Bangladesh is a densely populated country with relatively intensive agricultural systems. Most of the country is an alluvial plain that is mostly used for rice agriculture. Diets are strongly rice based as well, and are lacking in micronutrients. Major challenges in the country are how to produce even more rice from a low per capita land base, while also increasing the supply of horticultural crops and animal products. Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise.
The USAID Feed the Future Initiative in Bangladesh focuses primarily on three value chains: rice, fish, and horticulture. The Initiative emphasizes rice intensification as well as diversification in high-value and nutrient-rich commodities such as horticulture and fish. The program also focuses on building climate-smart technologies and practices. Key investments include increasing on-farm productivity and farm income, investment in value chains, the scale-up of proven technologies, and the nutrition status of mothers and children. Investments are also made to enhance policy and planning capacity, agriculture innovation capacity, and the promotion of gender integration. The FtF Initiative also coordinates with Global Climate Change Initiative and Global Health Initiative. A list of specific activities and research projects that FtF is involved in can be accessed here.
Bangladesh is part of several additional FtF Innovation Labs, many of which work in close collaboration. The Lab for Aquaculture and Fisheries and Lab for Nutrition focus on the role of aquaculture in improving nutrition and household incomes. More specifically, the Lab for Aquaculture and Fisheries focuses on improving the efficiency, intensification and sustainability of aquaculture to boost nutrition and household income. The project emphasizes indigenous varieties such as Shing and Koi, as well as tilapia, shrimp, and mud-crab farming. The Lab for Nutrition researches the value of nutrition programming in projects that seek to improve farmer incomes. The Integrated Pest Management Lab has several research projects in Bangladesh, one of which focuses on the development of IPM strategies for specific vegetable crops. The Market Access Innovation Lab has a project that explores how generic weather index products can be integrated into savings and loans programs.
Bangladesh is located between a latitude between 20.7 °N and 26.6 °N. The total land area is about 130 thousand km2. The country is administratively subdivided into 7 Bibhag (Divisions), and these are further sub-divided into 462 Upazila (Sub-districts).
The divisions of Bangladesh
Bangladesh has about 160.4 million inhabitants. The population has increased 1.7 fold over the past 30 years. The economically active population is 78.2 million, 41% of which is employed in agriculture (down from68% in 1985). The rural population was 83% in 1985 and now it is 70%.
Health and nutrition¶
Life expectancy at birth in Bangladesh increased from 48 years in 1970 to 71 years in 2013 (UNICEF, 2014), yet malnutrition is still widespread. Today, about 5% of Bangladeshi children do not survive to their fifth birthday, though this rate has decreased by orders of magnitude since 1970, when it was 22% (UNICEF, 2014). Recent estimates for stunting, wasting, and underweight of young children are about 38%, 10%, and 31%, respectively (HKI & JPGSPH, 2014; MICS, 2014). Stunting and underweight have been declining over the last 10 years, but wasting remains largely unchanged, possibly indicating a lingering prevalence of acute malnutrition. Malnutrition is generally worse in rural and slum populations. Sylhet Division, in the Northeast, has the worst levels of in under-five mortality, stunting, wasting, and underweight.
Women who are underweight (BMI < 18.5) or have short stature (height < 145 cm) before getting pregnant have increased chances of poor maternal and birth outcomes; women who are overweight or obese have higher risks of heart disease and diabetes and poor birth outcomes (NIPORT et al., 2013). About 13% of women have short stature in Bangladesh. Estimates for the proportion of underweight women (BMI < 18.5) vary between 17-25% (HKI & JPGSPH, 2014; Islam et al., 2013; NIPORT et al., 2013). Furthermore, according to overweight standards for Asian populations (BMI ≥ 23), up to 38% of women are overweight (HKI & JPGSPH, 2014). Men have slightly higher rates of underweight than women and significantly lower rates of overweight. Adolescent girls between 10-18 years of age have equal rates of underweight and overweight (16%), and 75% are shorter than normal (HKI & JPGSPH, 2014). There is a rapid nutrition transition occurring in Bangladesh: undernourishment is decreasing while overweight and obesity increasing, especially in women. Urban households face higher rates of overweight and obesity and lower rates of underweight than rural households. Sylhet Division has the highest rate of women underweight, despite having one of the lowest rates of poverty.
