Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bangladesh

I've started a new series of posts on the Nations of the World. Obviously, it's impossible to really  summarize the lives of millions of people, covering thousands of square miles, in a short essay. This is just the briefest overview. Interested readers are encouraged to learn more.
One good place to get started is the New York Times Almanac, which has short histories of every country on Earth, along with political, geographic, and economic information.

Total Area: 144,000 sq. km. (about as large as Arkansas and Wisconsin combined)
Population: 147,365,352
Language: Bangla (official), English widely used
Capital: Dacca
President: Iujuddin Ahmed
Bangladesh has consistently been one of the world's poorest countries, plagued by violent political instability, military coups, overpopulation, a suffering economy, and frequent catastrophic floods (including one in 1975 that killed half a million people).
Bangladesh forms the larger part of Bengal, the remainder of which constitutes the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal. Most of the country lies within the broad delta formed by the Ganges and 
Brahmaputra rivers and is exceedingly flat, low lying, and has a long coastline along the Bay of Bengal. This subjects the country to frequent flooding. Much fertile soil is deposited by the floodwaters.
The Bengals were ruled by Buddhist kings until they were conquered around 1200 by Muslim invaders. Many inhabitants converted to Islam, and the region became part of the Moghul Empire. The British East India Company established a settlement in 1642, and by 1750 the entire country was 
under British rule.
When India became independent in 1947, Bengal became an eastern province of Pakistan. In 1971, then nation became independent. Its government has been frequently suspended, and constitution subject to numerous amendments. The first president, Sheik Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated in 1975. His successor, Lt. Gen. Hossain Mohammad Ershad, seized power in 1982 and resigned in 1986 due to mass protests.
Its current president, Iujuddin Ahmed, has promised to leave office after UN supervised elections are held in late 2008.
Bangladesh is the world's most densely populated country, and frequently experiences famine when natural disasters destroy the nation's crops. It is also one of the worst victims of global climate change, since rising ocean levels and frequent hurricanes and tsunamis wreak havok on the low-lying countryside.
Many years of neglect under British and Pakistani rule have left the country with a crumbling infrastructure, and without basic necessities such as safe drinking water, roads, and electricity.

This is only my second post on Nations of the World. Watch for updates. The previous post on Argentina, is here.

If you're from Bangladesh, or have an interesting fact about it to share, please do leave a comment.

The United States, Great Britain, and most other industrialized nations have benefited from the subjugation of the people of Bangladesh; yet most of this country does not even have safe drinking water. We should provide this vital service to people who've made so many sacrifices for us, out of simple human decency and compassion. Learn how to help here.

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