Monday, 17 December 2018


-       Dr. Ajit Sabnis

"Civil engineering is the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and physical sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the progressive well-being of humanity in creating, improving, and protecting the environment, in providing facilities for community living, industry and transportation, and in providing structures for the use of humanity."
American Society of Civil Engineers, 1961

From Newton’s mechanistic world view theory to Einstein’s general and special theories of relativity, from ancient pyramids to present wonders of the world, from the depths of mysterious natural resources to engineering marvels, from underground bunkers to skyscrapers, the list goes on and the pendulum of human life sways and swings in the shadows of engineering minds.

Today, the world is undergoing vast changes. The technological revolution, population growth, environmental concerns are creating unique challenges for civil engineers of every specialty. The ongoing technological revolution has changed most of the routines of a traditional Civil Engineer. DSS (Decision Support System) and GIS (Geographical Information Systems) are becoming a part of Civil Engineering design.  Laser beams have replaced the old survey instruments and satellite signals have replaced the photogrammetric methods of mapping.  Space age fabrics replace conventional RCC roofs and Geo-textiles minimize soil erosion. Robots manage smart buildings and the Civil Engineering is endeavored to achieve a paradigm shift.

The post independence period:
The post independence period of India was marked by economic policies which tried to make the country self sufficient. Under the economic reform, stress was given more to the development of defense, infrastructure and agricultural sectors. During the mid 1960's the government initiated the ‘Green Revolution’ movement and the emphasis was on better agricultural yield. As a result, new irrigation projects were planned and executed. Economic Reforms during 1990s initiated the liberation reform and it changed the market and financial scenario of the country. Under the liberalization program FDI was encouraged and service sectors came into picture. 

The development of construction sector has been in focus specially during the last two decades and the influence of this sector spans across several sub-sectors of the economy such as highways, roads, ports, railways, airports, power systems, irrigation and agriculture systems, telecommunication systems, hospitals, schools, townships, offices, houses and other buildings, water supply, sewerage etc. Thus, the Construction Sector becomes the basic input for socio-economic development.

Subsequently, the technological advancements began to put pressure on every service provider in terms of quality, aesthetics, durability, economics, management, communicative dexterity, time, profitability etc. and in the bargain, these service providers tried to establish their supremacy over their own co-competitors. These advancements also gave rise to superiority in professionalism in certain specific fields of activity coupled with customer satisfaction and thus, outsourcing became an inevitable factor.  This general law is now becoming more and more relevant even to construction industry of which Civil Engineers play an important role in upholding the entire industry.

 Civil Engineer with a new shift – the Future
The ever increasing human demands and needs will eventually get translated into engineering skills.  A professional called Architect, with his creative mind tries to decode the unsaid aspects and with his wisdom tries to evolve a system which meets the cause. But in the process, he has to integrate the multidisciplinary activities involved in his creation, weave them together and produce an effect that matches the need or the demand. 

It is here, the role of a Civil Engineer as the vital energy gets manifested.

Imaginations get transformed from 2D to 3D existences through a process of stress-force- bending moment analysis. This process of Conversion from 2D to 3D with the available resources and within the framework of affordability without compromising on quality, aesthetics and time, indeed is a Herculean task. Performing this Herculean task calls for an enormous amount of professionalism, skill, practical knowledge, pragmatic handling of human psychologies and above all, WILL to implement and establish the challenge put forth.
Future Civil Engineers have to demonstrate the following abilities in addition to all the conventional knowledge at their command:

  • An ability to integrate the knowledge of other sciences.
  • An ability to communicate effectively.
  • An ability to design a system, component or process to meet desired needs.
  • An ability to understand the techniques, skills, modern tools necessary for engineering practice.
  • An ability to strike balance between physical and emotional needs / demands.
  • A clear understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.
  • Knowledge of Project management and Asset management.
  • An ability to adapt to the advanced construction technologies and methodologies.
  • An ability to understand the value of life and apply it in terms of disaster management.
  • An ability to look beyond his generation and work towards establishment of sustainable future society. 

In conclusion, Civil Engineers have a tremendous responsibility on their shoulders in developing a nation in which all the needs and demands of human existence are met with and an optimum level of comfort, ambiance is provided for sustenance.

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