Average height-for-age Z-score for children (a child with a score less than -2 is considered stunted), and body mass index for women. Data source: DHS.
Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread in Bangladesh in both underweight and overweight individuals. Estimates for anemia rates vary between 33-51% for preschool children and 26-42% for women (icddr,b et al., 2013; NIPORT et al., 2013). The largest cause of anemia is iron deficiency, and estimates suggest that 11% of preschool children and 7% of women are iron deficient, lower than previously expected (icddr,b et al., 2013). The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency is about 21% for both preschool and school aged children and 5% for women (icddr,b et al., 2013). Zinc deficiency is estimated in 44% of preschoolers and 57% of women. Finally, about 40% of preschoolers and 42% of women are iodine deficient. Consumption of micronutrient-rich foods, such as animal products, fruits, and vegetables, are far below recommendations.
About 17% of rural Bangladesh households are severely food energy-deficient since they are unable to afford a daily calorie intake of 1,805 kcal/person (Ahmed et al., 2013). Agricultural improvements have tripled rice production in the last three decades, which now contributes 71% of calories on average, but animal foods remain a very small portion of the diet. A quarter of the population was considered to have inadequate diets in 2009 (WFP, 2009). Rangpur on average has the lowest diet diversity and poorest food consumption scores (Ahmed et al., 2013; HKI & JPGSPH, 2014), yet complementary feeding of micronutrient rich foods high in vitamin A and iron to children 6-23 months of age is lowest in Sylhet. Poverty is a barrier to good nutrition, but improving awareness of nutrient dense foods (e.g., liver and whole small fish) and healthful food preparation methods, such as fermenting, soaking, or sprouting grains and legumes, can also improve nutrition. Diversification of crop production might help under some conditions, but the the size of the micronutrient gap in Bangladesh seems too large to be filled by such approaches (Arsenault et al., 2015).
Unfortunately, tube-well water in Bangladesh has naturally high levels of arsenic, and an estimated 35 to 77 million people were exposed to high levels of arsenic between 2000 and 2010 (Flanagan et al., 2012).
Land and water resources¶
The elevation of Bangladesh is between -20 and 900 meters above sea level. Half the land area is below 10 meter and in between 10 and 20 meter. The majority of Bangladesh is a flat alluvial plain in the river deltas, but there is some hilly terrain in the southeast of the country, on the border with Myanmar.
There are four main seasons: the pre-monsoon (March-May), which has the highest temperatures and a high incidence of tropical cyclonic storms, especially in May; the monsoon (June-September), when the bulk of rainfall occurs; the post-monsoon (October-November) which, like the pre-monsoon season, is marked by tropical cyclones on the coast; and the cool and sunny dry season (December-February) (FAO AQUASTAT, 2015).
The annual average temperature in Bangladesh is between 22.4 and 26.4 °C. The median annual average temperature is 25.6 °C and half the land area has an annual average temperature between 25.2 and 25.9 °C. For more details see the monthly temperature maps. For projected future climate change, see these maps.
The annual total precipitation in Bangladesh is between 1340 and 4450 mm. The median is 2120 mm and half the land area has an annual total precipitation between 1810 and 2590 mm. For more details see the monthly precipitation maps. For projected future climate change, see these maps.
Bangladesh mostly has fertile alluvial soils. Soil organic matter content is typically 3 to 4% and the soil pH between 6 and 7. The hills in the southeast have weathered soils with a lower pH.
