Official name : People's Republic of Bangladesh
Area: 143,998 square kilometers (55,598 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Reng Mountain (Keokradong) (1230 meters / 4,034 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 6 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 767 kilometers (477 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest; 429 kilometers (267 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest
Land boundaries: 4,246 kilometers (2,638 miles) total boundary length; India, 4,053 kilometers (2,518 miles); Myanmar, 193 kilometers (120 miles)
Coastline: 574 kilometers (357 miles) on the Bay of Bengal of the Indian Ocean
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Bangladesh is located in southern Asia between Myanmar and India, along the Bay of Bengal. With a total area of 143,998 square kilometers (55,598 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Wisconsin.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Bangladesh has no territories or dependencies.
The climate of Bangladesh is generally tropical with three seasons. The humidity ranges from 90 percent to almost 100 percent during the monsoon season. Bangladesh receives a heavy average annual rainfall of approximately 119 to 145 centimeters (47 to 57 inches). About 80 percent of Bangladesh's rain falls during the monsoon season. Parts of Bangladesh are also subject to severe seasonal flooding, cyclones, tidal bores, tornadoes, hailstorms, and moderate earthquakes.
|S EASON||M ONTHS||A VERAGE TEMPERATURE : °C ELSIUS (°F AHRENHEIT )|
|Summer||March to May||29 to 37°C (84 to 99°F)|
|Monsoon||June to October||31°C (88°F)|
|Winter||October to March||5°C to 22°C (41°F to 72°F)|
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Most of Bangladesh is situated on river deltas. The Chittagong coastal region to the southeast has a narrow attachment to the bulk of the country. Small hill regions in the northeast and southeast are the only variations of the land's flat alluvial plains (flatlands containing deposits of clay, silt, sand, or gravel deposited by running water, such as a stream or river). Since 90 percent of Bangladesh is only about 10 meters (33 feet) above sea level, there is concern that permanent flooding will occur if the Indian Ocean rises as predicted due to global warming.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Seacoast and Undersea Features
The Bangladesh coastline lies at the apex (top) of the Bay of Bengal, an inlet of the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka and India border the bay on the west, Bangladesh forms its north shore, and Myanmar and Thailand surround it on the east. The bay covers an area that is about 2,090 kilometers (1,300 miles) long and 1,610 kilometers (1,000 miles) wide. The ocean often threatens catastrophe for Bangladesh in the form of cyclones and tidal bores.
Islands and Archipelagos
Several flat islands lie just offshore in the Bay of Bengal; many are inhabited by fishing communities. The largest of the permanent islands are Shāhbāzpur, North Hātia, South Hātia, and Sandwīp. Along the Chittagong coast in the south lie Kutubdia and Maiskhāl islands. In the Padma-Meghna estuary triangle there are a number of permanent islands, including many that surface only at low tide. There are also temporary "chars," land forms built up by silting that may either become permanent or erode.
Rivers and streams fragment Bangladesh's coastline in the delta region (an area, usually triangular in shape, where rivers deposit soil). In contrast, in the southeast Chittagong region, the coastline includes an uninterrupted stretch of sand at Cox's Bāzār that is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) long.
The section of the Kulna delta that covers the coastline area from the western border to the Padma-Meghna estuary is called the Sundarbans. This is a forested, tidal-flushed, salt marsh region; so much of it is shifting, low, and swampy that humans cannot live there.
DID YOU KNOW?
Atidal bore is a unique wave that sweeps up a shallow river or estuary (place where a river joins a larger body of water) on the incoming tide but against the river's current. Conditions are right for tidal bores to occur only in a few places in the world—and one of these is Bangladesh.
6 INLAND LAKES
The largest lake, Kaptai Lake, is artificial. (Kaptai Lake is also known as the Karnaphuli Reservoir.) It covers an area of 253 square miles (655 square kilometers) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Much smaller lakes, called "mils" or "haors," are formed within the network of rivers that wind across Bangladesh's plains. The large number of these lakes in the Meghna and Surma river plains causes frequent flooding in this area.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The longest river in Bangladesh is the Brahmaputra River, also commonly known as the Jamuna River once it enters Bangladesh. It starts in the Himalaya Mountains and flows through Tibet in China and India before reaching the northern border of Bangladesh. It has a total length of 2,900 kilometers (1,700 miles). The section that runs through Bangladesh, however, is only 337 kilometers (209 miles) long. The Ganges River, called the Padma River in Bangladesh, enters from the northwest border with India. Branches of the Barak River—the Surma and the Kusiyara—enter the country from the northeast border. They meet to form the Kalni River, which soon widens into the Meghna River. The Brahmaputra-Jamuna, the Ganges-Padma, and the Meghna all intersect with one another before heading toward the Bay of Bengal.
The rivers deposit rich soil through the country and provide fish and transportation for the people of Bangladesh. The rivers also cause hardship due to seasonal flooding and erosion.
The rivers often silt up (become filled with soil) to form marshlands (soft, wet areas). Two-thirds of the Kulna Division in the west is marsh and mangrove forest (a tidal wetland with low-growing trees and a salt bog).
The Rajshahi Division, a triangle of land between the Padma and Jamuna Rivers, is a wetland region, also called the "paradelta" by geographers. It is cut by many old river courses as well as by newer, active rivers. Similar to the rest of the country, this area is subject to disastrous flooding.
There are no deserts in Bangladesh.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Only 5 percent of the land in Bangladesh is considered to be permanent pasture. Seventy-three percent of the land is arable (land that is naturally suitable for cultivation by plowing and is used for growing crops).
Clearing land for agricultural uses, logging, and firewood has caused large-scale deforestation. Less than 8 percent of Bangladesh is forested. Small pockets of rainforest still exist in the eastern regions, however.
Bangladesh's significant hill regions are the Chittagong and Bandarban Hill Tracts, which are a series of ridges along the Myanmar frontier. The countryside north and east of the town of Sylhet features sedimentary hills, some of which exceed 90 meters (300 feet) in elevation. Also in the Sylhet District are six hill ranges connecting to the Tripura Hills of India. In these ranges, the maximum elevation is about 335 meters (1,100 feet).
DID YOU KNOW?
Most people travel from place to place in Bangladesh by river boat. Ferries are available for tourists and others who wish to travel longer distances. One of the best-known ferries is a paddlewheel steamboat, called the "Rocket," that runs between the capital, Dhaka, and Kulna in the west.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The country's highest peak is Reng Mountain, also known as Keokradong. It has an elevation of 1,230 meters (4,034 feet) and is located near the intersection of Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
There are no significant canyons or caves in Bangladesh.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
There are no significant plateaus or monoliths in Bangladesh.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The Karnaphuli Reservoir, also known as Kapti Lake, is located in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. A dam built along the Karnaphuli River in 1963 to generate hydroelectric power formed this man-made lake.
14 FURTHER READING
Heitzman, James, ed. Bangladesh: A Country Study. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1988.
Lauré, J. Bangladesh . Chicago: Children's Press, 1992.
Novak, James. Bangladesh: Reflections on the Water. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Cobb, Charles E. Jr. "Bangladesh: When the Water
Comes." National Geographic , June 1993, 118-34.