Sunday, January 15, 2017

Engineering, Environment & CSR!

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”… Malcolm X.

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little and later also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. And of-late it seems our educationists have grasped the wisdom from above quote of Malcom as this sharing is outcome of one such experience of mine. I have been closely associated with academics in recent times; especially anything related with environment or biodiversity conservation as well CSR. By now environment has been part of school education right from fifth standard yet it’s been restricted to few faculties such as civil or specialization courses in environment & CSR i.e. corporate social responsibility is never official part of any teaching at least I am not aware of it! Environment also comes as either environment engineering which is one branch of civil engineering or pure environment science bachelors & masters’ degree courses are there. Now it seems govt wants to make environment part of all the faculties especially the engineering ones along with CSR. 

Its in this context I have been invited to address the summit of Principals of all Govt Polytechnics of the State which is arranged so as these top bosses of diploma course can discuss various skills apart from the regular syllabus to induce amongst the students & Environment along with CSR is one of the main aspects. It was indeed important moment for me as most of them are not just engineers but has obtained Doctorate in concerned fields & to get an opportunity to address such crowd is one of the biggest honors which has came to my way.

Though it’s always more easier to speak in front of such professionals that too hard core teachers for two simple reasons, as normal students are most unpredictable lot & they can get bored very easily at the same time you have to always remind yourself that instead bringing them to your level you have to go down to their level to make them understand your views on the subject. Here the listeners’ are  already above me academically so it’s me rather who has to reach out to their level & then whatever I say they won’t hoot me out was certainty, on lighter note I mentioned this to them at start only!  Coming to the subject it’s great to know that Supreme Court has given directives to induce Environment & CSR as key subject to ever branch of engineering but that shows our attitude to these subjects as why Supreme Court needs to tell us so, are we so dumb? I asked to the forum. The summit was to identify challenges of future in front of engineers but the biggest challenge in front of engineers is to balance the damage of nature by any creation they will create! Check the headlines of any days news paper of our Pune city, right from Metro route being challenged under the name it’s from river bed & will damage the very river life to the Bal Bharti road which is supposed to connect Symbiosis hill to Paud road stating it will affect biodiversity of hills every project is being challenged by NGO’s & worst is most of their challenges has been upheld by NGT i.e. National Green Tribunal. And these are just two examples, all over the country it’s like a war may it be any industrial product or a road project or some new factory, everything is being hailed as anti environment or anti nature for some or other reason! This makes biggest challenge in front of the engineers is conservation of nature while we apply our engineering knowledge for any new creation, may it be civil or mechanical even computer & electronics branches are under scanner as E-Waste is considered as recent threat to nature! On all this background it’s highly important to in cultivate awareness as well knowledge of nature in the students’ right from primary stage & for that we first have to make them understand what is nature!

To start with I have objection to the name of the subject in itself as either we call it as Environment Engineering or Environment Science; both doesn’t gives the purpose why we are teaching them this particular subject! What I suggest is let the subject’s name itself should be Environment Conservation, so the very purpose will be defined right from the name. They are learning this subject to conserve the nature & then from that aspect they will look at it as at present any branch of engineering, I am from civil so will take example of that branch, students choose the branch for only one reason i.e. to become successful post-education with the degree or knowledge they have acquired & that means to earn more money! Unfortunate but truth is this genre measure success only on the scale of money being earned by the knowledge they have & we only are responsible for such thinking as we failed to make them understand true meaning of being successful as an engineer! And for that let’s start from the subject with introducing the subject with name itself as “Environment Conservation & CSR”! As while we teach them this particular subject, the very purpose is not to earn money or become successful in conventional ways but to make this world a better place!

Whenever we say we have to conserve the nature first we have to understand what nature is & you can’t teach nature just by introducing the subject in syllabus or text books. You learn nature by making yourself part of it & for that open up windows of your class rooms along with your mind & let the nature flows in! Nature has been made of mainly following aspects & once we identify them categorically & the impact of our creations on each of them then only we can conserve the nature in totality. I will try to put in words what we need to make the students learn & adopt about every aspect.