Bangladesh has abundant water resources, as it is dominated by the floodplains of three major rivers, namely the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna. The peak discharge for each river is considerable: 100,000 m3/s for the Brahmaputra, 75,000 m3/s for the Ganges, 20,000 m3/s for the upper Meghna, and 160,000 m3/s for the lower Meghna. In total, there are 230 rivers in Bangladesh, in total 24,000 km in length. Renewable water resources generated within the country are estimated at 105 km3/year, of which 84 km3/year in surface water and 21 km3/year is groundwater. Including surface water that flows into Bangladesh from the three major river systems, total renewable water resources are estimated at 1,227 km3/year (FAO AQUASTAT, 2015). There is one major dam in Bangladesh, the Kaptai Dam on the Karnaphuli River in the mountainous southwest. The reservoir has a capacity of 6,477 million m3, is equipped with hydropower, and supports a fishery within the reservoir. Most of the country has very flat topography that is unsuitable for dam construction.
Bangladesh’s water conditions are particularly challenging. Due to its location in floodplains, 18% of the country is inundated by the seasonal monsoon rains in a typical year, with up to 37% inundated in years with severe flooding (FAO AQUASTAT). Rising sea levels are expected to increase flooding and associated risks to livelihoods and agricultural productivity. Most of the country’s water resources are polluted by industry and residential waste, and in many regions, groundwater is unsafe for human consumption due to high levels of arsenic (USAID, 2010a).
The government of Bangladesh has invested heavily in irrigation projects. As early as the 1950s, more than 600 water resource development schemes had been completed for flood control, drainage, or irrigation (Chowdury, 2012). About 5 million ha (60% of the cultivated area) is currently equipped for irrigation. Irrigated agriculture is concentrated in the northwest of the country. Groundwater pumping for irrigation, particularly in the dry season, is also common in the country. Large-scale irrigation systems were established across the South-Western, Northern, and North Eastern regions in the 1970s, but there were also many small-scale irrigation projects. Liberalization and privatization policies reduced the prices of irrigation equipment, making it more accessible for low-income farmers. Growth in shallow tubewell irrigation was particularly rapid, and now accounts for over 50 percent of irrigated areas (Jaim and Shaheen 2012).
There remain strong inter- and intra-regional variations in irrigation development. Socioeconomic conditions and poor physical infrastructure drive some of this variation, as has the focus on private enterprise (Islam, 2014). Access to bank loans has been cited as an important means for obtaining irrigation equipment (Hussain and Biltonen, 2001).
Bangladesh’s 1999 National Water Policy aims to use water in a way to ensure economic development, food security, environmental protection, and public welfare. The 2000-2025 Integrated Water Management Plan extends these goals, identifying water scarcity, water quality, and ecological sustainability as key principles of water law (USAID, 2010). The 2013 Bangladesh Water Act guides water management, distribution, and conservation more explicitly. The Act gives the state ownership over all water, and creates the National Water Resources Council, chaired by the Prime Minister. Citizens are awarded natural water use rights for domestic purposes such as bathing or small-scale farming. For other purposes or large-scale projects, however, users must acquire more formal water use rights through permits and licenses. Riparian owners can use flowing water, but cannot build infrastructure that prohibits the natural flow without meeting specified conditions. Important conservation steps have been taken as well. For example, the Act prohibits drainage in wetlands that support migratory birds (Khalequzzaman and Islam, 2013). The Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) is the major public sector agency addressing water sector development.
A weather index insurance sector has started to appear in Bangladesh over the past few years. Oxfam International started a pilot project for index insurance in 2012, insuring 700 households. The Asian Development Bank piloted an index insurance project in Bangladesh in 2013 that intended to include 12,000 farm households. More recently, a flood insurance project insuring 1661 households was started by Oxfam International. A team from the International Food Policy Research Institute has been investigating index insurance in the country for several years (Clarke et al. 2012, 2014).
