Bangladesh is currently facing many long-term issues arising from problems that were introduced over a decade ago. The lasting conditions from the factory collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013, the large and continuously growing percentage of the population surviving under the poverty line, and the lack of clean water are issues that can no longer be ignored because of the daily harms they present to Bangladesh citizens.
The Collapse of Rana Plaza
The Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 was the start of a large domino effect of consequences that stemmed from human rights violations. The catastrophe presented many long-term issues including personal losses, an economic predicament, and safety concerns. The factory collapse was the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment making industry, killing more than 1,100 people, and injuring more than 2,500[i]. 17 years after the disaster, money is still being raised and dolled out to the families of the victims. With many family wage earners involved in the factory collapse, thousands of Bangladesh families were left with little money and struggling to survive. A trust fund was set up for Rana Plaza survivors and families of victims, but it had only reached a third of its $40 million goal in 2014[ii]. In 2014, companies who manufactured clothing in Rana Plaza, such as JC Penney and Benetton, had yet to donate a single cent to the trust fund[iii]. Without the contribution of major companies, the trust fund will never reach its goal of $40 million. Even after the collapse fuelled protests around the world, the garment making industry has not improved significantly. A year after the disaster, more than 150 European countries signed a legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh[iv], but there were no real safety improvements. Several reporters visited factories, which had evacuation maps covered with flyers, missing hoses, and piles of boxes and fabric blocking exits[v]. Although the importance of factory safety had been repeatedly emphasized, many factory owners are still neglecting to spend money to implement safety measures. The consequences of this issue, which has not been properly dealt with for decades, are piling up and threatening all factory workers in Bangladesh. Without serious commitment to the personal and financial recovery of those affected by the Rana Plaza disaster or improving working conditions in garment producing factories, Bangladesh will continue to endanger their citizens.
Unemployment, late payments, and workers only receiving a portion of their pay have led to increased poverty throughout Bangladesh. This has left many Bangladeshis homeless and going to extremes, such as selling parts of their organs, to obtain money. The agriculture sector is Bangladesh’s largest industry and it is leaving more Bangladeshis unemployed because of the increasing technology and machinery used[i]. Many employees in the agriculture industry are underemployed, meaning they work less hours a day with very minimal pay. This problem makes it increasingly difficult for Bangladeshis to survive with a low salary. A 15-year-old garment worker spoke out in 2014, claiming that workers did not get paid for overtime work[ii]. Many garment-producing factories have production quotas that workers must meet in a day[iii]. These working speeds are impossibly fast and extremely difficult for workers to keep up with throughout the day. When production quotas are not met, workers must stay overtime and work until they have met their quota[iv]. These workers receive no overtime pay above their very minimal salary. Another worker also revealed that they often only get paid a portion of what they are promised, and factory owners provide false salary records to foreigners[v]. In many Bangladesh families, only one person is able to find employment and they become the breadwinners of the family. When pay is cut or very minimal, it becomes very demanding for the employed person in the family to support themselves and their families.
Water-borne diseases, water pollution, and water shortages have been ongoing areas of concern in Bangladesh for over two decades. Ground water in Bangladesh is constantly contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic[i], which can lead to multiple types of cancers and heart and lung diseases[ii]. The initial problem of arsenic contaminated waters in Bangladesh was discovered in the early 1990’s[iii]. Almost two decades later in 2014, arsenic continues to threaten the health of Bangladeshis. In addition to water, arsenic can also be found in rice, one of Bangladesh’s staple foods, if the crop was irrigated with arsenic contaminated water. The contamination of water is further widespread by poor communities. People living under the poverty line in slums use hanging latrines, which use the same water they use to wash their dishes[iv]. Fish species are also endangered at the cause of water pollution from the use of pesticides and explosives[v]. This affects the people of Bangladesh because they are reliant on fish as a source of food, and as an economic resource. Lastly, as the population of Bangladesh continues to increase, water shortages increase as well. When forced to drink contaminated water as an only source of water, Bangladeshis become ill of diarrhoea, cholera, or dehydration[vi]. As time passes, these water related problems become more urgent and pressing, as the health of Bangladesh people are at risk every day.
What does all of this mean?
The need for resolutions to Bangladesh’s ongoing problems is crucial to protect the future of Bangladesh. The long-term effects of the collapse of Rana Plaza, increased employment issues, and the basic requirement of clean water are issues that have affected Bangladesh for over two decades. This conference will provide insight to Bangladesh’s officials, which will hopefully help put an end to Bangladesh’s long-term problems.