The Tenth Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting was held in Dhaka, 17–19 June 2013, with delegates from 30 countries and a theme of ‘Women’s Leadership for Enterprise’.
Muhammad Yunus, Founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, delivered the 6th Annual Commonwealth Lecture, on ‘Halving Poverty by 2015’, in 2003; he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, jointly with the Bank.
Two Bangladeshi-born writers have won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book award: Adib Khan (1995) and Tahmima Anam (2008).
The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a fertile and densely populated delta country in southern Asia bordered by the Bay of Bengal, India and Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Dhaka (capital, pop. 11.08m in 2011), Chittagong (3.66m), Narayanganj (1.63m), Khulna (1.04m), Rajshahi (763,952), Sylhet (479,837), Tungi (476,350), Comilla (407,901), Mymensingh (389,918), Bogra (350,397), Rangpur (328,777), Barisal (328,278), Jessore (253,019), Dinajpur (191,329), Pabna (190,317), Nawabganj (180,731), Brahman Baria (172,017) and Narsingdi (146,115).
There are 21,270 km of roads, ten per cent paved; these roads are vulnerable to damage by storms or floods, and have many bridges. The 4.8 km Jamuna multipurpose bridge was inaugurated in 1998, linking the east and the west of the country by road and railway.
A rail network of some 2,835 km links the main towns. The Dhaka–Chittagong line has frequent daily services. Rail is broad gauge in the west, narrow gauge in the east, with ferry links across rivers.
Bangladesh has 5–8,000 km of navigable waterway, depending on extent of flooding, and a well-developed water transport network, carrying more than 30 per cent of domestic freight. The main ports are Chittagong and Mongla, Chittagong dealing with the bulk of foreign trade. Shahjalal (formerly Zia) International Airport is 19 km north of Dhaka.
Bangladesh is a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
Apart from hills to the south-east, most of Bangladesh is a flat alluvial plain crossed by navigable waterways – the Ganges (Padma), Brahmaputra (Jamuna) and Meghna river systems – flowing into the Bay of Bengal. About 14 per cent of the country is normally under water. Flooding is frequent and can be disastrous.
Tropical monsoon-type. Hot and humid April to October, with the monsoon season running June to September. Cool and dry, November to March. The country is vulnerable to cyclones, which can be devastating. The cyclone of April 1991 killed 138,000 people. In November 2007, Cyclone Sidr hit the southern coastal strip of Bangladesh, also killing and making homeless thousands of people.
The most significant issues are severe overpopulation, high risk of flooding in large areas of the country, soil degradation and erosion, ground water contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic, and poisoning of fish by use of commercial pesticides.
Intensely cultivated; paddy fields dominate the delta; palms, bamboo, mango, the plains. Water hyacinth is a serious menace to waterways. Forest on the south-eastern hills; forest covers 11 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.2 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Soil is mostly very rich, supporting intensive cropping, with up to three crops p.a. in many places; arable land comprises 59 per cent of the total land area.
The country has a varied wildlife population, although 18 species became extinct during the 20th century and 33 species of mammals and 28 of birds were endangered in 2014. Mammal species include 26 types of bat, the famous Bengal tiger (now virtually confined to the Sundarbans and numbering a few hundred) and the Gangetic dolphin, and reptile species include turtles, river tortoises, crocodiles, gavials, pythons, krait and cobras. There are several ‘protected’ areas for wildlife.
Senior government officials from Commonwealth countries in Asia convene in Chandigarh, India, this week to review their priorities for youth development.
The Commonwealth stands ready to provide whatever support may be considered helpful in the post-election period in Bangladesh.