Bangladesh: Land and People

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Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, with over 150 millions people living in a river delta that empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is gifted with fertile soil from millenia of silt deposition, and a long and rich culture. After suffering under British colonialism, then the rule of Pakastan, Bangladesh finally fought and won its freedom in 1971. Since then Bangladeshi people have faced many challenges, with ongoing political instability and regular natural disasters, cultivating a deep spirit of resilience. 2 Water is the element the flows through and around both the land and the national psyche. Left: Playing in the Buriganga river in Dhaka. Right: A moment at sundown at Cox’s Bazar the , longest stretch of beach in the world (125km). 3

Bangladesh’s low-lying coastline is extremely vulnerable to tropical storms and cyclones. Mangroves offer some protection but they are threatened by deforestation. Left: Kuakata beach, a popular destination where one can see both sunset and sunrise. Right: fishermen in the Sundabans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, and home of the legendary but threatened Bengal 4 tiger. 5

Left: A woman sells tea along the long road to the river port city of Barisal, having taken over the profession after the death of her husband. 74% of women marry before they are 18 (Unicef 2006). Right: Taking a rest in the ruins of the country’s first capital, Sonargaon, a few hours from Dhaka.

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Left: A village potter with a handcranked fly-wheel in action in Sylhet Division. The ancient art dwindled in recent decades but is seeing a current resurgance parly driven by contempory designs, with over 700 shops in Dhaka selling pottery. Right: Manual labour is the most common livelhood for rural families, corellated with poverty. Accidents are common with heavy head-baskets, leading to a high rate of disability amongst the poorest of the population.

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Bangladesh has thousands of villages whose only reliable access is via river, with many roads flooding during monsoon. The NGO Friendship has several hospital ships hosting teams of local and international medical specialists to provide subsidised healthcare to remote villages. In 2011 Greenpeace donated the Rainbow Warrier II for this purpose. 11 10

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