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IMC Travel Diaries – A trip to Bangladesh for a World Bank infrastructure project

Madalena is a Consultant in the Economics and Finance team. She brings us on a trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Thursday 16 May 2019, Madalena Pascoa

Welcome to IMC Travel Diaries, where we explore new places and development issues. Our consultants will take us on a journey with them for a day, so we can discover what it is really like to work in international development.

Madalena is a Consultant in the Economics and Finance team. She brings us on a trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh.

6.30 am – Alarm rings at what feels like 1 am, Bangladesh is six hours ahead of UK time. I snooze through a couple of alarms but then the thought of breakfast wakes me up. Every morning here starts with a big bowl of juicy fruit – today I have sapota, a sweet and dense fruit that only grows in tropical climates.

7.30 am – And so the commute begins. Dhaka is a lively city bustling with people and activity, with crazy traffic patterns to go along. It may take us anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes to get through the dense maze of brightly coloured buses, rickshaws and pedestrians to get to our final destination. We are headed to the World Bank offices for an important presentation.

8.23 am – Still stuck in traffic. Pretty sure the air conditioning is the only thing stopping us from melting – Dhaka is a boiling hot place. I love it.

8.23 am – Still stuck in traffic. Pretty sure the air conditioning is the only thing stopping us from melting – Dhaka is a boiling hot place. I love it.

8.45 am – We make it to the World Bank ahead of schedule. We are here to present our work on a project called Geo-hazard Risk Management in the Transport Sector in Bangladesh. This is a World Bank-funded technical assistance project that intends to support the Government of Bangladesh in managing landslide risk in the provinces of Chattogram and Sylhet, taking climate change into consideration. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, as well as one of the most disaster prone: taking this into consideration in road planning and maintenance is a key part of preparing for the future.

9.30 am – The workshop starts in half an hour and stakeholders start arriving. They come from government departments, universities and NGOs in Dhaka and the provinces of Sylhet and Chattogram.

Madalena and her supervisor arrive at the workshop

10 am – The workshop begins. Our presentation focuses on the work we have done so far, especially the criticality framework. This is a scoring system we have built to rank roads by traffic, population and other socioeconomic factors. The criticality score is then combined with each road’s vulnerability score; in this case, it represents how vulnerable the road is to landslide events. The combination of these two scores creates a rank of roads, which can be used by decision-makers to prioritise roads for investments in climate resilience.

1 pm – Our client at the World Bank says the final remarks and the workshop is over! That was a long and productive session. We got to hear the stakeholders’ opinions on the way the criticality scores were built, and which important factors they would like us to take into consideration. In the context of climate resilience, the consensus seems to be that people matter more over traffic: it is imperative to build a scoring system that fairly scores both smaller, rural roads (which could be the single access to a certain population settlement) and large highways, using the same scale. We take a lot of good suggestions home to improve our work.

1.30 pm – We have a quick lunch at the World Bank before our next meeting. We are served a local curry dish and tea. I’m not usually fond of spices, but everything tastes delicious! I particularly enjoy the World Bank’s custom-made china.

2 pm – Arrive at our meeting with LGED, the Local Government Engineering Department. It is off to a surprising start – we expected to meet with one engineer, and enter a conference room with about 40. Nevertheless, the discussion runs smoothly, and we leave for the next meeting with a few more ideas to ponder over.

4 pm – The final meeting of the day and the trip. We meet with the Chief Economist at RHD, the Roads and Highways Department, to discuss our work and request some data.

5.30 pm – Head back to the apartment, pack my bags and take a quick nap before dinner – I am from the Iberian Peninsula, so this is basically following doctor’s orders.

7.30 pm – Our last dinner in Bangladesh. I will miss it – it was a great week working with the project team and the World Bank. Now we are off to finish the rest of the project back in the UK!

Next day, 10am – A long flight with a stopover in Dubai awaits us. This is my first time travelling outside of Europe, and definitely one of the perks of the job: even young consultants like me get the chance to travel for business and explore different areas of the world, while working on projects that improve lives. This trip really boosted my confidence and broadened my horizons, so I hope I get to pack my bags for another overseas trip soon!

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