Sushanta Mitra holds a microfluidic chip, one type of sensor that will be used in the U of A‘s collaboration with India to develop new technologies ensuring safe drinking water for communities in both countries.
Edmonton—The University of Alberta is taking a lead role in a Canada-India research collaboration to develop new technologies to ensure health, safety and sustainability for remote and rural communities in both countries.
A partnership between the U of A and the universities of Toronto and British Columbia was chosen by the federal government’s Networks of Centres of Excellence program to be part of Canada’s commitment to a five-year, $30-million collaboration with India.
Three hundred Canadian students will work alongside students from 11 leading institutions in India at locations in Canada and India. The collaboration goes by the acronym IC-IMPACTS.
The U of A will supply 100 students from a variety of disciplines such as engineering, public health and biological sciences. The U of A will lead the focus on clean drinking water. U of A team members, post-doctoral students to undergrads, will develop new technologies for water monitoring and treatment, and infrastructure that carries drinking water.
Sushanta Mitra, a mechanical engineering professor and the university’s assistant vice-president of research, is the U of A’s lead on the project. Mitra says the challenges and logistics are daunting but the focus is simple.
“Water is the life-sustaining necessity that links all of us,” he said.
Access to clean water is a challenge for huge numbers of the world’s population. In 2005, Canada’s public health agency reported more than 4,000 cases of giardiasis, a parasitic, waterborne disease that can be fatal for young children and seniors. In India, more than 37 million people are struck by diseases coming from contaminated drinking water.
Mitra says U of A President Indira Samarasekera had the vision for a Canada-India collaboration on water. Samarasekera says the agreement represents the best spirit of public research universities.
“For the U of A, this builds upon a great deal of existing collaboration in India,” said Samarasekera. “This allows us to share our strength in water, agriculture and health research."
In advance of launching the five-year program, Mitra says, researchers have already been to the clean-water-challenged communities in both countries and identified the contaminants, the treatment required and the engineering challenges they’ll face to ensure continued public health.
“Each community has different needs; there is no one fix for all water contamination problems,” said Mitra. “Students will develop new technologies that must be inexpensive, reliable and easily maintained by the communities.”
Mitra says IC-IMPACTS will build Canada’s capacity for international research and engineering collaborations.
“The students will be on the ground where new technologies are devised and will participate in the development and commercialization of the solutions,” said Mitra. “This is an invaluable experience for the students and for Canada.”