Category Archives: Recent activities

Learning on the job: Developing skills as a young researcher

Field visit in Chittagong

By Tamim­­ Billah

There are several factors that attracted me to the Safe and Sustainable Cities project.  I am primarily moved by the goal and objectives of the research which are closely linked to my area of interest Climate Change and Migration.  I think that the content of this research is very interesting as it aims to fill in knowledge gap in the areas of human security, migration and environmental interactions. The international collaborative partnership is a key factor underpinning the research that I think is valuable in generating new knowledge based on shared experiences. Another interesting thing is its planned efforts to identify factors driving migration and how the concept of network plays an important role in the whole process of migration. It would be interesting to see how this research would inform policy makers in shaping policies that would ensure migrants’ well being and human security in destination localities such as Chittagong. I have also found the data collection methods of this research particularly interesting, especially the photo voice approach. The inception workshop of the project also substantially attracted me. During the event, stakeholders from different sectors engaged in discussion on migration in the Chittagong city.

My involvement with the research project has been very enlightening so far.  The inception workshop in particular was very interesting in terms of earning first hand contextual knowledge on migrants’ lives and livelihoods in Chittagong city including the challenges they face due to the lack or limited urban services available to them. It was interesting to learn about the factors that drive migrants to move to Chittagong, their overall poor living conditions in the slums and other hazardous places such as hill slopes.  I also learned about stakeholders associated with the city government and other civil actors who can play critical role in ensuring human security and well being of migrants in Chittagong.

As a young researcher I do believe that this project will remarkably help develop my career in the areas of research based policy advocacy in many ways. Through my involvement with the project I will be able to acquire knowledge of conducting field based primary research that would include data collection, data analysis, and overall management of the research project.  It will enhance my communications and networking skills. I anticipate that I will have opportunities to communicate with high government officials in Chittagong, experts from different sectors and other stakeholders associated with various organisations at city level.  These activities will help me develop my communication skills and therefore learn from their knowledge and experiences.



Project launch in Chittagong

Inception workshop participants

The launch of a new project in Chittagong has brought together environmental and migration researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Dhaka to undertake research on implementing safe, resilient and inclusive cities for sustainability.


The project is testing the idea that integrating new migrant populations into planning is key to sustainable urban development, particularly for rapidly growing cities in Asia and Africa. The research focuses on Chittagong, a city that has grown from 1.5 million people at independence in 1971 to 5.1 million people today.


The research will involve surveying migrant populations about their human security, wellbeing and priorities. It also uses images through a photo-elicitation approach, allowing migrants and city planners to explore their own meanings of safe and sustainable cities. The research seeks to build empathy between planners and new migrant populations towards shared visions of the future.


Professor Neil Adger, the project’s principal investigator, said: “This is a first test of the idea that new migrants are critical in planning and building new cities. If new populations are invisible, the cities will not work for them, nor they for the shared vision of the city. We will explore whether visualising sustainability through photographs helps professionals and lay citizens to take each other’s perspectives in their joint visions of sustainability. This has potentially wide use in city planning for implementing urban sustainability everywhere.”


Professor Tasneem Siddiqui, founding Director of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMRRU), and one of the project’s Co-Investigators said: “Chittagong is a special place; it is a thriving commercial city of Bangladesh but faces critical development challenges. “Migrants come here as their land is being inundated on the coast. Ethnic minorities from the Chittagong Hill Tracts are being squeezed from their land. Integrating them into Chittagong’s future gives them rights and enhances the security of all.”


 The project will partner with the city’s Export Processing Zone, Chittagong District and Divisional office, Port Authority, Chittagong Development Authority, and most importantly the City Corporation of Chittagong: the Mayor and his professional planners will participate in the qualitative photo-elicitation research.