Contributing to a green recovery pathway in Bangladesh

A Healthy Ecosystem In Hathazari, Chittagong, Bangladesh

A healthy-looking ecosystem in Hathazari, Chittagong, Bangladesh

In response to the challenges posed by climate change, environmental degradation and the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh, NIRAS is performing a study of the country’s energy and environmental sectors to uncover areas ripe for EU support and investments for a green recovery.

May 10, 2021

Be they on a small or bigger scale, the impacts of climate change are evident in all countries around the world. Bangladesh is among those that experience the most adverse consequences of climate change such as frequent flooding, severe cyclones and shifting rainfall patterns. Climate change affects all sectors of the country’s economy. In addition, rapid economic growth and huge population pressure are contributing to environmental degradation in Bangladesh, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the situation even further.

In order to address these challenges, the European Union’s Delegation (EUD) to Bangladesh has expressed interest in investing in and supporting projects in the fields of energy and the environment more broadly. The EUD is currently in the process of preparing its Multi-annual Indicative Plan (MIP 2021-2027), its main strategic document for supporting development in Bangladesh.

Assessing areas for investment in Bangladesh’s energy and environment sectors

The study NIRAS is conducting is primarily focusing on  renewable energy and environment, which are the two priority sectors in Bangladesh. It aims to identify potential areas of engagement for EUD’s investments within these two sectors. The study will also be instrumental for the EUD in choosing which sub-sectors of the environment sector it should target. NIRAS’ expert team will analyse the current situation and policies with the backdrop of COVID and the government’s priorities, and identify synergies among the Bangladeshi government, the EUD and other development partners. These analyses will provide the basis for the preparation of five concept notes, which will be an important output as they will recommend where the EUD, in collaboration with other development partners with interest in energy and environment sector,  could support and invest.

A three-person expert team is expected travel to Bangladesh to conduct stakeholder consultation with the EUD, other development partners (SIDA, GIZ, KfW, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and United Nations Development Program) as well as a range of Bangladesh Government ministries and agencies including the Prime Minister’s Office, Investment Development Authority, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources and Department of Environment. However, COVID poses substantial challenges for travel planning and in addition, not all stakeholders feel safe meeting in person. The team has therefore taken some precautionary measures including the drafting of three different scenarios that deals with COVID-related challenges.

The project started with a kick-off meeting in March and will run until September 2021. At the project’s close, the team will present its analysis and findings in a final report and facilitate a workshop for other donors working in Bangladesh, as well as the EUD and the Government.

"I get the chance to apply my economic and policy knowledge in different areas. It is both interesting and very motivating."

Dr. Sepul Kanti Barua

Combining practice and academia for better consultancy services

Dr. Sepul Kanti Barua, acting Team Leader and Environmental Economist in the project, has a background in natural resource and environmental economics with over 14 years of experience in 40 countries across Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. He has completed a doctorate (Doctor of Science [DSc]) degree in forest and climate change economics from Helsinki University, Finland in 2012. He did part of his doctoral research at Yale University, New Haven, USA as a visiting doctoral student in 2011.

Kyoto, Japan July 2018 2
Dr. Sepul Kanti Barua

Originally from Bangladesh, he moved to Finland in 2005 for his studies and worked in research for six years, after which he entered the development consulting sector. Before joining NIRAS in 2018, he worked as an environmental economist in the FAO based in Dhaka.

“I like to do something that has an immediate impact,” says Sepul, who continues to do research as a hobby, publishing scientific papers and supervising masters and doctoral students: “I am still involved in research because I believe that it is helpful for professional and personal intellectual development. The economics and policies of and investments and financing in natural resources, environment, climate change, trade and energy are the areas where I work and which I do research in . If I do research, I know the topic better – and when I combine research with practical experience, that enhances my professional development.”

Working with NIRAS, Sepul takes on assignments both as a specialist in projects and as a project manager. He is currently a specialist in three projects – renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, forestry sector  development in Jamaica and green economy in Bangladesh, while also working on assignments within business development that include writing and preparing tenders – particularly technical parts, where he can apply his expertise.

With A Group Of Happy Children In Grand Bassa County, Liberia
Sepul with a group of happy children in Grand Bassa County, Liberia during a field mission

Sepul especially values the diversity of both geographical areas and topics that he works in as a NIRAS employee: “I get the chance to apply my economic and policy knowledge in different areas. It is both interesting and very motivating.” He also highlights how collaboration between offices is seamless, despite NIRAS’s matrix organisational set up: "I really enjoy working across the organisation. In NIRAS, working with colleagues from or in projects of other offices is really easy with very limited or no bureaucracies. I find this very inspiring."