Bangladesh (Global Warming)

Bangladesh is situated in the northeastern portion of the Indian subcontinent on the Bay of Bengal. It borders India on the west, north, and south and Myanmar on the southeast. The area of Bangladesh is 56,977 sq. mi. (147,579 sq. km.). It is a low-lying country, with numerous rivers situated principally on the large delta formed by the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers, and scattered hills on the northern and eastern borders.

Approximately 10 percent of Bangladesh is still forested with teak, banyan, and kapok, and forests in the tidal zone along the coast include mangroves and sometimes hardwood. Mangroves blunted the destructive power of a cyclone and tidal wave that hit Bangladesh in 1991. Mangroves are able to grow in salt water, but depend on nutrients from silt from inland rivers, and have the ability to adapt to changing conditions (including salinity and rough waves). The extended roots stabilize coasts, preventing erosion.

The climate of Bangladesh is humid and tropical, with warm temperatures throughout the year. The average annual temperature is about 77 degrees F (25 degrees C). Rainfall is heavy, ranging from 55 in. (140 cm.) around the central eastern border to more than 200 in. (508 cm.) in the northeast annually. The majority of annual precipitation falls during the monsoon season, accompanied by flooding from June to October, and by cyclones with accompanying storm surge waves from April to May and September to November.

Bangladesh supports more than 143 million people, and the population is expected to double by 2050. The staple food and chief crop is rice. Other important crops include jute, tea, sugarcane, and cotton.

The principal energy resource, natural gas, is found in several small fields in the northeast. There is a coalfield in the northwest, and large peat beds underlie most of the delta. Electricity is generated in thermal plants burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, or petroleum) and hydroelectric facilities.

Bangladesh already faces complex environmental problems, including air, water, and soil pollution, and the overuse of natural resources, which causes deforestation, desertification, and energy and water shortages. Three percent of households lack access to improved water supply and 52 percent lack improved sanitation. The impacts of global warming could exacerbate already stressed conditions in some areas as the increasing population and scarcity of land drive occupation of marginal forest lands and temporary river islands. Agricultural practices including overuse of farmland and chemical pesticides have resulted in soil damage and contamination of water sources.


Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to a rise in sea level. Estimates for future sea level rise vary from 3.2-43.3 in. (8-110 cm.) by the end of the century. A rise of 9.8 in. (25 cm.) or more in relative sea level would displace many residents of the delta region of the Ganges from their homes and livelihoods, while a 39 in. (1 m.) sea-level rise could inundate 11.5 percent of the land of Bangladesh. Extreme predictions of a 1 m. rise in the Bay of Bengal are that the Ganges Delta would lose 12-18 percent of its land. Loss of land (especially agricultural land) could be devastating, along with the displacement of coastal villages and people by severe flooding.

Seasonal flooding could increase and last longer, with higher sea levels decreasing the rate of drainage and increase the salinity of ground water. Also, as sea surface temperature rises, the ocean area capable of spawning tropical cyclones is expected to increase. Tidal waves during cyclones are likely to become more severe, as well. Climate change could translate into migration to urban areas or inland from the lowlands of the delta area. With transient populations, stress on sewage and waste systems could increase the spread of communicable diseases.

Warmer temperatures would increase the incidence of heat-related illnesses and lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution causing respiratory illnesses and increasing risk of contracting certain infectious diseases from water contamination or disease-carrying vectors, especially for the malnourished. Flooding and storm surges associated with sea-level rise could increase the incidence of water-borne diseases, putting stress on limited health services.

In October 2001, Bangladesh ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide that took effect on February 16, 2005. Strategies implemented to improve environmental conditions and human-induced climate change include assessment of the potential impact of climate change. Bangladesh began a National Conservation Strategy Implementation Project, assessed implementation of Agenda 21, established the Bangladesh Wetlands Network, conducted the case study "Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Barriers to Trade and Its Impact on the Environment of Shrimp Farming in Bangladesh," established the International Dialogue on Water and Climate, completed the project design for "Integrating Economic Values into Protected Area Management in South Asia—Bangladesh Country Component" in collaboration with the Ecosystems and Livelihood Group (ELG), and executed another regional project titled "Sustainable Livelihood, Environmental Security and Conflict Management."

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