Thursday, May 15, 2008

Media coverage of Pittsburgh Univ team visit.

An excerpt from today's Telegraph:-

US study on landslip zones
- Hills eye tie-up

Kalimpong, May 14: A detailed mapping of the hazardous slopes could form the basis of an engineering solution to the problem of landslides in the Darjeeling hills. If all go according to plan, such an exercise would be taken up in Kalimpong with the help of the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

An indication to this effect was given by Kent Harries, the leader of a visiting team from Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Besides Harries who is the assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, the team includes three students.

They were here on a study tour of the region at the invitation of Gayatri Kharel, a structural engineer and a member of the Planners Alliance for Himalayan and Allied Region (Pahar).

Harries, who spoke to The Telegraph over the phone from Darjeeling yesterday, said the slopes were a significant regional problem that they were not aware of till their arrival and there was a need to find a sustainable engineering solution to it. “Kalimpong could be taken up as a case study,” he added.

Asked if the university would be willing to share its expertise, he replied: “Technology transfer is rule number one.” He also added that a batch of six students from his university would be coming here every year to make use of the opportunity the region provides in terms of study.

On the other hand, Harries said, structural engineers and architects from either the region or other parts of the country interested in the area could visit Pittsburgh.

Echoing his sentiments, Kharel said: “We are in the process of formalising a mutually beneficial relationship. While we could gain from the studies they make on soil suitability and locally available building material, their research students will find varied topics to work on in our hills.”

Those involved in town planning and environment protection are also enthused by the potential tie-up. “Hopefully, the involvement of such an esteemed institution would help draw attention to our part of the world where an environmental catastrophe is waiting to happen thanks to rapid urbanisation and haphazard planning,” said Praful Rao, the convener of Save The Hills.

Subin Pradhan, an architect, said: “Even institutions here, least of all individual professionals like us, do not have the inclination nor, I guess, sufficient funds to carry out detailed studies like the one Pittsburgh is planning. What is even better is that they are willing to share their knowledge with us.”


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