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Bangladesh map

Bangladesh

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Bangladesh is in South Asia, situated between Myanmar and India. The country is slightly smaller than the state of Iowa. Despite its small size, Bangladesh has a population of approximately 156 million people, putting it in the top ten most populous nations on earth.

Much of Bangladesh comprises the deltas of large rivers flowing from the great Himalaya Mountains. The terrain is mostly flat, alluvial plains, with hilly areas in the southeast. Slightly more than half of the land is arable. The climate is tropical, consisting of mild winters, hot and humid summers, and warm monsoon seasons. It is the monsoon season, with its torrential rains, which causes one third of the country to flood annually. Bangladesh’s natural resources include natural gas, timber, and coal.

The large population of Bangladesh consists largely of the Bengali ethnic group while a small minority of tribal, non-Bengali people exists as well. Roughly 83 percent of Bengali people are Muslim, 16 percent are Hindu, and 1 percent profess other faiths, including Christianity. Bangla, or Bengali, is the official language of the nation. English is spoken as well.

Bangladesh possesses a history that goes back to the 7th century B.C. and includes a succession of many great empires. Like its large neighbor, India, Bangladesh fell into the fold of the British Empire in the mid-18th century and remained there until 1947. In that year the largely Muslim West Pakistan and East Bengal separated from the largely Hindu India to jointly form the new nation of Pakistan. This new nation comprised two sections – West Pakistan and East Pakistan - separated by almost a thousand miles of India in between. This separation proved to be an unsustainable arrangement. Marginalized and dissatisfied, the people of East Pakistan seceded from Pakistan in 1971, formed a parliamentary democracy, and renamed their country Bangladesh.

The Bengali people face great challenges. Bangladesh is extremely poor. About half of the nation, 78 million people, lives on one dollar or less a day. The average life expectancy is only 60 years. Additionally, the annual large-scale flooding has hampered the country’s economic development.