Bangladesh: An Insider’s Perspective (Autoethnography)

 

To me, Asia has been a continent that seems so far away. Growing up living in Australia, Asia was an entirely different lifestyle and seemed so foreign to anyway of living I could ever imagine. The closest I had been to Asian culture for a long time was Kung Fu Panda and Sushi. However, I quickly abandoned these misconceptions when I took a trip to Indonesia in 2015 and travelled around the villages. I experienced so much culture and got to explore many unfamiliar landscapes. Experiencing the music, language and other festivities allowed me to open my eyes to the many opportunities this world holds. Although I had tasted Asia, there was still a lot to learn. I would be conducting my research in the form of an Autoethnography with reference to “Autoethnography: An Overview” by Ellis et al.

At the start of the Digital Asia Subject, I was definitely overwhelmed with ideas about what I could study in Asia. My idea of Asia at the time was made up of visions of China, Japan and Korea. I was ignorant to the fact that Asia is made up of over 40 countries. As the subject content kept expanding, the more I familiarised myself with other Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc.

Some of my friends are from India and Bangladesh. Over the years I have spent with them, I have learnt so much about their cultural practices and traditions. My attention was really captured one day when my friend Nabil began talking about his home country Bangladesh. He mentioned corruption, power, money, over-population, traffic and flooding as the main issues that his people and country are facing. I was always fascinated by the amount of corruption that goes on in other countries. In Australia, I feel like the most corruption I have received has been when an ice cream van charged me double price for a regular ice cream.

For my Digital Asia project, Bangladesh was on the mind. I had a conversation with my work friend about climate change and its pressing affects on the world at the moment. We talked about the month and a half of rain we received at the beginning of the year over a juicy burger. My mate brought up the water supply issues between Bangladesh and India. He told me he had read an article on it not too long ago. I was completely taken by this topic and went on to use it for my final project.

All elements of it fascinated me. I come from a dry country town where drought is a significant problem. I have also lived on the coast in quite humid environments where rain is consistent. Having experienced both extreme wet weather and extreme drought, I found the water supply issue in Asia very attractive. Additionally, I had experienced monsoon season in Java, Indonesia. It rained heavily every single night the entire 23 days I was there.

Essentially, India is in danger of being water scarce very soon and Bangladesh is in danger of becoming one of the world’s first underwater countries. My first thought when beginning research into this topic was how the hell am I going to experience this issue. I decided that the best way to conduct autoethnographic research on Bangladesh was through my friend Nabil. My final digital artefact would be a recorded conversation posted to soundcloud.

My research consisted of reading articles and having conversations with Nabil himself. During these many conversations I learnt about the amount of corruption in Bangladesh and this was very confronting. His words were the closest experience I could get to the real thing.

My final podcast is one of the many conversations I had with Nabil. From these conversations I had several epiphanies. I discovered that Bangladesh is not water scarce, if anything it has too much water and is looking to be one of the worlds first underwater countries due to rising sea level. Moreover, the Farraka barrage is in India (a dam that keeps water in India and releases it to Bangladesh when the dam is overflowing). When India opens the barrage gates it floods Bangladeshi cities and rural areas. Nabil commented that this flooding was normal for him. He is used to his country being flooded every year. He states that people have become accustomed to the flooding in Bangladesh.

Furthermore, China has also built a dam that keeps water from flowing into India. This fact surprised me the most. Not only is this an issue between India and Bangladesh, it is a systemic problem running through nearly half of Asia. This so called “flow effect” is creating drastic tensions between neighbouring countries, and with worsening conditions of weather the relations between countries are not going to get better anytime soon.

I think the most astonishing thing that overwhelmed me was the amount of potential conflict present between these countries. There seems to be efforts to mend tensions but neither party seems to be satisfied by solutions proposed to them.

During the podcast Nabil highlighted a reason why this water issue is not treated as a pressing issue in these countries at the moment. He stated that other issues such as the genocide in Burma, are obviously going to be treated with more attention than the issues of water supply. Moreover, I was so shocked to hear about the genocide in Burma, it was truly horrifying to hear that stuff like that was still going on.

In summary, learning about Bangladesh through articles and conversations with Nabil was so insightful. I felt overwhelmed with information the whole time. I am grateful for Nabil allowing me time to ask questions and learn about life in his country. Hearing all the intense issues Bangladesh is facing was enough to have me sitting on the edge of my seat. This was definitely an interesting topic and there is plenty more research to be done.

References:

http://www.qualitative-research.net. 2017. No page title. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095. [Accessed 25 October 2017].
BANGLADESH FACES DISPUTE ON FLOODS – NYTimes.com. 2017. BANGLADESH FACES DISPUTE ON FLOODS – NYTimes.com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/01/world/bangladesh-faces-dispute-on-floods.html?mcubz=0. [Accessed 25 October 2017].

 

 

The Guardian. 2017. Troubled waters for Bangladesh as India presses on with plan to divert major rivers | Environment | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2003/jul/24/water.india. [Accessed 25 October 2017].

OneWater.org. 2017. OneWater.org. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.onewater.org/stories/story/bangladesh. [Accessed 25 October 2017].

 

ThoughtCo. 2017. Geography of the Ganges River. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/ganges-river-and-geography-1434474. [Accessed 25 October 2017].

 

Farakka Barrage lock-gate collapses | India Videos | – India Today Video. 2017. Farakka Barrage lock-gate collapses | India Videos | – India Today Video. [ONLINE] Available at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/farakka-barrage-lock-gate-collapse-flood-fear-bangladesh-west-bengal/1/424070.html. [Accessed 25 October 2017].

 

The Indian Express. 2017. Farraka Barrage: The tale of two countries and one river | The Indian Express. [ONLINE] Available at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/farraka-barrage-the-tale-of-two-countries-and-one-river/. [Accessed 25 October 2017].

 

The Guardian. 2017. How Bangladeshis see India | World news | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/aug/14/india.features115. [Accessed 25 October 2017].

 

Future Directions International. 2017. India, Bangladesh and the Farakka Barrage – Future Directions International. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/india-bangladesh-farakka-barrage/. [Accessed 25 October 2017].

 

 

 

 

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