More and more countries are fencing off their borders in an attempt to curb illegal immigration and smuggling. In this episode, we talk about how India has fenced off almost its entire border with Bangladesh – one of the longest borders in the world. Why does India feel that it needs a fence? How does it impact the people living along the border, and what will the threat of climate change mean for the future? Is the fence even effective? Join us as we explore these questions and more!

CAPTION : Villagers show their Voter Identity card to the Indian Border Security personnel to prove their nationality as an bonafide Indian citizen, who live out of the barbed wire fence on India-Bangladesh international border at Sadelerkuti, about 789 kilometres northeast of Calcutta, capital of North-Eastern Indian State of West Bengal, Wednesday, May 05, 2004, when the personnel of the Indian Border Security Force are checking the identity of the villagers as prequationary measures before Indian Parliamentary Election, while Indian state shares the 04,096.70 kilometres international border with Bangladesh. (Photo/Shib Shankar Chatterjee)

Villagers show their voter identity card to the Indian Border Security personnel to prove they are Indian. (Photo by Shib Shankar Chatterjee)

Purpose and Side Effects

India is constructing a more than 4000-kilometer-long fence to seal the India-Bangladesh border —  the fifth-longest land border in the world — with the publicly stated purpose of stopping trafficking of weapons, humans and cattle.  Although fencing can bring India some benefits, it has humanitarian costs. Surrounded by India on three sides and situated on the Ganges Delta, Bangladesh is a flood-afflicted country. Annual flooding drives coastal Bangladeshis to higher land, including India. Now the fence stands in their way. Cattle herders in the border area that had for centuries freely moved their herds for fresh pasture can no longer continue their traditional lifestyle, and Indian boarder guards’ alleged “shoot-to-kill policy” makes the fence even more dangerous.

Ineffective and Costly

The Modi administration has expanded the India-Bangladesh border project, with 75% of it already fenced off. This is a largely ineffective and costly way to deal with the border issue.

A step in the right direction is a historic agreement between India and Bangladesh inked in 2015 that simplifies the border by exchanging more than 150 enclaves.

Test Ahead

Rising sea levels, severe storms, and other extreme climate-related events threaten future border control between India and Bangladesh, as the latter is set to suffer more from climate change. By 2050, a large portion of the country’s current densely populated dry lands could be permanently underwater, and an estimated 17 to 18 million Bangladeshis will be displaced. This will be an overwhelming challenge for Bangladesh, a country characterized by weak governance.

Related Articles

Take a look at some of our favorite articles that we came across while researching the border fence:

Photos by Prashant Panjiar and Shankar Chaterjee

About the Author
Lacey Bruske is a graduate from the George Washington University’s MA program in International Affairs. She hails from Portland, Oregon. Prior to attending GWU, she worked at the Department of Justice as an advocate for women who were victims of sex trafficking crimes and a legal assistant on drug trafficking crimes. She graduated from Utrecht University’s University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, The Netherlands with a B.A. in International Law and Foreign Relations. Her travels have taken her throughout Europe, but she hopes to broaden her scope to South America soon. Her academic interests include organized crime and trafficking of weapons, drugs and people.