Monday, December 13, 2010

The Crowds in Bangladesh

A crowded bus on the highway near Chittagong

Photo (October 7, 1996) © Jerome D'Costa

Another crowded bus on the highway near Comilla

Photo (May 23, 1989) © Jerome D'Costa

Don't worry as long as there is some hanging space outside the bus!

Photo (1974) by Father Joseph S. Peixotto, CSC
(received @ courtesy of Jospeph Peixotto, Sr.)

A crowded ferry boat near the Mongla Port

Photo (1995) © Jerome D'Costa

A crowded motor launch on the Meghna River
near Daudkandi Ferry Terminal

Photo (May 23, 1989) © Jerome D'Costa

When I say 'crowd,' I mean a real crowd. I don't mean a rush-hour crowd. This normal crowd is a concentration of many people -- where you see only heads and heads -- at all times of the day and most of the night. You can witness such crowds in Bangladesh.

In normal times, the buses are crowded, the trains are crowded, the motor launches are crowded, and where else? If it were permitted, the domestic and international planes would be crowded. Why leave aisles empty in a plane? A lot of people could at least stand there!

If you want to see an abnormal crowding, just give a call for a hartal (all-out general strike) and a demonstration and picketing. Political parties in Bangladesh are quite adept at this. Another time of over-crowding is the Eid-ul Fitr (annual Islamic religious festival) time. At that time, millions of people from Dhaka leave for their family homes. The rooftop of a train has enough space to sit on, so why not use it? It is at least better than sitting or standing inside a train in suffocating and sweating situation.

In Toronto downtown, Canada, when I tell people that they would not find such uncrowded, sparsely-walked and almost empty streets in Dhaka, they cannot fathom it.

In Bangladesh, about 156,050,883 persons live in 143,998 square kilometres -- 1,083 persons per square kilometre area! The capital city of Dhaka, with an area of 360 square kilometres, can comfortably hold five million (5,000,000) people, but, in reality, 13, 000,000 people are vying for space there! In contrast, Canada, with its 9,984,670 sq. kilometre territory, has a population of 33,759,742 -- only 3.38 persons per square kilometre!

According to the recent Bangla Kagoj (a Bangla-language weekly) of Toronto, the National Institute for Population Research and Training in Dhaka reports that 2,136 newcomers from other towns and villages arrive daily in Dhaka to eke out a living, creating a tremendous pressure on water, electricity, gas, housing, transport and law-and-order situation. Specialists predict that if this trend continues unabated, the service situation would be such that Dhaka would need to be declared an abandoned city in next ten or so years.

The city authority has planned to increase the area of Dhaka to 590 sq. miles (1,528 sq. kilometres) for reducing the increasing pressure of population.

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