Bangladesh has complex and inefficient land administration and policies, which have perpetuated land insecurity. There are a number of laws pertaining to land, including the 1972 Bangladesh Land Holding Limitation Order, the 1984 Land Reforms Ordinance, and 1989 Land Reform Board Act, and the 1990 Chittagong Hill Tract Regulation Act. These laws have a range of purposes, from recognizing customary rights to providing improved tenure security to sharecroppers. There are three common types of tenure in Bangladesh: 1) the common law freehold, which allows farmers and citizens to own land for an unspecified period, 2) the khas (public) land, which are 99-year use rights to government land and allocated by the Ministry of Lands, and 3) leaseholds. Ownership rights come from purchasing, inheriting, or receiving land as a gift. Farmers without land can receive access to one to three acres of land through the khas system at no cost. Bangladesh’s Constitution also specifies that the government can expropriate land assuming compensation is given to citizens whose land is expropriated (USAID 2010a)
There are significant challenges to owning land because of the lengthy registration and titling process. It takes an average of 245 days to complete it. Because of administrative complexities, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index ranks Bangladesh at 176th place of 183 countries on registering property. In a similar manner, receiving access to khas land is complicated and processes are prone to corruption and bribery. Distribution of khas land is also susceptible to elite capture; intended beneficiaries have received just under 12 percent of the khas land. These issues are particularly pressing because of land scarcity, which increases competition and has caused land disputes.
The 2001 National Land Use Policy outlines guidelines for improving land use, including decreasing the high rates of conversion of agricultural land and increasing environmentally-friendly farm practices. The policy is also aimed at reducing the incidences of land grabbing in khas land in particular. In 2004, the government admitted difficulties in implementing this policy due to administrative complexity across ministries.
There are many ministries and agencies involved in land administration, management, and policy. Involved Ministries include the Ministry of Lands, the Land Office, the Department of Land Registration in the Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs, and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Rice is by far the most important crop in Bangladesh. An astounding 74% of all crop area is rice. Three rice seasons are distinguished: Aman, Aus, and Boro. Aman is the main rice crop that is grown during the monsoon and harvest in November and December. The aus crop is sown earlier (March or April), typically direct-seeded, and matures during the rainy season. Boro rice season is irrigated as it is grown in the dry season from October to March. It is common to grow two crops of rice and a third crop each year. See the Bangladesh chapter in the Rice Almanac for more information.
Other crops grown in Bangladesh include winter crops such as potato and wheat. Bangladesh is an important producer of jute, which is mostly grown along the main rivers, and there is a Jute Research Institute.
Annual linear growth rates of crop yield over the past 30 years, for the main five crops , were between 11.1 (Rapeseed) and 337.7 (Potato) kg/ha
The livestock sector has high potential in Bangladesh. Poultry and dairy farming in particular require less land and are not as influenced by seasonality as fisheries and crops (BIDS 2014). The 2007 National Livestock Development Policy addressed nine thematic areas including dairy development, poultry development, deeds, veterinary services, and markets. Policy emphasis on the livestock sector follows successive five-year plan documents, the most recent of which was the Sixth Five Year Plan (2011-2015). Most of these plan documents outline goals and strategies, but do not include a specific budget or targets. The goals of the Sixth Five Year Plan include increasing inter-cropping for fodder production, veterinarian training, vaccination, institutional management, sustainability, and poultry management. Livestock is a source of underinvestment in Bangladesh, accounting for less than 1 percent of the total government budget in most years (Rahman et al. 2014) and significantly less than other agricultural sectors. Quality control, improved markets, health services, research on livestock, and availability of high breed animals are some remaining challenges to the sector.
