Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras is hosting a ‘Global water and Climate Adaptation Centre’ being established with support from a German Government Agency to tackle the global challenges of water security and adaptation to a changing climate.
IIT Madras will host the main hub with a satellite hub coming up at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok. It was inaugurated on 30th June 2021 in a virtual event in the presence of eminent dignitaries from IIT Madras and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
This centre is being formed by German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and is being set up in collaboration with the German institutes of Technical University of Dresden and RWTH Aachen University. This Centre is named ‘ABCD’ (Aachen-Bangkok-Chennai-Dresden).
With its geographical reach of four major cities, the Centre represents a strategic expansion of existing networks between leading German and Asian universities under a common thematic umbrella.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Karin Stoll, Consul General, Federal Republic of Germany, Chennai, said, “Digitization has advantages as this project was not delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is not over yet but we have to be optimistic and make use of the opportunities. There are lots of opportunities in academics. From Chennai perspective, I am very happy to note that IIT Madras is the main project hub and one of the pillars of the project.”
Further, Ms. Karin Stoll said, “Indo-German academic exchange has been very intense. Two years ago, I had the privilege of attending the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of IIT Madras. Passing the new climate initiative bill in the Germany Parliament just four days back and initiating such a Centre proves that we are in right track and this new consortium will bring fruitful and benefits to many students across country and institutes.”
The Global Water and Climate Adaptation Centre is intended to work as an enabling platform that incentivizes, bundles and magnifies further joint action in higher education, research, technology and knowledge transfer. The Centre is being led by Prof. S.A. Sannasiraj, Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT Madras.
Addressing the inaugural event, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, appreciated the new venture of collaboration between India, Germany, and Thailand across esteemed institutes of excellence, remembering his early career ties with TUD Germany and the strong collaboration now with RWTH, Germany. Adding to the already existing programs between the institutes such as IGCS, DAAD exchange programs for masters and doctoral students, this new venture will bring in new opportunity for students in the field of Water security and climate change, he added.
Addressing the inaugural event virtually, Dr. Katja Lasch, Director, DAAD Regional Office New Delhi, and Director, DWIH New Delhi, said, “Germany has passed a law now, mandating the country to be climate neutral by 2045. Climate change is not a national issue but a global issue. This is a 360 degree project that DAAD looks to promote.” Remembering the Indo-German collaboration starting from the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru till date and appreciated the beginning of a new collaboration between the institutes on starting a new Masters on Water Security and Climate Change and having exchange Doctoral students and experts for transfer of knowledge and sharing ideas to tackle the water crisis ahead.”
An innovative, joint global MSc. Course on ‘Water Security and Global Change’ is being conceptualized. In addition, a Joint Doctoral Research Programme to promote inter-disciplinary works in order to bring novel knowledge to address water security under global partnering institutes has also been launched.
Delivering the introductory remarks on this Centre, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Stamm, Dean Faculty for Civil Engineering and Chairperson for the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technische Universität Dresden, said, “The Centre has three fundamental pillars – common teaching activities for students and experts, joint research work for PhD Projects and simulation of enhanced transfer activities. The activities will be supported by mobility grants to establish and intensify exchange and cooperation. Our initiative builts upon existing bilteral relations. We are going to develop a new Master’s Program on Water Security and Global Change, which will push the boundaries of digital teaching to facilitate the participation of students across the world.”
Other dignitaries who spoke on the occasion include Prof. Dr. Ursula M. Staudinger, Rector, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, Dr. Eden Y Woon, President, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Ulrich Rüdiger, Rector, RWTH Aachen University, Germany, Prof. Dr. Taikan Oki, Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University and Prof. Dr. Markus Oeser, Dean, Civil Engineering, RWTH Aachen University, Germany.
Globally, there have been dramatic changes being witnessed being a function of the conditions of quality and quantity of natural resources. Hence, the sustainability of water in the changing climate scenarios has been of very much concern in the recent decades. The Global Water and Climate Adaptation Centre is among the many proactive measures being taken across the world without any virtual boundaries to deal with these changes.
In its own operations, the Centre aims to reduce carbon emissions through measures such as enabling internationalization while at the same time replacing international flights through the use of digital communication tools and innovative technology. This idea has been embedded in the design of the Centre from the outset and is expressed in a joint commitment to global sustainability.
Sharing the vision for the Global Water and Climate Adaptation Centre, its Indian Coordinator Prof. S.A. Sannasiraj, Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “The urgency of global climate change makes concrete actions necessary to reduce the vulnerability of society and to ameliorate the foreseeable consequences. The Centre will develop innovative adaptation strategies to cope with a changing climate and to protect the environment in order to provide a strong basis for sustainable development.”
Further, Prof. Sannasiraj said, “IIT Madras has a powerful global and regional network of partner institutions with the capacity to engage in substantial international activities, dialogue and exchange. It is intended to utilize the networks and the state-of-the art research facilities for the benefit of the Global Water and Climate Adaptation Centre. In particular, this centre will contribute significantly to the hydrodynamic, wave and morpho-dynamics modelling capabilities of IIT Madras.”
This would complements IIT Madras’ expertise on the adaptation and rehabilitation measures of coastal infrastructures. Further, the vulnerability and risk assessment with the regional social framework provides a platform for planners to take a call on decision-making along with policy makers.
To achieve the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, the Global Water and Climate Adaptation Centre will pursue comprehensive goals to protect the planet from degradation while sustainably managing its resources. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #6 is intended to ensure ‘availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.’ Thus, the Centre would strive to consider these interlinkages to better understand the social, economic and environmental dimensions.”
The project partners share the understanding that science-based solutions and global innovation networks must go hand-in-hand with a local and global stakeholders through dialogue. Hence, the Centre strives to act as an inter- and transdisciplinary platform for a science-based global dialogue and exchange on water security and climate adaptation. The transdisciplinary approach is expressed in the notion of a living lab that facilitates interactions with stakeholders in society.