims from the Indian state of Bihar also moved there. It was remarkable that Hindu villages in Muslim East Bengal completely swapped places of residence with Muslim villages in West Bengal.
Although more people lived in East Pakistan than in West Pakistan, the East Pakistanis were poorly represented in senior administrative and military positions. Furthermore, foreign aid mainly went to West Pakistan and the government made Urdu the official language. The latter, in particular, fell very badly with the East Pakistanis, and student riots broke out in Dhaka and other cities known as the "Language Movement". From this movement emerged a new non-religious nationalism, which expressed its political aspirations in the creation of the Awami League in 1949. This party, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman since 1953, pursued regional autonomy. In 1956 they gained momentum when Bengali became the national language in East Pakistan.
Photo:Mike Young in the public domain
Due to the ongoing hostilities between India and Pakistan due to the grant of largely Muslim Kashmir to India in 1947. This struggle weakened Pakistan to such an extent that they no longer interfered so much with East Pakistan. In December 1970, the AL won the elections in Pakistan and became by far the largest party with 288 of the 300 seats. The then military ruler Yahya Kahn, however, delayed the formation of a government and this resulted in an explosive situation in East Pakistan. On March 25, 1971, the Pakistan army launched "Operation Bengal". Tanks and soldiers carried out a massacre at Dhaka University, killing hundreds of police. Mujibur Rahman was arrested, but Bangladesh's independence was declared on April 17, 1971. The fighting continued, however, and eventually one million people died and about 5 million people fled to India.
Only the remaining Muslims still supported the government of Pakistan, although some major progressive groups certainly did not support Mujibur Rahman and the AL. These groups fought for land redistribution in favor of peasants, something that worried Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. As the progressive forces grew stronger, India intervened. Indian troops moved into Eastern Pakistan and India recognized Bangladesh's independence under the Awami League. The battle between the Indian and Pakistani armies lasted only two weeks, but the progressive freedom fighters were also defeated because their plans for the peasants were abandoned. For the second time many Hindus returned to India.
Bangladesh under military rulers
In January 1972, Mujibur Rahman returned from Pakistani captivity to Bangladesh and formed a government with the initial support of the poor peasant population. In 1973 the AL won another major electoral victory, but after that the reign of Mujibur Rahman was quickly over. There was a lot of corruption, many companies were nationalized and thousands of political opponents were murdered. On top of that was the great famine of August 1974, in which food aid did not reach the poor population but largely to the rich. Bangladesh was recognized by Pakistan in 1974.
At the end of 1974, Mujibur Rahman declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution and banned all political parties except the AL. Dissatisfaction with this policy grew rapidly and it was therefore not surprising that Mujibur Rahman and his family were murdered in August 1975 by some young army officers.
That same year, two more military coups were to follow, the last of which was committed by General Zia-ur Rahman, who became president in December 1977. In January 1978, the people of Bangladesh voted in a referendum in favor of Zia remaining as president. He restored the multiparty system, and with the help of conservative Islamic politicians, Islam became the state religion in 1978. The elections in June of that year were a major victory for the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) founded by Zia. Zia's reign was notable for a foreign policy that focused on both the Western and Arab world. The domestic politician was notable for many development projects in the countryside and a separate administration for each village.
However, Zia-ur Rahman was also murdered in 1981. Justice Abbess Sattar became acting president, but after a few months already pushed aside by General Hossain Ershad, who appointed himself president at the end of 1983 and was in fact sole ruler.
Ershad also founded his own party, the Patiya Party (JP), the national party. This party won several elections, but this was always accompanied by electoral fraud and division between political opponents. To counter this, the AL, led by Mujibur Rahman's daughter, Sheikh Hasina, and the BNP, led by Zia-ur Rahman's daughter, Khaleda Zia, entered into an alliance.