Aquaculture and fisheries¶
Bangladesh has a very well-developed aquaculture sector, and is one of the top 7 countries in the world in aquacultural production (FAO AQUASTAT). Species under cultivation include fish but also crustaceans like shrimp and mussels. The policy framework on fisheries and aquaculture in Bangladesh has a lengthy history. The 1950 Protection and Conservation of Fish Act, and 1982 Protection and Conservation Ordinance and the 1983 Marine Fisheries Ordinance are just some of the early policies and regulations on marine fisheries. Some of these regulations apply to aquaculture as well. In 2006, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock adopted the first Fisheries Strategy, which preceded the most recent 2013-2020 National Aquaculture Development Strategy and Action Plan. The 2013-2020 Plan aims to achieve 16 outputs, which include diversifying production systems, exploring untapped resources such as coastal waters and floodplains, conserving resources in which aquaculture depends, strengthening institutions, and building capacity and organization in fish-farming communities (MoFL and FAO 2014). Most fish and aquaculture products are consumed domestically, in part because of issues of quality assurance.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute are two of the main agencies involved in fisheries and livestock policy. The Department of Fisheries (DoF) has the most authority with administrative control over the fish and aquaculture sectors. The Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation handles commercial aspects of fisheries like marketing and handling and the Ministry of Lands is charged with leasing use of water for inland fisheries.
Bangladesh increasingly liberalized its agricultural policies through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Despite expectations that these reforms would increase production and efficiency, the country experienced input shortages and input quality challenges in the 1990s and 2000s that led to protests and food security concerns (Islam 2014). As a result, the government has re-engaged in assistance and facilitation of agricultural inputs over the last ten years.
After the crises in input distribution in the mid-2000s and during the 2007-2008 food crisis, the Government expanded control over the fertilizer distribution network by getting directly involved in the network and by assessing supply and demand for fertilizer (Islam 2014). The Government of Bangladesh intervened in the input market by establishing the 2009 Dealership Policy, which involved the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) appointing fertilizer dealers at the upazila level at a subsidized cost. The Government supervises these fertilizer dealers, mandating that they only sell the amount of fertilizer specified by the quota and that they sell only within a certain location. The Ministry of Agriculture determines fertilizer quotas through local Sub-Assistant Agricultural Officers (SSAO), who assess and inventory the amount of fertilizer that each farmer needs at local levels (Jaim and Shaheen 2012). Fertilizer factories then deliver that amount to the dealers. The government fixes the fertilizer price, and farmers are only permitted to buy the amount of fertilizer allocated by the SSAO assessment. Evidence shows variation in the way fertilizers are sold at the district and upazila levels: some fertilizer dealers only sell once per week, some farmers are given priority to access over others, and some districts use cards or slips are used to track distribution (Barkat et al. 2010).
The results of the government reform are mixed, but generally positive. The reforms appear to have increased production. The subsidies have increased farmers’ ability to collect credit or loans; one study suggests that around 40 percent of farmers received credit and more than half of landless farmers received loans but from informal sectors in the late 2000s. As in many countries, disparities in access to credit and loans based on farm size remain (Barkat et al. 2010). Deficits in fertilizer and high yield seed are particularly challenging and the most pressing. Deficits at the farm level can be attributed to high prices, poor timing of delivery, and barriers to transportation (ibid). There is evidence that some fertilizer is being purchased on the open market. Although this indicates that appointed dealers might use fertilizer for their own capital gains, it is likely that government has taken steps to address this leakage. Because elected officials and their administration oversee dealer appointment, there are reasons to believe that appointments are based on political considerations and not experience (Islam 2014). Finally, the scope of fertilizer deficits across regions varies, but it does not seem that the reasons for these disparities has been sufficiently investigated (Barkat 2010).
Access to high yield varieties seed is somewhat limited. Not only have seed deficits been reported, the quality of the high yield variety seeds (HYV) has also been questioned. The BADC and the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) are both involved in the production and distribution of seed. One of the drivers of insufficiency is that the quality of seed technology and facilities for processing and conserving seeds, like seed banks, are insufficient (Jaim and Shaheen 2012). Another driver of insufficiency is the controversy over the introduction of seeds generated via biotechnology. The agricultural biotechnology sector in Bangladesh is in embryonic stages, but seems to be trending toward a more open biotechnology approach. The 2006 National Biotechnology Policy and the 2007 Biosafety Framework include information on data requirements, field trials, and approval processes. Although bio-engineered crops like Bt eggplant have been approved quite recently, there are concerns of market acceptability due to anti-GMO sentiment (Lagos and Hussain 2014). While traditional varieties tolerate the minerals and salt found in many of Bangladesh’s soils, but they produce low yields. As an aside, the DAE provides extension services, but some critics question whether extension reaches smallholder farmers (Jaim and Shaheen 2012).
