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The Bay of Bengal is the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, bounded on the west and northwest by India, on the north by Bangladesh, and on the east by Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. Its southern limit is a line between Sangaman Kanda, Sri Lanka and the north westernmost point of Sumatra, Indonesia. It is the largest water region called a bay in the world. There are countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal in South Asia and Southeast Asia. During the existence of British India, it was named as the Bay of Bengal after the historic Bengal region. At the time, the Port of Kolkata served as the gateway to the Crown rule in India. Cox's Bazar, the longest sea beach in the world and Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest and the natural habitat of the Bengal tiger, are located along the bay.

The Bay of Bengal occupies an area of 2,600,000 square kilometres (1,000,000 sq mi). A number of large rivers flow into the Bay of Bengal: the Ganges–Hooghly, the Padma, the Brahmaputra–Jamuna, the Barak–Surma–Meghna, the Irrawaddy, the Godavari, the Mahanadi, the Brahmani, the Baitarani, the Krishna and the Kaveri. Important ports include Krishnapatnam, Chennai, Ennore, Chittagong, Colombo, Kolkata-Haldia, Mongla, Paradip, Port Blair, Matarbari, Thoothukudi, Visakhapatnam and Dhamra. Among the smaller ports are Gopalpur Port, Kakinada and Payra.

One of the first trading ventures along the Bay of Bengal was The Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, more commonly referred to as the British East India Company. Gopalpur-on-Sea was one of their main trading centers. Other trading companies along the Bay of Bengal shorelines were the English East India Company and the French East India Company.

BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) supports free trade internationally around the Bay of Bengal between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project is a new venture proposed which would create a channel for a shipping route to link the Gulf of Mannar with the Bay of Bengal. This would connect India from east to west without the necessity of going around Sri Lanka. Thoni and catamaran fishing boats of fishing villages thrive along the Bay of Bengal shorelines. Fishermen can catch between 26 and 44 species of marine fish. In one year, the average catch is two million tons of fish from the Bay of Bengal alone. Approximately 31% of the world's coastal fishermen live and work on the bay.

Strategic Importance

The Bay of Bengal is centrally located in South and Southeast Asia. It lies at the center of two huge economic blocks, the SAARC and ASEAN. It influences China's southern landlocked region in the north and major sea ports of India and Bangladesh. China, India, and Bangladesh have forged naval cooperation agreements with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to increase cooperation in checking terrorism in the high seas.

Image of United States ships participating in the Malabar 2007 naval exercise. Aegis cruisers from the navies of Japan and Australia, and logistical support ships from Singapore and India in the Bay of Bengal took part. Its outlying islands (the Andaman and Nicobar Islands) and, most importantly, major ports such as Paradip Kolkata, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Tuticorin, Chittagong, and Mongla, along its coast with the Bay of Bengal added to its importance.

China has recently made efforts to project influence into the region through tie-ups with Myanmar and Bangladesh. The United States has held major exercises with Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and recently India The largest ever wargame in Bay of Bengal, known as Malabar 2007, was held in 2007 and naval warships from US, Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore, Japan and Australia took part. India was a participant.

Large deposits of natural gas in the areas within Bangladesh's sea zone incited a serious urgency by India and Myanmar into a territorial dispute. Disputes over rights of some oil and gas blocks have caused brief diplomatic spats between Myanmar and India with Bangladesh. The disputed maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar resulted in military tensions in 2008 and 2009. Bangladesh is pursuing a settlement with Myanmar and India to the boundary dispute through the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.


Many major Rivers of India and Bangladesh flow west to east before draining into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganga is the northernmost of these rivers. Its main channel enters and flows through Bangladesh, where it is known as the Padma River, before joining the Meghna River. However, the Brahmaputra River flows from east to west in Assam before turning south and entering Bangladesh where it is called the Jamuna River. This joins the Padma where upon the Padma joins the Meghna River that finally drains into Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans is a mangrove forest in the southern part of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta which lies in the Indian state of West Bengal and in Bangladesh. The Brahmaputra at 2,948 km (1,832 mi) is the 28th longest River in the world. It originates in Tibet. The Hooghly River, another channel of the Ganga that flows through Kolkata drains into Bay of Bengal at Sagar in West Bengal, India.

The Ganga–Brahmaputra-Barak rivers deposit nearly 1000 million tons of sediment every year. The sediment from these three rivers form the Bengal Delta and the submarine fan, a vast structure that extends from Bengal to south of the Equator, is up to 16.5 kilometres (10.3 mi) thick, and contains at least 1,130 trillion tonnes of sediment, which has accumulated over the last 17 million years at an average rate of 665 million tons per annum. The fan has buried organic carbon at a rate of nearly 1.1 trillion mol/yr (13.2 million t/yr) since the early Miocene period. The three rivers currently contribute nearly 8% of the total organic carbon (TOC) deposited in the world's oceans. Due to high TOC accumulation in the deep sea bed of the Bay of Bengal, the area is rich in oil and natural gas and gas hydrate reserves. Bangladesh can reclaim land substantially and economically gain from the sea area by constructing sea dikes, bunds, causeways and by trapping the sediment from its rivers.

Further southwest of Bengal, the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri Rivers also flow from west to east across Deccan Plateau in Peninsular India and drain into the Bay of Bengal forming deltas. Many small rivers also drain directly into the Bay of Bengal forming estuaries; the shortest of them is the Cooum River at 64 km (40 mi).The Irrawaddy (or Ayeyarwady) River in Myanmar flows into the Andaman Sea of the Bay of Bengal and once had thick mangrove forests of its own.