However, as so often the students made a political breakthrough. At the end of 1990, the anti-Ershad All-Party Students Alliance was founded. Not much later, on December 5, 1990, Ershad resigned and was thrown in prison. Elections followed in February 1991 and were won by the BNP of Begum Khaleda Zia, who became prime minister.
The first half of the 1990s was characterized by political unrest and violent strikes as a result of Khaleda Zia's policies. The parliamentary elections of February 1996 were still won by her party, the BNP. However, there was massive fraud and the opposition immediately demanded new elections. Under pressure of circumstances, Prime Minister Zia resigned at the end of March.
The new elections were won by Hasina Wajed's Awami League, who also became the new prime minister. In October of that year, President Biswas was succeeded by Shahabbudin Ahmed of the Awami League. In 1998 the BNP organized strike actions that led to serious clashes with the military. Protests were made against the undemocratic policy and the many price increases. The opposition, meanwhile, refused to attend sessions of parliament and they decided in November 1999 to oppose Hasina Wajed's government.
Bangladesh was hit by a massive natural disaster at the end of 1998. Approx. 80% of the country was under water and more than 3000 people died. Thirty million people were temporarily homeless.
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The parliamentary boycott of the four opposition parties also continued in 2000, despite the fact that the BNP's Akhtaruzzanab decided to lift the boycott. Relations between the United States and Japan continued to improve, in contrast to the relationship with Pakistan, which deteriorated more and more. For example, Pakistani military leader Musharraf refused to meet with Prime Minister Hasina Wajed.
In 2001, Hasina Wajed became the first Prime Minister to serve the full five-year term. In July, Latifur Rahman was appointed head of an interim government whose main task was to organize free elections as soon as possible. In addition, it was hoped that the interim government could ensure an end to political violence. But that was very disappointing: an attack on an office of the Awami League killed 16 people, followed by another period of violence.
The very violent elections of October 2001 were won by the BNP of Begum Khalida Zia. Hasina Wajed's ruling Awami League ended up in opposition because the BNP, together with the other opposition parties, was able to form a two-thirds majority. Khalida Zia became prime minister in October, as in 1991 and 1996. The opposition boycotted parliament again and organized several strikes in 2002.
On June 21, 2002, President Chowdhury resigned, preceded by the entire military summit. A few months later, Iajuddin Ahmed became the new president.
2003 was also marked by many strikes, often supported by the opposition Awami League. On August 21, 2004, an attack on a demonstration by Awami League supporters took place in Dhaka. Sheikh Hasina Wajed was also injured and a nationwide strike was immediately declared, which paralyzed all daily life. In response, the government ordered the arrest of opposition supporters. In September, the Supreme Court ordered the arrests to be stopped. On December 11, 2004, the Awami League organized a 900 km long chain consisting of millions of people. As a protest against insecurity, inflation and corruption in Bangladesh. In the years 2005 and 2006 there have been many bombings by Islamic militants. In October, violent protests against the government's decision to establish a business cabinet after Prime Minister Zia's term have been staged. President Ahmed tries to mediate and calls elections for January 22, 2007. These are then postponed and Fakhruddin Ahmed takes charge of a business cabinet. In November 2007 Banglagesh is hit by cyclone Sidr, thousands are killed and hundreds of thousands are in dire need. In December 2008, Sheik Hasina's Awami League won 250 of the 300 seats in parliament, in January 2009 Hasina was appointed prime minister. In November 2009, five former army officers were finally sentenced for their part in the murder of former Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This ends a lengthy and controversial lawsuit in Bangladesh.
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In April 2013 there are parliamentary elections Abdul Hamid becomes the new president. In the spring of 2013 there is a lot of commotion about fires and appalling conditions in the clothing industry. European buyers sign a covenant in the summer of 2013 to improve the working conditions of the workers. In January 2014, Sheik Hasina wins again and is given a third term as prime minister. In 2015 and 2016 there has been a lot of violence by Islamic activists against other groups. In January 2016, two people were sentenced to death for the murder of Atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider. In 2016 and 2017, large groups of Rohingyas flee from neighboring Myanmar to Bangladesh, where they shake up in relief camps in harsh conditions. In December 2018, the Awami League convincingly wins the elections and President Hamid is given a second term.