Criticisms of the universal access approach to fertilizer and inputs and to goals to achieve food self-sufficiency led to the development of the 2010 Agriculture Input Assistance Card program, which distributes cash subsidies to farmers with marginal, small, and medium (0.02-3.03 hectares) farms. The program distributes a cash subsidy to poor farmers, which allows them to open a bank account. Cash can then be directly distributed to the farmers’ bank accounts. The direct transfer, along with very specific targeting based on assessments and an ID card, is supposed to reduce elite capture and reduce opportunities for leakage. Still, carrying out such a program has been challenging: evidence suggests that farmers living in very remote areas did not receive information about the card and missed opportunities to submit necessary documentation (Parvin 2011). In addition, gaps between the cash allocated and the price of diesel needed for irrigation purposes remain (ibid).
Cash exchange programs also play a major role in social safety nets in Bangladesh, particularly for food security. Bangladesh’s Food for Work program employs the unemployed in exchange for food transfers. The 2002 Rural Maintenance Program allocates cash in return for work on large infrastructure projects. Participants for this program are targeted and selected through vulnerability assessments.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Forest and Environment, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Science and Technology, the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation, and the National Agricultural Research Systems are some of the key players in designing and implementing input and support policies.
There are 10 public research institutes housed under the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), of which focus on rice, jute, sugarcane, livestock, fisheries, among others. The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) is one of the most prominent research institutes. As illustrated below, research support to agriculture has been steady and upwardly trending. The majority of research focus has gone to crops, namely rice.
Yield Gap (1000 kg / ha).
Selected research and development priorities and projects¶
The research programs within the CGIAR have a large set of projects in Bangladesh. The Aquatic Agricultural Research Systems Research Program works primarily in the Southern Polder Zone, and focuses on the productivity of fish and shrimp pond systems as well as mixed rice-fish farming systems, land and water management, homesteading (household ponds), diversification, and improved value chains for fish feed and livestock fodder. The Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Research Program (CCAFS) has several projects in Bangladesh on topics including the assessment of risk management tools, mitigation strategies for fish/rice systems, and climate vulnerability and adaptive capacity for women. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)’s research centers on rice varieties and technologies that will help farmers adapt to climate change. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has a Policy and Research Strategy Support Program based in Dhaka, covering a wide range of agricultural development and nutrition agendas. The Livestock and Fish Research Program focuses on aquaculture value chains. Bangladesh is also part of the mNutrition program through the International Livestock Research Institute. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center has several research agendas in Bangladesh, including the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia, which focus on increasing adoption rates and dissemination of crop and aquaculture technologies and improved varieties. The project also engages in capacity building for extension agents. The Water, Land and Ecosystems Research Program (WLE) is “working to achieve green, resilient and equitable growth.” There are currently five research projects in the Ganges River Basin, which include community water management for food security and using poverty squares and gender circles to fill gaps in agricultural practices.
