Bangladesh Population

Bangladesh Population

Censuses and population data play a critical role in development and humanitarian response and recovery. Reliable data makes a difference, and the key is to collect, analyse and disseminate data in a way that drives good decision making. The numbers that emerge from data collection can illuminate important trends.

Good demographic data is critical for planning schools, health systems, and public transportation, for designing policies based on future population projections, for monitoring the effectiveness of service delivery and much more.

With quality data governments can better track and make greater progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and promote and protect the dignity and human rights to all the people. It is reported that Bangladesh’s census was completed in March this year (2011), last census was taken in 2001.

The population of Bangladesh was 75 million in 1971 and today, it has reached 142.3 million and the growth rate is 1.34% per cent in March 2011, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. However, the UNFPA estimates at 164.4 million and the US Census Bureau 156.12 million in 2010.

These differences in the estimated total population have created a huge debate and confusion in the country. Even the Bangladesh Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury questioned the BBS’s figure in the context of the import and consumption of foodgrains in the country. BBS said that the final result would be published in October.

If the current trend continues, demographers predict the number will double in the next 50 years (300 million)

Statistics show over the decades, the country is experiencing slow pace in fertility decline—3.3 in 1994 to 2.5 in 2010—causing concern in reaching replacement level fertility (2.2%), where couples would have just enough babies to replace themselves, by 2015.

On the other hand, there is no significant increase in contraceptives prevalence rate over the period 2000-2009 even though it increased seven folds during 1975 to 2000.

The use of long-acting and permanent birth-control methods has declined from 36 percent in 1989 to 13 percent in 2007, the latest Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey shows.

Population growth rate in Bangladesh is resulting in shortage of educational facilities, health services, food, living space, arable land, clean water, and housing units. Furthermore it puts pressure on fossil fuels, transportation, electricity, sewage, sanitation, and increase in unemployment.

Population growth also leads to land fragmentation, increase import of food, environmental degradation, overcrowding and congestion in households, squatter settlements, crimes, drug addiction, dependency rates and population density.

To check the rise of population, Bangladesh needs to bolster the programme of family planning through combination of measures such as reduction of poverty, maternal care before and after child birth, easy access to family planning clinics in villages and education and motivation of male partners. Furthermore the Imams of the mosques must be employed to advocate the necessity of family planning and assert that family planning is not against Islamic precepts.

According to a report, 31.5% per cent of the population lives below poverty line (in rural areas 35.2%). About 30 lakh people add to the employment list every year and only 7 lakh are to get jobs.

23% per cent of the total population is adolescents and the average marriage is only 16.4. One third of women become mother before they reach 20 years. Only 38% of this age group adopts family planning method and reaching them is a challenge for the government.

Population growth isn’t getting the kind of consideration that it so deserves. Dr Abu Jamil Faisel, country representative, Engender Health Bangladesh, said family planning programmes are still neglected. “It got only 18 percent of the five-year sector plan’s (July 2011 to June 2016) budget, while 21 percent have been allocated for infrastructure development, despite a robust structure in Bangladesh.”
Although the population growth rate among the educated people in Bangladesh has come down by a considerable extent, yet its growth rate among the poor people who continue to constitute a big majority, is double the rate of the educated group.
Poor people want more children as security and support in old age. They also get married early and the children born in such a situation tend to breed more of the same year after year. This is precisely what’s happening in Bangladesh right now.

Climate change and its impact on population:

Global warming is already a reality of life. As a result of this change, glaciers in the North and South Poles are melting, sea water level is rising, drought conditions are spreading, freshwater supply is declining, and cyclones or hurricanes are escalating.

Due to its geographic location, high population density and extreme pressure on natural resources through development, Bangladesh is most vulnerable to climate change. They range from long standing environmental degradation to modern environmental hazards and natural disasters. The primary environmental problems are poverty, huge population, water supply, land degradation, air pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

A recent report of UK Department for International Development (DFID) of 2007 presents a bleak picture of Bangladesh by 2030.

The Report predicts that the population will be nearly 200 million by 2020, with 40% under the age of 15 years of age. An additional 6-8% of Bangladesh will be permanently under water and flood-prone areas will increase (from 25% to 40% by 2050).

According to a recent report of Climate experts 17% of Bangladesh’s territory would likely to be submerged under water and about 30 million of people could be environmental refugees.

Furthermore climate change has posed adverse impact on agriculture, fishery and aquatic life posing a big challenge to Bangladesh farmers whose livelihood almost entirely depends on agriculture.

Bangladesh Health Minister Dr. Ruhul Haque reportedly said that the government had taken the population control issue seriously. Achieving goal to increase contraceptive use rate to 80% per cent by 2021 from current 61.7% per cent among eligible couple is a big challenge for the government, according to the Health Minister.

Some say that Bangladesh people should be frightened over “birthquakes” and not so much of earthquakes because the population increase will take much away of the economic growth that is targeted for by 2021.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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