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An estimated 158 million people live in Bangladesh (2017). Although one of the smallest countries in the region, Bangladesh is the ninth country in the world in terms of population. Birth control is of paramount importance to the government; around 1970 women had seven or more children, now that is around three children.
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with approximately 1,069 inhabitants per km2. Most people live in ribbon-shaped towns along the river banks, the largest cities of which are Dhaka, Chittagong and Khulna.
The natural population growth is 1.04%. (2017)
Birth rate per 1000 inhabitants is 18.8 (2017)
Mortality rate per 1000 inhabitants is 5.4 (2017)
Life expectancy is 71.3 years for men and 75.6 years for women (2017)
Bangladesh has a very young population: about 28% of the population is less than 15 years old.
Bangladesh consists of approx. 98% Bangladeshis, who form an ethnic and language unit.
Minorities are Rohingyas, Muslim Biharis and Jummas from India, thirteen ethnic groups, of which the Chakmas and Santals are the most important.
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The tribal population of Bangladesh consists of approximately 1 million people. Most of the tribes live in the hilly north of Mymensingh, the Sylhet region and the wooded Chittagong Hill Tracts. Other tribes live in urbanized areas such as Chittagong and Cox's Bazar. The tribes of Mymensingh were originally nomads from Eastern India, those from the Chittagong Hill Tracts come from Myanmar (Burma).
Chakma, Mogh, Mru, Murung, Mizo, Kuki, Bam, Tripura, Sak, Tangchangya, Shandu, Banjugi and Pankhar live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The Chakmas and the Mogh are the largest groups and belong to the Jummas, a collection of tribes who work the land according to the "slash and burn" principle.
The Sylhet region is home to the Kashias, Pangous and Manipuris. The Garos (or Mandi as they call themselves), Hanjongis, Hadis, Dahuis, Palais and Buna's live in northern Mymensingh, Haluaghat, Sreebardi, Kalkamanda and the Garo Hills.
Many workers on the tea plantations are from the Santal and Oraon tribes.
Other tribes such as the Kochis, Hus, Mundus and the Rajbansis live in urban areas in Rangpur, Dinajpur, Bogra, Rajshahi, Noakhali, Comilla and Bakerganj.
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The official language of Bangladesh, but also of the Indian state of West Bengal, is Bengali (also known as Bangla). Furthermore, there are also Bengali-speaking communities in the Indian states of Assam and Tripura and among immigrant populations in the west and the Middle East. With more than 200 million speakers, Bengali is in the top ten most spoken languages in the world. In addition, people in Bangladesh also speak English, Urdu and Hindi.
Bengali is the easternmost Indo-European language, with roots in Prakit, the most widely spoken form of Pali, the language used in the ancient scriptures of Theravada Buddhism.
Bengali is very similar to Hindi, with only some variation in pronunciation. The vocabulary was further expanded through contacts with European traders and merchants. The pronunciation of Bengali is complicated by the fact that it contains a number of subtle sounds that do not occur in Dutch or English.
Yet two distinct styles of Bengali can be discerned: "Sadhubhasa", "elegant" Bengali, and "Chaltibhasa", "common" Bengali. Chaltibhasa only developed during the 20th century and is based on the sophisticated pronunciation of the students around Calcutta in India. The differences between the two styles are very subtle, but they can be understood well. The vocabulary is roughly the same, although there are some differences in the pronunciation and conjugation of verbs.
Chaltibhasa was first widely used during the early years of the First World War. Today Chaltibhasa in the common language has been almost completely replaced by Sadhubhasa. Yet Chaltibhasa is still used in education. The difference between the two styles can be compared to Shakespearean, aristocratic English, and working-class English in England.
