UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 18 May 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the need for focusing on public health engineering

Syllabus: GS-II Government policies and Initiatives;GS-III Water management and sanitation

Public Health Engineering:

  • Need:
    • Globally, around 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, according to the United Nations.
    • In the absence of cost-effective, sustainable, disruptive water management solutions, about 70% of sewage is discharged untreated into India’s water bodies.
    • A staggering 21% of diseases are caused by contaminated water in India, according to the World Bank, and one in five children die before their fifth birthday because of poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, according to Startup India.
    • As we confront these public health challenges emerging out of environmental concerns, expanding the scope of public health/ environmental engineering science becomes pivotal.
    • Most often, civil engineers do not have adequate skills to address public health problems. And public health professionals do not have adequate engineering skills
  • About:
    • For India to achieve its sustainable development goals of clean water and sanitation and to address the growing demands for water consumption and preservation of both surface water bodies and groundwater resources, it is essential to find and implement innovative ways of treating wastewater.
    • Specialised cadre of public health engineers, also known as sanitation engineers or environmental engineers, is best suited to provide the growing urban and rural water supply and to manage solid waste and wastewater.
    • Can offer a wide range of opportunities for the development of advanced wastewater treatment systems, for understanding complex quality and monitoring processes, designing and managing septic tank systems, supplying good quality water in adequate quantities, maintaining hygiene and access to water, and ensuring that water supply is sustainable, including the study of relevant industry standards and codes of practices 

Way Ahead:

  • To manage a wastewater treatment plant in Europe, for example, a candidate must specialise in wastewater engineering.
    • With the Government of India starting to think along these lines, introducing public health engineering as a two-year structured master’s degree programme or through diploma programmes for professionals working in this field must be considered to meet the need of increased human resource in this field.
  • Furthermore, public health engineering should be developed as an interdisciplinary field.
    • Public health engineering’s combination of engineering and public health skills can also enable contextualised decision-making regarding water management in India
  • Currently, institutions like the Indian IIT-Madras are considering initiating public health engineering as a separate discipline.
  • To leverage this opportunity even further, India needs to scale up in the same direction. 

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