oa Civil Engineer in South Africa - Our environment : the decade ahead

Volume 23, Issue 10
  • ISSN : 0009-7845



After more than half a century of engineering practice, the author wishes to share his reflections on the engineering fraternity's role in and responsibility towards the nation and mankind as a whole for the sustained viability of the environment and, in particular, of the ecosystem. The quality of life and even the very survival of the human race depends entirely on that viability. Together with science, technology is the most dynamic factor that affects it. Engineers have been in technical control of that factor.

Technological projects affect two parties the client (private or public body) and the public at large. The former is affected directly by prospects of gain in one form or another. The latter is affected indirectly through deterioration (or improvement) of the environment.
Technological activities have recently increased immensely in scale and scope. Serious concern is being expressed, particularly in all developed countries, about the impact of those activities on the environment. To prevent rapid and often irreparable damage to our survival base, a deeper understanding of the nature of the environment as a system and the effect of the technological activities on the functioning of that system is imperative.
The author presents a brief analysis of the problem. He describes the attempts at reducing the adverse impacts of those activities through an environmental screening known as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). He also outlines the deep-rooted causes of the problem.
It is irrational to plan technological progress for the decade ahead unless such plan aims at the improvement of the functioning of the ecosystem and the environment as a whole compared with the previous decade. Not only must the engineer prevent further damage by ill-considered technological activities, but must make determined reorientation of the present somewhat immature concept of growth and progress.

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