How do you feel after receiving the UGC Gold Medal for 2016?
It is actually an honour to me because I have been working with wastewater treatment in Bangladesh for seven years. I did my PhD in Australia. After coming back, I started working on wastewater and till now I have worked with different types of wastewater treatment projects in Bangladesh. As you know environmental degradation is a severe problem in our country and till now we were unable to find a potential solution to it. So, I focused on this aspect. I employed natural green pigment technology for waste water treatment and achieved some success and as a result was awarded the UGC Gold Medal. Please also note that I was awarded with the UGC award in 2013.
Please talk about the job prospects of civil engineering.
Civil engineering is actually a very broad sector because we have many development projects going on. In addition to that we also need civil engineers in the environmental sector. We are facing severe environmental problems. If we fail to take any necessary actions, we will face severe environmental consequences. So, we have vast opportunities in Bangladesh in terms of civil engineering jobs and I would encourage the students to pursue their career as a civil engineer.
Tell us about your journey – what inspired you to pursue this profession?
Actually I wanted to study Physics. But as father was an engineer, my mother wanted me pursue a similar career. So, I got admitted in BUET. I enrolled in the Department of Civil Engineering and in my fourth year I choose environmental engineering, a sub-division of civil engineering. That is how I started my journey.
What is the importance and necessity of research in this country?
Without research you cannot develop. If you look at the develop countries like Canada, UK, Australia and USA to name a few, they spend a lot of money in research but unfortunately we do not have the luxury to invest the same amount of money in the research sector. But if we want to develop, we have to spend a huge amount of money. This is because through research we will be able to invent new technologies and that is a prerequisite to development.
What is a constructed wetland and why is it necessary?
Constructed wetland is actually a natural treatment technology. You will put plant along with different types of bacteria, these are billions of micro-organisms but we are unable to see them without a micro-scope. These plants and bacteria remove pollutants from water. The main advantage of this construction is that it is green technology and to operate this you do not need any kind of energy or fossil fuel. Another key point is that its construction and operation is very simple but highly effective. Due to its unique advantages, the world is moving towards green technology. Our weather condition is very much suitable for constructed wetlands. People have already started using constructed wetlands in the country. Constructed wetlands have been implemented in large-scale in Khulna, Tangail and in many other places across the country for tackling human waste and typical waste management.
You are a pioneer in implementing constructed wetland in our country. How can constructed wetlands treat polluted surface water and wastewater?
You know the awards I received, especially this particular award (UGC Gold Medal 2016), is for the treatment of polluted water. We can create a floating constructed wetland. It will basically be a floating mat. We will plant on the floating mat. Roots will grow. The roots and the bacteria surrounding them will uptake the pollutants. But when you see this mat from far away, it would look like a beautiful garden because the plant that is used here is Canna Indica (Kolaboti). It is a very beautiful flowering plant. Just think, we have put a floating mat with Canna Indica, which gives the impression of a beautiful water garden and at the same time it is removing pollutants from the water. This is a good solution to wastewater of lakes and rivers.
What is your perception about brain-drain from your discipline? What could be its causes? Why people graduating from universities consider the foreign lands as a bright career spots?
Many meritorious students want a secured life and at the same time they want to do research, but unfortunately in our country we have limited opportunities. Therefore the most important task for us is creating opportunities. Meritorious students are attracted to research and development. If we are able to create opportunities in these two areas, I strongly believe students would opt to stay in Bangladesh. Bangladesh being a developing country has tons of opportunities, all we need to do is to grab them. So for this we need some government support.
Has it ever crossed your mind that you wanted to shift abroad?
Oh no! You see, I had opportunities, I still have opportunities but I think that I can do something for my country. Whatever I am doing now, I am getting recognition for my work both here and abroad. I am showing people the way in Bangladesh and abroad as well. But if I were in a foreign country, I might have had a typical lifestyle. Maybe, I have had a secured life there and I would have earned more. But again, you cannot work independently if you are staying abroad.
What are the problems students (fresher & graduates) in the discipline are currently facing? How can these problems be solved?
Actually civil engineering requires lots of laboratories and they must be equipped with lots of costly equipment. But many universities especially some private ones don’t have much equipment. Apart from public universities like BUET, KUET and CHUET only a limited number of private universities are fully equipped. So private universities interested in civil engineering need to focus on this aspect. This is not a subject of humanities discipline that could be taught in class and blackboard. You need to teach this subject in laboratories. If students want to be good engineers, they must be trained in well-equipped laboratories. Graduates also face similar problems. They are not getting the jobs they prefer. Many graduates are employed in local construction companies from dawn till dusk. As a result they get frustrated and shift their job. I think the government should look into this because without efficient civil engineers, we will be unable to take our country to anticipated development goal.