Building Local Capacity, Creating South-South Linkages for Appropriate Development: The Case of SCET

We met with Professor Persi Engineer, Head of the Architecture Department, the Sarvajanik College of Engineering and Technology (SCET), to learn more about how academic and research institutions are engaging on the important issues driving the growth of Indian cities. This is especially important in the 2nd and 3rd tier cities that are changing fastest with urbanization and globalization. Surat is the perfect example.

In this case, SCET’s engineering, architecture and planning faculty is fully engaged with the central, state and city governments with projects in tourism and earthquake resistant architecture – another example of local insights and talent coming up with local solutions. Their inputs on the Vision 2020 Plan for Surat helped the government envisage the interlinkages between built, physical, market and social infrastructure and city competitiveness. Among the government tourism projects, the faculty and students were working on developing strategies and plans for Sapotara, the nearby hill station, with a mind towards involving tribal areas in local tourism development; the development of Dhan and the Rama Trail; a redevelopment of the beach as public space near Hajira, one of Surat’s industrial zones; and a regional GIS mapping and topographical survey.

SCET is now also a committee member of the central government’s National Programme on Earthquake Engineering Education (NPEEE) . To support this effort, SCET has helped create materials that have become mandatory study materials for all professionals – resources that have been instrumental in shaping commercial advertisement for earthquake resistant architecture.

Professor Engineer agreed that more international joint projects would advance their goals as a pedagogical and research institution. Their current project with the City School of Architecture (formerly known as the Colombo School of Architecture)  – a study exchange on regional architecture – had been positive for students and faculty alike – a productive means of sharing resources and developing regional perspectives on the city and the built environment.

SCET provides an excellent example of the domestic resources that need to be nurtured in developing economies to support regional development and help policymakers vision the future of the city. We did observe, however, that linkages with the private sector could be strengthened. Institutions like SCET could be instrumental in mainstreaming issues of disaster resilience into private sector responses, for instance. SCET graduates should also be able to respond to the demands of India’s rapidly growing cities and markets.

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