Some words and phrases, some of which are clearly influenced by English:
One - ek
Two - dui
Three - tin
One hundred - eksho
Post office - post offish
Hospital - hashpatal
Today - aj
Tomorrow - agamikal
Monday - shombar
Sunday - robibar
Is there a hotel nearby? - kache kono hotel a-che ki?
What is your name? - apnar nam ki?
Do you smoke? - cigarette khaben?
Thank you very much - onek don-nobad
I speak a little Bengali - ami ektu bangla bolte at par
I am vegetarian - ami shudhu shobji khai
Can I have the check please? - amar hishabta deben?
Rice - bhat
Egg - dim
Meat - mangsho
Chicken - murgi
Water - pani
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Bangladesh is predominantly a Sunni Islamic country (85%). Only countries like Indonesia, Pakistan and maybe India have a larger Muslim population. Although Islam was declared a state religion in 1988, the constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
The second religion is Hinduism (12%). There are also small numbers of Buddhists, Christians and Animists.
The Hindu minority continued to face severe persecution during the "Pakistani" period, and massacres by the Pakistani military during the war of freedom were no exception. Moreover, since the divorce in 1947 many Hindus have emigrated to India.
Since 1971, the relationship between the Muslims and the Hindus in Bangladesh has greatly improved. Only in 1992 was there a backlash when the Indian Babri Mosque was destroyed by fanatical Hindus. This caused a wave of violence against Bengali Hindus.
Buddhists are almost exclusively found in the tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The once flourishing Buddhist culture slowly disappeared under pressure from Hinduism, even before the advent of Islam.
Although there is a small group of Christians, mostly descendants of Portuguese traders, there is a large group of Christian organizations and many missionaries are active in Bangladesh. Since the prohibition of openly converting the Bengali people, these groups are really only concerned with helping and assisting the Christians in the community.
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Bangladesh is formally a people's republic, which in principle has separate executive, legislative and judicial powers. However, the independence of the judiciary is only partially guaranteed; the lower judicial authorities are part of the executive branch.
The president, who does not have much powers, is elected by parliament for a term of five years. He appoints the prime minister. The 300 members of Parliament, the "House of the People" are directly elected through a district system in general elections by eligible citizens aged 18 and over. In the past, 30 female members were appointed by parliament after the elections. This practice was abolished in 2001.
The most influential parties in parliament are the Awami League (AL) and the Nationalist Party of Bangladesh (BJD), followed by ex-President Ershad's Jatiya-Dal party (National Party) and the fundamental-Islamic Jamaat e Islami Bangladesh party ( JIB).
The latter party is relatively small in size, but well organized, and has been part of the government since the last elections. The current political situation is described in the chapter history.
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Bangladesh has 80,000 primary schools, 13,000 secondary schools and almost 3,000 "colleges" and dozens of universities and technical, agricultural and medical colleges.
Despite these impressive figures, things are not going very well in education, especially primary education. Millions of primary school-age children do not go to school at all, but work all day. In addition, two thirds of rural primary school pupils do not complete primary school, which is often of poor quality.
In 2001, the government announced a new National Education Policy, which should improve quality. More money is also being devoted to education in the budget, but compared to neighboring countries it is still too little.
Private education is better organized, including a small number of English educational institutions. Only children of very wealthy parents make use of this.
More significant are the "madrassas", the Islamic schools, where 10% of all pupils attend education. The students are often homeless or poor children and the schools are often financially dependent on government subsidies and donations from Arab countries. Furthermore, there are more than fifty thousand Koran schools, but there is only recited from the Koran and no lessons are given in other subjects.
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BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) is a non-governmental development organization running three major projects in Bangladesh. One of these is a special free education program for rural children between the ages of 8 and 14. Girls are often given priority in this regard because they are often left out in regular education.
The role of the parents is very important in these so-called Hard-To-Reach schools. The schools, more than 30,000 at the moment, are only started up if the parents themselves ask for them and are often built by those parents as well. BRAC has two types of education: Non-Formal Primary Education, 3-year education for children from 8 to 10 years old and Primary Education for Older Children for children from 11 to 14 years old who have never been to school before.
