This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Bay of Bengal as a Population Basin

Since water covers the majority of the earth's surface, it plays a big role in the lives of humans, even though we are land-based. Specific bodies of water seem almost to embody a sense of culture, such as the Mediterranean or the Caribbean and...the Bay of Bengal, as discussed in a recent op-ed in the New York Times by Sunil S. Amrith from Birkbeck College of the University of London and the author of “Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants.”
NEARLY one in four people on earth live in the countries that border the Bay of Bengal. The region is strategically vital to Asia’s rising powers. Its low-lying littoral — including coastal regions of eastern India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra — is home to over half a billion people who are now acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels. Storms are a constant threat; over the weekend, a cyclone, Phailin, swept in from the bay to strike the coastal Indian state of Odisha, leading to the evacuation of some 800,000 people.
The bay was once a maritime highway between India and China, and then was shaped by monsoons and migration as European powers exploited the region for its coffee, tea and rubber. Today the bay is being reshaped again by the forces of population growth and climate change.
But what particularly caught my eye in the article was the reference to Rohingya Muslim migrants from Myanmar (Burma):
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that since 2012, more than 13,000 people have tried to cross the Bay of Bengal in smugglers’ boats destined for Malaysia and Thailand. Hundreds have died in the attempts; those who survive the journey face a harsh reception. Most of the refugees are Rohingya from coastal Myanmar, escaping a toxic mix of communal violence, political disenfranchisement and environmental threats. They are the most recent in a long line of people who have risked their lives to cross the bay.
Just today in class, in the context of a discussion of Courbage and Todd's book on the Convergence of Civilizations, a student pointed me to a recent article about the plight of the Rohingya, whose high fertility has caused the ire of their neighbors in Burma, and they seem not to have generally been well received as refugees in Bangladesh, where the parliament was recently contemplating forcing them to accept birth control in exchange for food.




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