What will Bangladesh look like in 2071?
How would you translate the phrase “Bangladesh chirojeebi hok?” It could be “Long live Bangladesh.” It could also be “May Bangladesh exist forever.” Whichever we pick, our intention is to see our country prosper, grow its importance on the global stage, and house happy and solvent citizens.
At 50, we have many success stories to tell. The world powers have noticed our progress. They have congratulated us for our achievements. The Kissingeresque epithet is no longer attributable for us. After five decades of our existence as a state, we have proved that American official wrong.
In many indicators, we have gone ahead of our neighbours such as Indian and Pakistan. We have also gone ahead of some geographically far-off states. Let me remind you that my objective here isn’t to compare us with other states. The objective of this piece is to remind ourselves how far we have come and how far we want to go.
And if we want to go far, what are the areas that we need to focus on?
Forgive me for using the word “indicators.” I’ve only used it because the world now revolves around “indicators.” In everything. They are praising our indicators.
We have often termed our high population as one of the prime obstacles of development. Too many mouths to feed. We have also tried our best to turn this mammoth lot into resources. But this job is not easy. By the time my child would be of my age, say 2050, the population of the land, it’s predicted, would likely be between 230 and 250 million. Have we tried to figure out what it would be like in 2071?
Too many in too little space? Precisely so. And that’s one aspect I would like to point out for our chirojeebi-ness in the next 50 years when we turn 100.
We have understood during this pandemic that we don’t have enough hospitals to cater to the needs of 170 million. How are we going to fulfill the health care needs of 250 million? In this crisis, millions have lost their jobs. That also showed us how un-holistic our business sector is. Their operational model is only focused on profit and improving the lifestyle of the investors; they’re not people-centric; they only want to employ labour, but their theories are not centred on improving the lives of the labourers.
A country needs to look after its people very wisely in order to rejoice its own successes.
Now, come to the country’s ecology or internal environment, for example.
In 50 years, what have we done to our environment? We are located in a lower riparian region. No doubt that our rivers and canals would suffer from the land that is located in the upper riparian regions.
What, right now, is the condition of our rivers? They are narrowing down due to encroachments; they are polluted due to industrial waste; they are full of plastic due to our own behaviour.
What if in the next 50 years, all these rivers and canals turn into plain land with great many high-rises?
Take our soil, for example. We have already contaminated the soil with chemicals and plastics. What would be our soil like in 2071?
The availability of safe drinking water right at this moment is far from satisfactory. What are we going to drink in 2071? Do we have a plan?
But, wait. We needn’t worry about water. We may not run out of water. With the sea level rise globally, the water from Bay of Bengal will creep over our land and much of our land would be submerged with water. So, there wouldn’t be any water crisis. We would just need to desalinate the sea water and drink it.
Yes, the impact of climate change is going to be vicious for our land. Almost all studies have predicted that by the year 2100, there would be no Bangladesh.
Our Rangpur or Dinajpur would be a nice sea beach at that time. If that becomes a reality, how are we going to live in this land? By elevating our homes and houses above the sea level?
It may sound quite dystopian when we talk about our land mass going under the sea.
But if that happens, where would we relocate — maybe 350 million at that time — our people to? Shall we all emigrate to other countries or states? Will they be ready to house us? Are we going to be refugees in those states?
Well, this, as researchers opine, may not happen overnight, but this situation would arise.
Then what? No Bangladesh. No Bengali nation. No Bangla language. No culture. We merge with several other nations, cultures, and languages.
At present, we are happy to engage in an urbanization-spree. We call it development and we are bewitched by it. We’re tempted by the glamour of urbanization that involves building structures. However, we are far from contemplating that our desire to urbanize may result in agricultural land loss.
Yes, we have thought about the above scenario and we have a plan titled Delta 2100, and we have also run some baseline research. But that plan is yet to get the status of a national campaign.
To my mind, unless and until we start perpetual activism regarding our future along with our present hunger for development, at the end of the day, the future may not augur well for us. And our dream to become chirojeebi may remain only as a dream.
Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller, and a communications professional. His other works are available on ekramkabir.com.