5m homeless, 74 pc of the population live in mud houses

Shishir Moral | Update:

Photo taken from Philip Gain's book, ‘On The Margins: Emergence of Tea Workers and Ethnic Community’As many as five million people in Bangladesh have no houses to reside in while three-fourth of the total population live in mud houses.

Separate surveys commissioned by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and Planning Commission’s five-yearly plan reveal the facts.

Bangladesh has exactly 3,93,30,000 families. Of them, 2,82,60,000 families live in villages while 1,10,70,000 in cities.

According to the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2019, 74.87 per cent families live in permanent mud houses while only 4.95 per cent households have pucca buildings. Also, 2.13 per cent people reside in slums and makeshift mud houses.

Condition of the houses

Bangladesh demography survey 2014 states that on average floors of 68 per cent houses are either made up of mud or sand. The percentage is 82 in villages. As high as 61 per cent households in cities have pucca floors.

The survey also reveals that one in three families has a single living room that increases the possibilities of spreading contagious diseases like measles and tuberculosis.

In 2007, 40 per cent families had only one living room that deceased to 35 per cent in 2011.

At least 5 people sleep in single rooms in 7 per cent of the houses while one-two persons sleep in 65 per cent of the houses.

BBS’ report on Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics 2018 suggests that the average space of a room is 430 sq/ft – 475 sq/ft in cities and 392 sq/ft in villages. The average size of living room is 101 sq/ft – 114 sq/ft in cities while 91 sq/ft in villages.

Number of homeless people
The houselessness is not visible in rural areas as homeless people usually erect houses on their relatives’ land. Many people live on the embankments in the coastal areas and those who have no option migrate to cities and most of them remain homeless.

The number of the homeless people is on the rise. In 1991, 950,000 people were homeless and the number rose to 11,30,000 in 2001 and 4.6 million in 2010. As per the five-yearly plan documents, the number will be increased to 8.5 million by 2021.

Why people are homeless?
Poverty and homelessness has an intense relationship. On the other hand, many people become homeless due to river erosion.

Between 1973 and 2017, 160,000 hectare of land were lost to the rivers. A large amount of the land was homesteads. Once the land is lost, the poor people cannot buy new land for homes and become homeless.

At first, they moved to the nearby cities and subsequently they come to the capital Dhaka and Chattogram.

As high as 25 people in Dhaka slums are from Barishal district and most of them are victims of river erosion.

According to a research conducted by the Sweden’s Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Independent University, 6.8 million people lost their homes due to river erosion.
Another study suggests 1.342 million people lost homes in 2010 alone during the cyclone Aila.

Besides, housing shelter for a group of people is at the high risk due to not having land rights and the threat of eviction. The ethnic groups across the country are the key victims.

The Society for Environment and Human Development’s (SEHD) book titled ‘On The Margins: Emergence of Tea Workers and Ethnic Community’ notes the housing issues of tea workers.
There are 160 tea estates in which 122,000 people work. A total of 500,000 people live in the tea gardens. They have been living for a hundred of years in the houses made by the tea estate owners. The housing is called ‘labour line’. The labours are not free to erect houses as they wishes on the labour line.
Various ethnic groups including Santal, Orao, Munda, Rajbongshi, and Kol have been living in some districts in northern part of Bangladesh. Most of them have no lands and they live in ‘khash land’.

About the ethnic people, SEHD’s director Philip Gain said Kurmi ethnic group has just 198 families in Joypurhat and Naogaon districts. The quality of their houses is poor.

He also said the people of an ethnic group named Turi live on land belonging to the railway in several districts including Dinajpur and Joypurhat.

Their houses are very small.

Sources said there are 500,000 nomads and most of them have no permanent houses.
In a survey, Power and Participatory Research Centre found that 60 per cent nomads are totally landless. As high as 36 per cent has lands to live. Some of them are living in three villages of Munshiganj, five in Savar and one in Barishal, and one village in Gazipur.

Some of them have been living in on the ‘khash land’ in Dakatia river in Chandpur.

*Shishir Moral is a journalist. This report published in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.

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