Formed in 1993, Barisal is one of the eight administrative divisions of Bangladesh. Located in south-central Bangladesh, it shares borders with Dhaka Division (north), Bay of Bengal (south), Chittagong Division (east) and Khulna Division (west). Six districts (zilas) which are further divided into 39 sub-districts (upazilas) together make up the Barisal Division.
Numerous rivers flow through Barisal resulting in the Bengali saying, “Dhan-Nodi-khal, Ei tine Borishal”, that translates to “rice, river and canal built Barisal”.
According to the 2011 national census, the total population of Barisal Division was estimated to be 8,325,666. Of this, 4,089,508 were males and 4,236,158 were females. Over the years, Barisal continues to have a weak population growth.
The population is mainly composed of Muslims, followed by Hindus and very few numbers of Christians and Buddhists.
At 83.5 percent, it has the highest literacy rate among the population aged above 15 years.
Major languages spoken in Barisal include Bengali, Barisali dialect, English and marginalized Bengali (mostly spoken by migrant workers and other menial laborers).
Traditionally referred as the “Granary of Bengal”, Barisal has always been an important rice producing area in the country. It continues to serve as an important river port, trans-shipment point for jute, rice, dried beans, lentils, chickpeas and a market for betel nuts and fish. At present, the port is in a declining state and is in urgent need for restoration and modernization.
Barisal is a coastal division traversed by many water bodies; thence has an economy largely based on a thriving fishing sector.
The poverty mapping exercises conducted as a part of the Bangladesh Poverty Maps 2010, indicate that Barisal Division was one of the two divisions with highest incidence of poverty in Bangladesh. It had a poverty rate of 38.3 percent. Due to its geographical location, Barisal Division experiences high incidence of natural calamities such as river erosion, tidal surge, cyclone etc. In addition, the region has a weak communication system, poor supply of electricity, gas and energy and inadequate employment opportunities. There are many more factors which together explain the prevalence of high poverty in Barisal Division.
The monthly household income of Barisal Division, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data 2010, is Tk.9158. This is much below the national average.
The administrative head of a division is a Divisional Commissioner appointed by the government, who is directly responsible for supervising the revenue and development administration of a division. Mr. Mohammad Shahiduzzaman is the current Divisional Commissioner of Barisal Division. He was appointed in May 2017.
The office of Divisional Commissioner was created during the rule of East India Company. It was the then Governor of Bengal, Lord William Bentinck, who created a division in 1829 with the help of certain districts in order to establish the revenue system.
The elections to the Barisal city corporation are due to be held in August 2018. In the last elections in 2013, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) turned out victorious.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Barisal Division houses the Kuakata beach – main tourist spot as well as one of the only two South Asian sea beaches where both sunrise and sunset at sea can be seen.
A curious local phenomenon “Barisal guns” has been reported for past many years. Unexplained sounds resembling distant thunder or cannon that may have a seismic origin may be heard on one or more days in a given year, and not again for the rest of that year.
Basu, I., Devine, J., Wood, G.D. (2017) Politics and Governance in Bangladesh: Uncertain landscapes. London: Routledge
Halder, K., Saiful, Azim. (2011) Demanding effective Intra-city bus service for a secondary city: A case study on Barisal city. Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Muller
Aminuzzaman, S.M., Khair, R., Basu, I. (2003) Governance at Crossroads: Insights from Bangladesh. Bangladesh: BRAC Development Institute