FAO’s current priorities in Bangladesh include increasing food security and nutrition through access and utilization; enhancing agricultural productivity through diversification, sustainable natural resource management, and providing access to quality inputs; improving market linkages and food safety; improving technology and adaptation through extension research; and increasing communities’ resilience to shocks such as natural disasters (FAO, Country Program Framework 2014-2018. Bangladesh is also one of six countries in FAO’s Global Blue Growth Initiative, which focuses on capture fisheries, aquaculture, ecosystem services, trade and social protection, and balancing conservation and economic gains. The Initiative supports the strengthening of policy and legislation, advancing technical capacity, enforcing rights, improving stock management, and developing the aquaculture sector including expanding risk mitigation strategies. The program will also support Bangladesh in increasing the viability of fish and seafood markets and industry (FAO 2015). The WorldFish Program also focuses on aquaculture and fisheries, and has a number of projects, focusing on improvements to the aquaculture sector for nutrition and income purposes, building the resilience of ecosystems to climate-related shocks, and increasing the trading capacity of small-scale shrimp and prawn farmers, among other things. The most recent Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2011-2015) identifies several areas in need of attention, including the expansion of farm diversification, addressing and preparing the effects of climate change, increasing nutrition status, improving the management of land pressures due to population growth, and strengthening environmental resource management (concerning water in particular) (IMF PRSP 2013). Also worth noting is the $10m World Bank project called the Solar Irrigation Project. Established in 2013, the the Solar Irrigation Project is installing 1,300 solar-powered irrigation pumps in Bangladesh. Solar power enables farmers to pump irrigation water with fewer side effects than the traditional diesel pumps widely used in Bangladesh. Diesel fuel is also costly and much be imported, so that solar-powered pumps will put less pressure on Bangladesh’s foreign exchange.
About 5% of terrestrial Bangladesh is under some form of protection (IUCN & WDPA 2015). This includes eight national parks (Category II), 14 habitat/species management areas (Category IV), and three managed resource protected areas (Category VI), as defined by the IUCN. The Sundarabans are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This large mangrove forest on the border with India is the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. This is also one of two Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance in Bangladesh. The other one is Tanguar Haor in the northeast.
Bangladesh is home to 97 species on the IUCN Red List of threatened and endangered species. This includes one species that is Extinct in the Wild, 18 listed as Critically Endangered, 28 as Endangered, and 50 as Vulnerable. However, Bangladesh does not contain any sites noted by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as locations having an imminent risk of species extinctions.
None of the major global or regional environmental non-governmental organizations have current conservation programs operating in Bangladesh.
Global conservation prioritization methodologies have highlighted a total of 19% of Bangladesh as having conservation importance. This includes Biodiversity Hotspots (6% of the country), Global 200 Ecoregions (15%), Important Bird Areas (6%) and regions considered to be Frontier Forests (3%) as defined by Global Forest Watch. However, no area in the country is recognized as being the Last of the Wild (Wildlife Conservation Society).
The map on the left (below) shows biodiversity conservation priorities generated by combining numbers of vertebrate species, (excluding reptiles), IUCN threatened species, and small-ranged species (data from Jenkins et al. 2013) per 10 km2 cell. Thus, the areas with the highest values (shown here in green) not only have the greatest diversity of species in Bangladesh, but also show those areas where species are or might become threatened with extinction. The map on the right highlights 17% of the terrestrial area of Bangladesh containing the highest conservation priority values (a 17% target was chosen in accordance with the 2010 Convention of Biological Diversity). The same analysis at both regional and global scales highlights 22% and 2% of the nation respectively as meeting the CBD targets as defined in this analysis.
Conservation Priorities excluding Urban and Agricultural land.
Bangladesh has a history of military politics and a highly polarized elite political environment. The two main political parties, the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), are dynastic, politically prominent families oversee and run the parties. The same families have overseen these parties for the past 40 years (Amundsen 2013), and have been mostly engaged with one another through conflict. The two political parties have alternated in majority status in every election since 1991. Bangladesh uses single-member district plurality rules, which allows a small swing in votes to lead to a large swing in seats. A 168-seat swing occurred from the 2001 to 2008 election, for example. In a polarized political environment, such swings in legislative power tend to aggravate political tensions.
Political tension has been high over the past few years. In order to limit incumbent influence over the electoral process, the Bangladeshi Constitution had an unusual system of “non-party caretaker government” (NCG) to organize and oversee parliamentary elections. Due to the politicization of this system before the 2007 elections, the military intervened and led the NCG for two years until 2008 when it organized elections. After the BAL won the 2008 elections, it abolished the constitutional provision for caretaker government between elections, stating that it preferred an independent commission to oversee election organization. In 2013, the Bangladeshi Supreme Court banned the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, the then third-largest party that often allied with the BNP, from winning seats in the assembly. The BNP retaliated, stating it would protest and boycott the 2014 elections. After the BAL took majority status in 2014, the BNP and its supporters protested, sometimes violently. As of April 2015, the protests have led to significant economic losses in garment and other industries (Barry 2015), and have led to hundreds of deaths.
