Can you tell us a bit about yourself — where you come from and how you came to work in your current field?
I am serving as an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. From the early stage of my university life, I wanted to be an educator and a researcher so that I can contribute to the betterment of the society by disseminating knowledge. After completing my studies (BSS Honors in Economics and MSS in Economics), I joined the Department of Economics as a lecturer in 2004 and was looking for an area of my interest which might contribute more to society. Though I was working in the basic areas of the economics at the beginning, after attending a three-week training on natural resources and environmental economics organized by SANDEE at AIT, Thailand, I aimed to be more focused on this area. In line with that, I have completed my two-year foreign Master of Environmental Economics and Management from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Uppsala, Sweden. Therefore, natural resources and environmental economics became my most favorite areas of working.
What is your current job? Can you provide a very brief overview of the duties/responsibilities involved in this position?
I am one of the faculty members of the Department of Economics at the University of Chittagong. My principal responsibility at the department is lecturing the class, supervising students and preparing and publishing results. In addition to that, conducting research to generate knowledge that can improve my professional skills and expertise as well as contribute to the well-being of the society is my secondary responsibility.
What are your best memories from conducting the research?
As a principal researcher in the JDR3 Scholar program I had to conduct various focus group discussions, key informant interviews and personal interviews. While meeting with local people near the Sundarbans, I found them relying on us to solve their problems. Though we tried to make them understand that we are researchers and collecting data is our goal in that area, it seems that they believed we have the scope to forward their message to the government and the government will act accordingly to solve their miseries.
What do you think were the biggest challenges in the study? What were the biggest successes?
The biggest challenge was to conduct the survey. The study area was mainly the coastal areas and the transport facilities were very poor. I had never been in areas with such bad transport facilities. While going from one area to another, we had to cross rivers many times. The roads were totally destroyed after Cyclone Sidr in 2007 and thus road conditions were very uncomfortable. In spite of the mentioned challenges, there was huge success. Firstly, this study was the first intensive study that we have conducted on the Sundarbans and thus policymakers showed their interest in the findings. As a result, there was huge attention from the policymakers and stakeholders — that was the great success of this study.
How do you think the JDR3 research study helped you with your research skills?
Prior to the JDR3 research, I had conducted some research but I don’t think it had a huge contribution to my research skills. With the JDR3 research, I was directly involved with the data collection, data cleaning and tools/model selection to finalizing the reports and presenting the findings to various stakeholders. As a result, I have experienced a lot: how to turn the raw data into user-friendly information. This experience has improved my confidence level and thus I firmly believe that the JDR3 scholar study helped me shape my research skills.
How do you think the JDR3 experience helped you communicate your research studies to policymakers? Have you utilized these skills after the completion of the JDR3 study? Please provide examples.
After finalizing the reports, we presented the findings in two seminars. One in Khulna where representatives from the regional forest office, Department of Environment, journalists, professionals, politicians, NGOs and many other stakeholders were present. Another seminar was in Dhaka, where chief executives of the Department of Forest, Department of Environment and many other institutes attended. The Department of Forest showed their interest to use our findings to formulate policies to conserve and manage the forest. Various department were requesting us to share the TEV (Total Economic Value) of the Sundarbans, though we worked on selected ecosystem services.
What impact on policy do you think your research has made? Please be specific.
The Bangladesh Forest Department was to formulate a policy that will help the forest department enhance management strategies and conserve the mangrove forest.
Have you been able to secure more funding for your research (in this area or other related areas) after the JDR3 study? How many publications (i.e. books, peer-reviewed papers) have you published after the JDR3 study in this area of research and other topics?
I was involved in two research projects funded by IMO-NORAD on the occupational health and safety conditions of the shipbreaking workers in Bangladesh under the SENSREC (Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling) project while doing the JDR3 study. After completing those two and the JDR3 project I got another opportunity to work with Winrock on the Child Labor Improvement in Bangladesh (CLIMB) project in the dried fish sector. In addition to these I secured two other small funding opportunities from the University of Chittagong on environmental cost estimation of a hydroelectric dam, and on the economics of begging. Recently, we have submitted the tender for another IMO project on providing OHS training to the shipbreaking workers. From the JDR3 program, we have submitted three peer-reviewed journal articles and will submit two more soon. In addition, three of my articles have been published, and two others are under review.
What are you most proud of in your career? How do you think the JDR3 experience has helped you with your professional career?
Becoming a researcher along with teaching is what makes me most proud. Researching helps me materialize the reality with the theoretical context of the knowledge, which I can share with my students. This experience makes my class more participatory, which I am really proud of. And I think that the vast knowledge that I have gathered from the field of the JDR3 study has influenced my career a lot. After this study, I became familiar as a researcher on environmental economics, as some of the national newspapers have published reports on our findings on mangrove research.
How would your life have been different without the JDR3 research experience?
Prior to the JDR3 program, I was thinking of working on the valuation of the Sundarban Mangrove. My plan was to consider it as the area of my Ph.D. study. But, after the circulation of the JDR3 program, I was interested in being involved with this research so that I could contribute to this study as well as fulfill my desire to study the valuation of the Sundarban mangrove. Without the JDR3 program my desire to work on the Sundarbans would have been incomplete.
How have you given back to your country and your field with this research? What has it meant to the larger world?
First of all, this opportunity helped me to be a researcher. I firmly believe that the successful completion of this research embodied me with human capital. We don’t have enough skilled and resourceful people in this area. Thus, this skill of conducting research definitely enriched human capital for my country and my field. Apart from this, the research findings for sure will be useful for the country and for my field of study. They will also convey a message to the rest of the world about the importance of the mangrove.
Do you have any suggestions/recommendations for future JDR3 researchers and/or the JDR3 management team/Winrock?
I expect that the JDR3 program shall continue to fund research on topics of global interest.