Have you ever wondered how densely populated some parts of the world are? The United States is actually pretty low on the list, even when you exclude Alaska. We’ve got huge swaths of the country that are sparsely if even at all populated. Our roughly 320 million people are spread out over quite a large space, and we can easily accommodate many millions more. Now imagine if we were all crowded into the state of Arizona. It would be a tight squeeze, no? We would average about 2,800 people per square mile. Imagine having to develop enough houses and farmland for so many people in such a small area. This isn’t a hypothetical scenario – I just described the country of Bangladesh. They have about half our population squeezed into an area half the size of Arizona.
I’m simply left wondering: how??? The Indo-Gangetic plain that spans from Pakistan to far-east India is among the most fertile regions of the planet – it is no coincidence that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have long contained a substantial share of the world’s population. But Bangladesh is simply so much more *crowded* than Pakistan and India, which still have regions that are lightly populated. Bangladesh squeezes roughly 160 million people onto about 57,000 square miles of land. And the crazy thing is, Bangladesh continues to add another 2.2 million people a year. How do they have room to move around? How do they feed so many people on such a comparatively small plot of land? How are they not standing shoulder-to-shoulder wherever they go? How is distinctively rural land still in existence and not an endless continuum of cities, towns and villages in all directions? Will their fast-growing cities merge into one super-city in the future à la Judge Dredd?
There are quite a few pictures of rural Bangladesh on the internet, many of them showing areas that are seemingly uninhabited, or sparsely so. I understand that many of these people will migrate to cities, where population densities normally exceed the national average by several orders of magnitude. While Bangladesh isn’t the most densely populated sovereign country, all the countries more densely populated than it are either city-states or island nations. Bangladesh’s population is still pretty rural, much like large swaths of the United States. Take for example Nebraska: most of it is pretty sparsely populated, which is to be expected since the state has less than 2 million people living inside it. Now imagine a state with 25% less land area and nearly ninety times as many people, and you’ve got Bangladesh. It’s just crazy – Thomas Malthus must be spinning in his grave.
For more reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Bangladesh