No more than 30 students are admitted per school and if there are more students, more schools are simply built. The teachers often come from the place where the school is located and they are continuously trained by the BRAC. The success of the BRAC schools is shown by the fact that almost all pupils go to a higher school.
Bangladesh has 11 state universities and about 20 private universities. Specialized universities include Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Bangladesh Agricultural University, and Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujib Medical University.
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Bangladesh, at least according to official figures, is still one of the least developed countries in the world, despite a fairly stable economic growth of about 6% achieved in recent years. For example, the GNP per capita still fluctuates around $ 4,200 per year (2017).
Bangladesh has a regulated market economy with development planning and a large number of state-owned companies. The money of citizens working abroad is of great importance to the Bengali economy. In addition, Bangladesh is in great need of ODA support. With currency reserves barely sufficient for two months of imports, Bangladesh remains vulnerable to sudden economic setbacks, such as frequent floods. In combination with declining population growth, income per capita will rise slightly, but this is not yet leading to a real take-off of the economy. The latter is generally blamed on the inability of governments of different types to implement far-reaching reform and restructuring policies.
Steps are being taken to resume reform policy. For example, a large number of state-owned companies have been privatized and a number of important improvements have been made in the energy sector. A step has also been taken to reduce losses in the financial sector and the budget deficit has been reduced.
There are particular concerns about the lack of foreign investment due to the lack of "law and order".
However, the above description of the economy is called into question by the informal economy, which does not appear in any official document, but comprises an estimated two thirds of the total economy!
The position of women in the labor market is not very bright, many are undervalued, exploited and even abused. Child labor is also still widespread. Millions of children work all day instead of going to school.
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As an agricultural society, Bangladesh is mainly dependent on arable farming and to a lesser extent on the fish and meat sector. Forestry is also still important, especially in the north and southeast of the country. More than 40% of the population is employed in agriculture and approximately 14% of the national income comes from agriculture.
Rice is the staple food of Bangladeshis and is therefore widely cultivated. There are three main varieties consisting of dozens of modern varieties that guarantee an even higher yield. Most of these varieties are grown in Bangladesh by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute.
Besides rice, cane sugar, legumes, wheat, linseed and tobacco are important arable products. The cultivation of vegetables is also becoming increasingly important and plantations with bananas, pineapples, mangoes and papayas can be found in more and more places.
Tea is an important export product for Bangladesh, but the Bangladeshis themselves also drink a lot of tea. Bangladesh has about 150 tea plantations (40,000 ha) and together they produce more than 50 million kilos of tea. Jute is also a major export crop, especially to Japan, Germany and Great Britain. Bangladesh is one of the market leaders in jute and jute products.
Since it is almost impossible to expand the agricultural area, the increase in food production is mainly due to better agricultural methods and more intensive use of the available agricultural land. Decrease in population growth and increase in food production ensure that Bangladesh is fairly self-sufficient in food.
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About 70% of the animal proteins consumed by the Bangladeshis consist of fish products. Bangladesh has a fish area of approximately 80,000 km2, consisting of two equal parts of river water and sea water. Many professional fishermen still have small, elongated boats, but there are also more and more mechanized fishing trawlers.
At the beginning of the eighties of the last century, shrimp farming was stimulated, among others by the World Bank. Mainly in the south of the country a large shrimp industry started. Frozen fish and shrimp currently make up about 7% of Bangladesh's exports.
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The services sector, including government, banking, trade, catering and transport, supply the largest part of the gross national product, currently about 37% of the total. Tourism is not yet a major source of income for Bangladesh, although the number of tourists is increasing every year. Most tourists come from countries such as India, Pakistan, Japan, Great Britain and the United States.
