Bangladesh a rich country

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 August, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 1994, 12:00am

FOLLOWING a visit to Bangladesh only a few months ago, we in the Humanist Association of Hong Kong, wish to concur with Mustafizur Rahman, Bangladesh's Ambassador to China (letter, South China Morning Post, August 18), that Bangladesh is not a ''poor'' nation. Indeed the land is highly fertile.

The markets are replete with vegetables, meat and fish.

The people are industrious with the hard work of the common labourer too evident, although little progress is made as they have to toil with their bare hands, men alongside women.

The streets of Dhaka are as clean as any place and cleaner than most.

The countryside is pristine and mature following many generations of cultivation.

Without the excesses of the ''successful'' nations, there is none of the rubbish or undue construction that bespoils newly developed countries such as Thailand.

The appearance of the farming hamlets are an environmentalist's delight with their sustainable cultivation style.

In the traditional way, the land has supported a cultured civilisation for many generations. But there are problems.

There should be a fair distribution of wealth so the poorer sector can afford to purchase those goods so plentifully displayed.

A large landless sector works the land and waters, but receives underpayment for its long labours and has not the least security of tenure.

These kinds of problems can be solved within Bangladesh by the Government. But there is another type of problem.

India is a significant contributor to the flood/drought phenomenon that plagues Bangladesh, with continued procrastination over the water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh as they share river systems.

India unilaterally built a barrage at Farakka which controls water-flow into the lower river regions and this, alongside natural rhythms of water supply from the Himalayas, and Nepal's continuing deforestation, causes widespread suffering throughout Bangladesh. It needs immediate resolution at the highest level in India, Bangladesh, Nepal (to discuss water storage in small reservoirs) to break this deadlock.

The United Nations can put the situation squarely before India. The intractable impoverishment due to mal-distribution of material goods, of foodstuff, should not be confused with a lack of such basic wealth. The problems are made by man and can be solved by man. Bangladesh is a rich country.

TONY HENDERSON Chairman Humanist Association of Hong Kong