Bangladesh: Land scarcity and rising population
Long-term outlook for Bangladesh is presumed to be bleak as unplanned growth of population is complicating the process of meeting the demand for food, basic health requirements and educational facilities — triggering unemployment and social unrest. The prospect is really discouraging as resources are outrunning habitants. Trees are being chopped down for fuel on a regular basis. Climatic disruption in recent times, followed by salinity intrusion, shrinking farmlands and crop losses, has added to the woes of the people of the country.
What is alarming is that the country, with the world’s highest density of population, is fast losing arable land due to growing industrialisation and rapid encroachment of human habitat on farming areas. Bangladesh is losing 8000 hectares of farm land every year from its original 13 million hectares of cropland due to urbanisation, industrialisation, unplanned rural housing and infrastructure buildings. The country’s fast growing population is now looking for new land to build homes while entrepreneurs are going to the remote areas of the countryside to set up factories. Agriculture accounts for only 21 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) although the sector employs around 50 per cent of the nation’s workforce.
It is feared that there will be no cultivable land left in Bangladesh in 50 years if lands are taken away for non-farm purposes at the current annual rate. If the trend is not reversed now, the country would permanently lose its food security, making its poor population more vulnerable to volatile international commodity prices. In order to reverse this trend, the government has taken some steps including banning use of arable land for purposes other than agriculture. This is no doubt a laudable step. A high-level committee suggested that the factories and educational institutions that have already been built should now go vertical, instead of grabbing more arable land. But the government is failing to monitor how much arable land is being transferred for use other than agricultural purposes as it has no adequate staff.
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