Engineering Education in the Field of Environment Protection

Dr. Srikanth Rao, Director, Manipal Institute of Technology Based in Manipal, The Manipal Institute of Technology is a centre for higher education specializing in bachelor's master's and doctorate course in an array of science and technical academia.

Over the last few decades, the world has witnessed rapid urbanization as well as unprecedented industrialization. Both these phenomena go parallel, and the effect they have on the environment is conjoined as well. Industrialization has resulted in alarming situations such as resource depletion, climate change, and excessive pollution, not to mention the increase in transport exhausts that have added to the already decaying air around us. The result is a rapidly declining environmental health.

The Environmental Risks
Depleting energy resources are a huge cause for concern, and any engineering study or technological solution to this would be a vital step towards the direction of creating sustainability. Emissions that are slowly choking the planet need to be countered with alternative sources of energy, while toxic wastes that are killing the water bodies need to be replaced with more sensible options. The facts show some alarming trends. According to a study by IPCC (United Nations Inter govern¬ mental Panel on Climate Change), the average concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has risen from 280 ppm(parts per million) to 370 ppm since the 19th century.

If unchecked, this will reach between 450 and 500 ppm by 2050. The polar caps are melting and the rise in ocean temperatures and water levels are already a documented threat. Global warming, if not recognized, may lead to enormous financial losses due to the occurrence of frequent and severe natural disasters. It will only become more severe with time if the carbon emissions are not controlled right now.

Further, it is necessary to note that in India, the main source of water is from the monsoon system. However, due to climate change, it is reported that the spatiotemporal pattern of the
monsoon is changing significantly and ultimately leading to decrease in its total volume. This reduction and the simultaneous increase in population, has led to water scarcity.

How can Engineers help in saving the Planet?
Technology, more specifically engineering, which was the basis of development for the last century, can help in preserving sustainable environmental initiatives. For this, we need trained experts who understand how it can be leveraged to help save the environment. Without a doubt, ecology needs to be even more closely integrated with engineering, and hence education needs to follow the same route. One of the key ways of doing it is by sustainable development.

Technology, more specifically engineering, which was the basis of development for the last century, can help in preserving sustainable environmental initiatives

Engineers need to be able to ascertain the ecological requirements and leverage their knowledge to create sustainable development. For designing solutions to meet pollution risks, education can play a critical role.

The curriculum needs to be framed in such a way that it addresses these key aspects, and also gives an awareness pertaining to these treatment processes. To make the students aware of water conservation issues, there is a need for the curriculum with updated research data on sustainable water management through effective water conservation programs such as rainwater harvesting.

Under the pressure of all-hands-on-deck, as far as pushing for sustainable development goes the engineering education system globally needs a revamp in favor of focusing on expertise to create sustainable development and growth. Hence, engineering studies need to equip our students with the ability to apply science and engineering principles to help improve the environment, create sustainable models of energy and resources consumption.

Engineering and Ecological Expertise in India
In India, there is graduation, post-graduation and even doctorate level programs available in this discipline. Some of the topmost engineering education institutions in India, including the IITs, and NITs, and some leading Universities, like Manipal Institute of Technology, have taken the initiatives of providing environmental engineering as a module in their B Tech degree. Students who find it fascinating, and wish to contribute their knowledge of engineering towards making a more sustainable environment, can even opt for more expertise through higher education in the field.

The field of study has immense potential and the scope is constantly increasing, as the global awareness on environmental damage is on the rise. In a forward-looking, developing country like India, with a predominantly youth population, environmental sustainability is a huge topic even for the government. Hence, the scope of this field is steadily increasing. Besides, as far as industrialization is concerned, we still have a long road to travel to be able to reach western or even global standards. This being the case, the need for qualified environment engineers is growing steadily, and so is the demand for their expertise.