India and Canada have more in common than at first glance: when it comes to aging infrastructure, both countries are approaching their best-before date.
Each year India experiences major failures of deteriorating sewers, dams, bridges and roads. And in Canada, almost 60 per cent of the nation’s infrastructure is more than 40 years old.
Enter IC-IMPACTS, the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability. Established in 2012 and hosted at UBC, this international collaboration between the universities of British Columbia, Alberta and Toronto, and Indian Institutes of Technology is the first International Network Centre of Excellence in the world.
The unique global partnership brings together researchers, government and industry from India and Canada to work on urgent challenges in both countries: unsafe infrastructure, unreliable access to clean water, and disease from waterborne parasites.
The centre’s CEO and scientific director, Dr. Nemy Banthia, is a UBC civil engineering professor and Senior Canada Research Chair in Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Sustainability. A native of Rajasthan who has lived in Canada for over 20 years, Banthia emphasizes that, “This is not just Canada helping India. We are learning from India as much as India is learning from us.”
A global expert on safe and sustainable infrastructure, Banthia is working with researchers in India to find new ways to assess the safety of aging concrete. A pioneer of green concrete–which includes sustainable materials to replace cement–he is also leading a project to create an Indian concrete that has the potential to make a significant dent in the country’s huge carbon footprint by using fly ash, an abundant by-product of the country’s ubiquitous thermal power plants.
Other IC-IMPACTS researchers are focused on improving access to safe drinking water.
“Just as with their Indian counterparts, many Canadians don’t have the luxury of assuming their water is safe to drink. At any time hundreds of Canadian communities are under boil water advisories. Just consider Walkerton, when seven people died and more than 2,500 got sick from E. coli in the water system,” says Banthia.
Three years along, IC-IMPACTS is improving lives. With $30 million in joint funding from the Canadian and Indian governments and support from industry partners, the centre has backed 13 projects involving 158 researchers and 91 partner organizations. It is also providing valuable field training and exchange opportunities for hundreds of students from both countries.
IC-IMPACTS partners are grateful. Pradipta Banjeri, director of the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, says, “IC-IMPACTS is one of a kind. There is nothing like this happening in any other country. Congratulations to the Government of Canada for this progressive thinking and to UBC leadership for going all out to create and host this exceptional and futuristic centre.”
Through an IC-IMPACTS demonstration project, a rural village in India now has an innovative UBC-developed road design that resists heavy rains, intense heat, and poor drainage. More information can be found here.