Bangladesh in Brief
Bangladesh's 147,570 sq km ( roughly the size of England and Wales) are situated on a fertile alluvial plain formed by large rivers, the Padma and the Jamuna. Its topography is flat with no great mountains or deserts, and its rivers are vast. Bangladesh is bordered by India to the north-east and west, Myanmar to the south-east, and the Bay of Bengal to the south.
The origin of Bangladesh dates back to the Pundra civilization of the 3rd century BC. However, the modern history of the region can be traced back to 1199 when Bengal fell to Muslim forces from western India and was subjugated to the sultanate of Delhi. The country as we know it today came into being in 1971 after East Pakistan's glorious and bloody nine-months battle for independence under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
From a mainly feudal agrarian base, the economy of Bangladesh has undergone rapid structural transformation towards manufacturing and services. The contribution of the agriculture sector to GDP has dwindled from 50 percent in 1972-73 to around 20 percent in 1999-2000. The agricultural sector is, however, still the main employment provider. The staple crop is rice, with paddy fields accounting for nearly 70% of all agricultural land.
Industrial production growth has averaged more than 6% over the last 5 years. The export sector has been the engine of industrial growth, with ready-made garments leading the way, having grown at an average of 30% over the last 5 years. Primary products constitute less than 10 percent of the country's exports; the bulk of exports are manufactured/processed products, ready-made garments and knit wears in particular.
The climate in Bangladesh is sub-tropical, with temperatures ranging from a daytime low of 18'c in the cold season to a maximum of 40'c in the summer. Annual rainfall ranges from 200 to 400 cm. The country has four main seasons, Winter (Dec-Feb), Summer(Mar-May), Monsoon (Jun-Sep) and Autumn (Oct-Nov).
The population of Bangladesh stands at around 130 m, making it the 8th most populous nation in the world and one of the most densely populated, with more than 800 people per square kilometer. Bangladesh has a young population, with 70% of the population under the age of 25.
Bangla is the official language. English is the second language and is used extensively in commerce, media and education. Nearly 88% of Bangladeshis are Muslims, while Hindus make up 11% of the population.
Bangladesh has achieved substantial progress in mass literacy, public health, reduction of population growth and self employment support for rural poor. Primary education is compulsory and female education is free through the first eight years. The strong commitment to primary education and to gender equity means that three out of four girls now enter primary education.
In the area of health, over 80% of the country's children are immunized against the six 'killer' diseases. Infant mortality has decreased significantly. There has been a sharp decline in the fertility rate.
The increased participation of women in poverty alleviation programmes as well as in Bangladesh's ready-made garments sector, which provides jobs for more than 1 million women, has helped create an awareness of women's issues at all levels.
An unparalleled concentration of innovative and committed non-governmental organizations has brought about a micro-credit revolution and guided countless indigent women and landless households into income generating activities. The safety net programmes initiated by the government in improving the condition of the poorest to a level of survival are proving effective.