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Moving Numbers

  • Published at 04:59 pm April 29th, 2019
Geographic Information Systems
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Quantifying the Total Internal Migration of Bangladesh

Internal migration has become both a major policy concern and a subject of a heated public debate in Bangladesh. It has been identified as both saviour and sinner of the national developmental story. It is a driver of economic expansion and modernization. On the other hand, it is the cause of severe urban deprivation and a destroyer of traditional rural life.

This tension is not an unusual one for a country undergoing a rapid socioeconomic transition—from a low-income agrarian past to a middle income, industrial future.

It would be wrong to deny, that migration is now a major feature in Bangladesh. According to recent successive research done on the population, it was found that there are a staggering 600,000 outward migrants, which bring in remittances equivalent to a staggering 10 percent of the GDP.

Internal migration has more or less always been thought of as an urbanization phenomenon, and the rate of urbanization has been quoted to be at the 3 percent mark from a period of 1975 to 2009. In turn, this is typically explained by a dramatic shift from agricultural to industrial production (the former down from 32 percent to 19 percent and latter up from 21 percent to 28 percent as a share of GDP between 1980 and 2010). 

It is vital to differentiate between seasonal and longer-term population movements. Environmental challenges play a big part in these two considerations. Referring to the first, Bangladesh has a long established seasonal pattern of temporary rural worker movement, associated with the annual cycle of rainy and dry periods. 

While Bangladesh has few administrative restrictions, the extent of environmental pressures (notably within the cyclone-prone coastal belt) does call into question the freedom of migration choices. Indeed, the risks and impacts may be so severe as to preclude human settlement.

The utilization Geographic Information Systems become very vital in this regard. Using GIS to monitor the total change in the spatiotemporal in a holistic manner can result in better analysis. As the migration of people leads to rapid urbanization and results in the loss of vegetation, it puts severe pressure on the resources of one specific area (in this case Dhaka). This, in turn, results in overall centralization. 

Generally, migration of people is to seek a better socio-economic standard of living; however, it may also due to the ever-present river bank erosion or as the result of a major disaster that may leave people homeless. GIS can be used to keep the ever-shifting landscape in check and can warn about possible future outcomes or it can be used to monitor the total devastation of the rural settlement, opening the window to further research.

According to the aforementioned data, the whole urbanization and incremental increase of GPD are amazing from an economic standpoint, but it does lead to a lot of unforeseen issues. Centralizations of Dhaka leads to overpopulation as well as road congestions and scarcity of living space, leading to expanding urban territory towards development, leading to the destruction of ecology. 

The solution that is being proposed here is the idea of “satellite towns’, which provide a migrating family everything that they may require in a town that is away from Dhaka.

Shohail Bin Saifullah is a Bachelors student of Environmental Science and Management at the Independent University, Bangladesh. Shohail is also the Director of Outreach, Green Planet Club, IUB.