The Indo German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS), a collaborative set-up at IIT Madras, has kick-started some research proposals in climate change and sustainability.

The IGCS was set up in 2010 as a collaborative research partnership between IIT Madras and leading technical universities in Germany in the broad area of sustainable development. Senior scientist, IIT Madras, P. Sasidhar places the significance of the IGCS in the backdrop of mounting energy needs in the country. “How do we achieve energy security while meeting the requirements of environmental sustainability? Germany has well-established sustainability centres. Their expertise is going to be useful for these collaborations in helping us plan our activities so that we do not sacrifice growth, while protecting the environment and using clean technology,” says Mr. P. Sasidhar.

Four key areas: land use, water, waste and energy have been identified for research. The proposals are formulated by IIT-M professors after which collaborators in Germany are identified in similar areas of research. In April 2013, Department of Science and Technology (DST) sanctioned Rs 5.3 crore, and some of the research projects are in the process of getting started.

Mr. Sasidhar says, “The grant provided by the DST gave the much needed fillip to carry on research projects. In the first phase, three projects were streamlined. Two projects in the areas of waste and one in the area of energy have been approved.”

The two proposals in the area of waste are: ‘(i) Development of sustainable waste management of septage by composting and minimising green house gas (GHG) emissions’, coordinated by Ligy Philip, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras and (ii) ‘Fast Sampling analyses for anthropogenic micro pollutants in wet environmental compartments’, coordinated by T.S. Chandra, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras.

Professor M M Kranert, Department of Waste Management and Emissions, Stuttgart University is the German Collaborator in the above projects. The proposal on energy is being coordinated by Pramod S. Mehta, department of mechanical engineering, IIT Madras and Roy Hermanns, OWI-Waerme-Institut GmbH, Germany.

The research collaborations facilitate both short-term and long-term visits. Some of the professors are here on short visits that range from 15 days to up to three months, whereas long-term visits can go up to three years.

Professor Christoph Woiwode, who is here on a visiting appointment, is doing research in the land-use segment with specific focus on Sriperumbudur. “The aim of the IGCS is to develop a framework that may in future guide the planning process and provide solutions to the complexity of sustainability, and also provide research that has policy or practice relevance.”

The IGCS is not just limited to research collaborations between professors, but also brings within its scope opportunities for students.

Post doctoral fellow Jayakumar Renganathan is involved with the research project at Krishnagiri district, which is being carried out by Dr. Kristin Steger and Dr. Peter Fiener. As part of the collaborative research programme, Renganathan visited the Leibniz Institute for Inland Fisheries and Fresh Water Ecology, Berlin, to supplement his research work.

“We see it useful to have this collaboration as we come from different research cultures, different ways of asking questions and different ways of investigating. We want students at different stages of their work to be able to go there and learn techniques, work in that environment for a while,” says Professor Sudhir Chella Rajan, Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT.

In addition to this, summer schools and winter schools — two week lectures on various dimensions of sustainability and climate change, conducted in Berlin and Chennai, respectively — feature as one of the major activities of the IGCS. These are open to master’s and PhD students from all over India. Besides engineering and pure sciences, students from the social sciences can also apply.