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Focusing on Public Health Engineering

Context

As we confront the public health challenges emerging out of environmental concerns, expanding the scope of public health/environmental engineering science becomes pivotal.

Relevance

GS-II: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Why does India need a specialized cadre of Public Health Engineers
  • What can be done?
  • Way Forward

Why does India need a specialized cadre of Public Health Engineers

  • Achieving SDGs and growing demand for water consumption: 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.
  •  It is in this context why the 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.
  • Limited capacity: The availability of systemic information and programmes focusing on teaching, training, and capacity building for this specialty cadre is currently limited.
  • Currently in India, civil engineering incorporates a course or two on environmental engineering for students to learn about wastewater management as a part of their pre-service and in-service training.
  • However, the nexus between wastewater and solid waste management and public health issues is not brought out clearly.
  • India aims to supply 55 litres of water per person per day by 2024 under its Jal Jeevan Mission to install functional household tap connections.
  • The goal of reaching every rural household with functional tap water can be achieved in a sustainable and resilient manner only if the cadre of public health engineers is expanded and strengthened.
  • Different from the international trend: In India, public health engineering is executed by the Public Works Department or by health officials. This differs from international trends.

What can be done?

  • 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.
  • Interdisciplinary field: Furthermore, public health engineering should be developed as an interdisciplinary field.
  • Engineers can significantly contribute to public health in defining what is possible, identifying limitations, and shaping workable solutions with a problem-solving approach.
  • Public health engineering’s combination of engineering and public health skills can also enable contextualized decision-making regarding water management in India.

Way Forward

Diseases cannot be contained unless we provide good quality and adequate quantity of water. Most of the world’s diseases can be prevented by considering this. Training our young minds towards creating sustainable water management systems would be the first step.

Source – The Hindu

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October 2022
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