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The clothing industry, which produces almost exclusively for export, is the main export product. In the wake of this, Bangladesh is still the largest jute producer in the world. There are currently approx. 3000 sewing workshops, mainly in the cities of Dhaka, Chittagong, Narayanganj, Savar and Tongi.
The textile sector employs more than one million women and several hundred thousand men. A bad thing is still the fact that many children work in this sector. Despite worldwide protests, estimates range from 25,000 to 300,000 children!
However, the textile sector is very vulnerable. This became apparent after the attacks of 11 September 2001, when a boycott of products from Islamic countries virtually halted exports to North America in particular. Many companies had to close and about 300,000 textile workers were laid off. An even greater threat, however, are countries that can produce even more cheaply than Bangladesh, such as various African countries and especially China.
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Bangladesh has more than eight thousand kilometers of waterways. Most of it is available continuously, the rest only during the rainy season. Bangladesh has ten major inland ports and approximately 1,500 berths for ferries.
Road transport is getting better and better. Buses connect all major cities and most local destinations can also be reached by bus. Most roads are dual lane and often congested. Trains are much safer than road transport, but because of the many rivers they are often forced to make long detours. From the capital Dhaka there are possibilities to fly to the capitals of the other "divisions". Many smaller cities have airstrips, where smaller planes can land.
Every year, many reasonably to well-educated Bangladeshis go abroad, particularly to North America, Great Britain and the Middle East. As early as the 18th century, many Bangladeshis left for Great Britain, making them the first immigrants to that country. At the moment, approximately 200,000 Bangladeshis leave for the Middle East every year, where 95% do unskilled work. Many leave without valid papers and are helped by people smugglers for a lot of money. A large number of undocumented women end up in the sex industry in countries such as India and Pakistan. In 25 years, more than three million Bangladshi left for a shorter or longer period abroad
The Bangladesh government has even set up a separate Ministry of Overseas Employment as migrants are increasingly important to Bangladesh's economy. Today, the migrants are sending home more than $ 3 billion a year. Through unofficial channels one can easily add one billion dollars to this amount.
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Bangladesh, also known as 'Land of the rivers', is a relatively unknown holiday destination with, despite the poverty, a friendly and cordial population and also with beautiful beaches, including the longest natural beach in the world, a fascinating fauna including the Bengal tiger, the largest mangrove forests in the world, ancient archaeological sites and the houses of the Maharajas. Bangladesh has a tropical climate with a dry winter from October to March, a warm, humid summer from March to June and the rainy season (monsoons) from June to October, with floods and cyclones. In winter the minimums are around 21 °C, in summer the maximums are around 35 °C.
The capital Dhaka nowadays has large shopping areas and luxury hotels, tourists can use more than 700,000 rickshaws. The Bangladesh National Museum is also located in Dhaka, as is the Liberation War Museum, a large zoo and Baitul Mukarram, the largest temple in the city. The 12th century Dhakeshwari Temple, one of more than 700 mosques and historic buildings in Dhaka, is one of the most famous Hindu temples in Bangladesh and is also one of the most important religious sites for Hindus. Also interesting are a 7-domed mosque from the 11th century, the Bara Katra Palace from 1644 and the Fort of Aurangabad (Lal Bagh Fort) from 1678.
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Rajshari is home to the popular Vanrendra Research Museum, with personal collections from some maharajas. Located partly in India, Sundarbans Park features the largest mangrove forests in the world and is therefore included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The list also includes the mosque town of Bagerhat and the ruins of Somapura Vihara, a Buddhist monastery near Paharpur. A number of beaches can be found in the southeast of Bangladesh, including in the city of Cox's Bazar and on the coral island of Saint Martin.
Bangladesh is a true paradise for tourists who love arts and crafts such as carvings, brass, gold and silver jewelery, cotton and silk, which can be found at Chandni Chawk Bazar, the well-known market in Dhaka's old town, among others.
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Beurden, J. van / Bangladesh : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen
Brace, S. / Bangladesh
McAdam, M. / Bangladesh
Whyte, M. / Bangladesh
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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