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Geography, climate and population
Bangladesh is a low-lying riverine country located in southern Asia, covering 144 000 km2 (Table 1). The country has been formed as the largest deltaic plain at the confluence of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra (Jamuna) and the Meghna rivers and their tributaries. It has a common border to the west, north and east with India, a short border with Myanmar in the southeast, and is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the south.
The country is divided into six administrative divisions, which are named after their respective divisional headquarters: Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet. The Divisions are subdivided into 64 districts (Zilas) and each district is further subdivided into Upazilas or Thanas, of which there are 508. Finally, each Thana is again subdivided into Unions or Wards, of which there are 6 766.
About 80 percent of the landmass is made up of fertile alluvial lowland that becomes a part of the Greater Bengal Plain (Lower Gangetic Plain). The country is flat with some hills in the northeast and southeast. A great plain lies almost at sea level along the southern part of the country and rises gradually towards the north. The land elevation on the plain varies from 0 to 90 m above sea level (asl). The maximum elevation is 1 230 m asl at Keocradang in the Rangamati hill district. The geomorphology is comprised of almost 80 percent floodplains some terraces and hilly areas. About 7 percent of the total area of Bangladesh is covered with rivers and inland water bodies and these areas are routinely flooded during the monsoon. Forests cover about 16 percent of the total area of the country.
The total cultivable area is an estimated 8.77 million ha. In 2009, the total cultivated area was an estimated 8.55 million ha, of which 7.57 million ha was for annual crops and 0.98 million ha for permanent crops. Most farmers own less than 1 ha of land and many have less than 0.2 ha.
Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate with significant variations in rainfall and temperature throughout the country. There are four main seasons: the pre-monsoon (March-May), which has the highest temperatures and experiences the maximum intensity of 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).
About 80 percent of the total rainfall occurs during the monsoon, and the average annual precipitation is 2 320 mm. This varies from 1 110 mm in the extreme northwest to 5 690 mm in the northeast. The country is regularly subjected to drought, floods and cyclones. The country’s mean annual lake evaporation is approximately 1 040 mm, which is about 45 percent of the mean annual rainfall.
Mean annual temperature is about 25 °C, with extremes as low as 4 °C and as high as 43 °C. Ground frost can occur in the hills. Humidity ranges between 60 percent in the dry season and 98 percent during the monsoon.
The total population in 2009 was 147 million, around 72 percent of which lived in rural areas (Table 1). Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with 1 021 inhabitants/km2. Over the years, the country has succeeded in significantly reducing the population growth rate. In 1991 the population growth rate was 2.17 percent, it is currently 1.39 percent (BBS, 2008). Despite the steadily declining fertility rate, the country’s population is expected to exceed 176 million by 2025, when the population density will rise to about 1 200 persons/km2.
In 2008, access to improved drinking water sources was 80 percent (85 and 78 percent for the urban and rural population respectively).