Prof Asit K. Biswas sounded reasonably optimistic about the transformations that the world will notice in few years from now. A seminar on “UNIVER-CITIES: STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS FOR INDIA” was organized at Adamas University on 23rd November, 2016, inviting Prof Asit K. Biswas, Indian environmental scientist and academic Professor and President, Third World Centre for Water Management. The event was conducted in the presence of Prof Samit Ray-Chancellor, Adamas University, Prof Madhusudan Chakraborty-Vice Chancellor, Adamas University and several other dignitaries and faculty members.
A world renowned research scientist and environmentalist, Prof Biswas delivered a talk on the topic aligning its relevance with the education delivery methods prevalent at university level specifically in India. Authored 82 books, over 650 scientific & technical papers with works having translated to 37 languages so far, the distinguished speaker is also the co-founder of the International Journal of Water Resources Development and has been its Editor-in-Chief for the last 29 years. The founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management, Mexico, he is currently, Distinguished Visiting Professor-Lee Kuan Yew School for Public Policy, Singapore, University of Wuhan, China and IIT Bhubaneswar. After earning his B.Tech (Civil) & M. Tech from IIT-Kharagpur and a Ph.D. from University of Strathclyde (Water Resources Management) he started his career as a Visiting Professor at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada. Prof Biswas has been honored with numerous awards worldwide viz. Hon. DTech. (University of Lund, Sweden), Crystal Drop and Millennium Awards, International Water Resources Association, Walter Huber Award, American Society of Civil Engineering, Stockholm Water Prize 2006 just to name a few.In 2012, he was named a “Water Hero of the World” by the Impeller Magazine, and also as one of the 10 thought‐leaders of the world in water by Reuters. A member of the Global Agenda Council on Water Security of the World Economic Forum, heregularly contributes for many national and international newspapers on resource and development related issues and also is a television commentator in three continents. He has been a senior advisor to 19 governments, 6 Heads of the United Nations Agencies, Secretary General of OECD and also advisor to several MNCs listed within first 50 of the Fortune 500 companies & has been interviewed by the most reputed media houses like BBC, Wall Street Journal etc.
While speaking to the audience on the day, Prof Biswas accentuated on the importance and relevance of R&D in every sphere including the education sector. He shared some ongoing activities and strategies that are being developed in Singapore to bring about a radical change in education model which will have an integrated approach. He also cited that “we need to think over how people can constantly be trained to beat the challenges of the world. Ourincentive system does not allow mobility in terms of career shift, which needs to be altered, making workforce multifaceted by nurturing multiple skills in students at high schools and university levels. Substantiating the point, he referred to one of his early meetings with the then Prime Minister and his first mentor Mrs. Indira Gandhi whom he had asked the reason why India is still unable to combat many of the systemic deficiencies which are detrimental to its growth such as no progress could be made towards poverty alleviation, inequality, right to basic facility. Mrs. Gandhi pointed out, that addressing issues in isolation is the cause behind stagnation, where errors are being fixed with a restricted approach which is impairing other systems. Prof Biswas thus spoke about the importance to integrate various streams of studies which will make students versatile. He went ahead and shared an example of an elevator shaft and space issue in London dating back to 1940 which was eventually resolved by a psychologist since all technological and engineering solutions failedto tackle the matter. Similarly, while handling water related concerns and disputes and reduce its usage across the globe, we must adopt logical and integrated methods, beyond routine techniques.To quote him, “we will not succeed if we remain in water-tight compartments, thinking only from one’s own discipline but we need to create individuals who think of logical solutions with an integrated approach and therefore teachers need to be flexible & trans-disciplinary”.
The session was drawn to a close with a compelling concluding note by Prof Chakraborty, paraphrasing the discourse by the Keynote Speaker and referring the entire session to be exceptionally ‘thought-provoking’. Reiterating the shortcomings of confinements within a single department or discipline, he advised the faculties present there to be dynamic and adaptive to situations, practice knowledge sharing and make the most out of ‘information explosion’ that has taken place worldwide.