The effectiveness of some parliamentary activities is uncertain, as the party in opposition has boycotted almost half of the working days of parliament since the 1990s. Yet preceding the most recent political crisis, there was evidence that the activities of parliament have improved (CDP-CMI 2012). In the last five years, for example, opposition members have received committee chair assignments and the number of bills passed per session has increased. Corruption and transparency are ongoing concerns. According to Transparency International, Bangladesh ranks 145/175 on the Corruption Perceptions Index (2014) and is at 16% in the percentile rank for control of corruption (2010).
Bangladesh is a Westminster-style parliamentary system. The president is mostly ceremonial and is elected by parliament. The executive arrangement has gone through a number of reforms, including the adoption and subsequent abandonment of presidentialism, and remains controversial today. Sheikh Hasina is the current Prime Minister. She is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh.
Some of the executive and legislative processes in Bangladesh’s parliamentary system are thought to restrict performance. Article 70 of the Constitution prohibits floor-crossing (Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh 1971), for example, meaning members cannot take positions against or question their party during votes and question periods. Department-related Committees cannot participate in budget making processes (CDP-CMI 2012).
Electoral Rules and party arrangement¶
The parliament has 350 seats and is unicameral. 300 MPs are elected by single-member district plurality rules for a maximum of five terms limits. 50 seats are reserved for female MPs, who are appointed by the parties. The third largest political party is the Jatiya Party (JP). There are 120 other parties that compete in elections but only 6 of these have obtained seats in parliament. Most of these have aligned with and created alliances one of the two main political parties. Religious minorities continue to be unrepresented in the assembly, as do representatives of the poor. Because it requires substantial resources to participate in elections, candidates from poorer backgrounds are unlikely to do so (Amundsen 2013).
The Bangladeshi system is centralized in practice, despite legislation that allocates administrative roles to the local level. The 1996 Local Government Commission, the 1997 Local Government Act, the Upazila Parishad Act 1998, the 2000 Zilla Parishad Act, and the 2008 Local Government Ordinances are key legislative documents that structure local government. The system is divided into four tiers beginning with 64 administrative districts. Local government in rural districts is then comprised of zila parishads (district), upazila parishads (sub-district), and union parishads (Commonwealth Local Government Forum 2012). Enforcement the legal framework is fairly weak. Local governments have limited fiscal and administrative autonomy, and their responsibilities vary across districts. Ongoing political tensions have reduced the institutional capacity to carry out reforms on local governance (CDP-CMI 2012).
The roles of national members of parliament (MPs) and the roles of locally elected officials are both somewhat unclear. MPs have both formal and informal roles in local development activities, and these roles allow them to use development funds to build party support and distribute patronage. The goals of MPs and the goals of local officials, who also hope to claim credit for development funds and projects, has created conflict between the two levels of government. Some critics suggest that the focus of MPs on local development projects takes away from their attention to national legislative activities (CDP-CMI 2012).
The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and Cooperatives (MLGRDC) and the Ministry of Hill Tract Affairs oversee the implementation of local government legislation.
- Ahmed, A. U., Ahmad, K., Chou, V., Hernandez, R., Menon, P., Naeem, F., ... & Hassan, Z., 2013. The status of food security in the feed the future zone and other regions of Bangladesh: Results from the 2011–2012 Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey. Project report submitted to the US Agency for International Development. International Food Policy Research Institute, Dhaka.
- Amundsen, Inge. 2013. Dynasty or Democracy? Party Politics in Bangladesh. Chr. Michelsen Institute. CMI Brief.
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