Water: In civil engineering we have entire topic dedicated to water but all it tells us is how to purify water or make effluent treatment plants or water management systems but no where it teaches us waters role as life for not just humans but every living species & their share on the water available to us! Let the student understand water is not just an engineering topic but an essential mean for life & every drop counts.

Power: Here power isn’t just electric energy & wiring but its form of energy which is required to get our mechanical & electronic world going. It’s not just about efficient use of electricity but knowing when ever one unit is consumed somewhere a piece of coal is burnt  & we are poorer by some grams on our natural reserves which one day is going to end. We have to teach them while using wind mills for power some where a species of beautiful bird named “Great Indian Bustards or Maldhok” which is already endangered might lose their last pair as they can’t see the big rotor blades of the windmills during their flight. And while we will be happy as an engineer for using power generated from clean energy source, one of the specie has been wiped out from the earth just because we overlooked that we erected windmills right in the Maldhok’s last existing habitats! On other hand while we make our buildings look-wise great, we should not forget the importance of natural light as many buildings which have been praised from outside are actually nightmares for the persons living within them.

Earth: Let’s remember we are not the only specie on the earth rather we are just one out of millions & every specie has equal right on every piece of earth. We dig roads from midst of forests making lives of thousands of animals under grave threat. We build dams which submerge homes of many species in its backwater & the list of our encroachment on other is unending. Just mind this whatever you are doing for making human life better might end up some other’s life forever, so plan our needs accordingly.

Greens: Whenever any engineer takes charge of any site, he looks at every tree standing on the site as enemy is what my experience is. And I don’t blame him as he has been taught trees because of their roots, are worst enemies of the foundation of any structure! Well, what we can expect from our engineers if such is their education foundation about nature conservation & this is what we need to teach them. Teach them that trees are your best friends & do we chop our best friends just to make our project work easy? Teach them that the way your building is going to provide homes for human beings, in same way a tree is home to hundreds of birds & insects which are like our neighbors & deserve better living. I think the entire approach towards the nature needs to be changed then only they can balance both things.

Sky: Ask them when they have last looked at sky & felt the blueness of it, especially students who have come from rural; & what difference they found in the sky of Pune & sky, back in their town or village?  Like water, the sky is inherent part of nature & a clear blue sky indicates pollution free environment. Whatever we create here is not natural & that creation is bound to create some pollution & as an engineer if we are responsible for pollution then it’s our responsibility only to counter balance the damage we have made to the sky, lets teach them this aspect of engineering.

After nature another important aspect is CSR i.e. Corporate Social Responsibility; I will cut the word corporate out & say just Social Responsibility. It means ability or attitude to share your success, a quality which is vanishing fast from the society. Henry Ford has once said, “Any business which generates just money is a bad business” & I believe him. Times are changing, no more the bosses are supposed to be with harsh words & stern face & keeping all the profits with them. One makes progress only if entire team progresses & right from your collogues to your vendors & yes many more less fortunate segments of the society, we should make party to our success all these. And being an engineer we are best to find out logical solutions to reduce the hardship of living which many have to face. And goodness is something we need to teach as badness comes to most of us naturally!

After sharing this you all might be thinking what are we going to produce, engineers or environmentalists? Well, let me put it clear, we want environmentalist engineers as that’s the key to our safe & healthy future. And that is easily doable as every youngster has got flair for nature much more than what our grown up mind has, all you have to do is make him identify own self a bit better. Right from starting nature club to making them write diary of goodness where they can write every days one good work they think they have done, many simple things can achieve our goal.

To conclude I will ask you all, as a teacher to engineering students, how you rate your success? Is it that maximum students passes out with distinction or goes to higher studies at best of institutes or gets fat salary packages in campus interviews? I think even if one single student pass out with average marks but with a understanding that why he or she has acquired the engineering knowledge & uses it for the society where everyone is able to live at peace & happiness by his or her creations, then I have succeeded as a teacher of that engineer!

As remember none other species except human beings has facility of having engineering colleges & that makes us most responsible to create engineers which will make the world a better place for every living object; if we succeed to do that, then I think we have right to call us as makers of engineers or else like the movie Terminator, we will end up as creator of machines making the world worst than what it was!

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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