The IC-IMPACTS research theme in Safe and Sustainable Infrastructure is primarily driven by the needs of partner communities in India and Canada which have been carefully selected to represent the needs of the larger nation.
To tackle infrastructure challenges in its partner communities, IC-IMPACTS has developed a holistic research program that cuts across each challenge and interconnects with the overall water and health themes of the Centre. New technologies selected for development will improve the quality of drinking water, prevent intermixing of drinking and waste water systems, and strengthen water infrastructure against damage from seismic activity and corrosion due to more frequent climate change-induced severe weather events. Projects under this theme will also substantially improve the health of populations by reducing air pollution from cement manufacturing and addressing water contamination. The cross-cutting research foci of the Safe and Sustainable Infrastructure theme are:
- Condition assessment sensing and structural health monitoring
- Service life extension of structures and strengthening for earthquakes
- New sustainable materials development
- Conservation of heritage water infrastructure
Key Challenges in Canada & India
Civil infrastructure – the set of interconnected structural elements such as roads, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications, and the built infrastructure of homes, and commercial and public buildings – is the foundation of a community and is critical for the health, safety and prosperity of citizens.
In both India and Canada, water and wastewater infrastructure needs are overwhelming driven by rapid physical, chemical, and biological deterioration and a lack of maintenance. In Canada, it is estimated that about $31 billion is required to maintain existing water and wastewater infrastructure and nearly $51 billion is required for new acquisitions. In India’s twelfth five–year plan, the earmarked funds for water and wastewater infrastructure are around $41 billion.
This research theme addresses three core challenges confronting IC-IMPACTS partner communities:
- A lack of integrity in water, wastewater, and solid waste systems
- Unsafe residential, commercial, and public buildings (such as schools and hospitals) during normal use and during earthquakes
- Poor quality and aging in transportation infrastructure (such as bridges and railway structures) and strategically important infrastructure (such as dams and heritage structures)
Finding new water solutions for Indian and Canadian communities is an urgent priority. Over the next five years, IC-IMPACTS partners will combine forces across sectors and research themes to develop solutions for improving water quality and human health that will recognize both the resource constraints of partner communities and the long-term potential of communities around the world to use the technologies. It is critically important to not only develop low-resource technologies but to also consider the contexts in which they will be deployed. In India, a significant factor to consider in developing water-sensing and treatment technologies is the instability and unreliability of the electricity supply.
Accordingly, the IC-IMPACTS Integrated Water Management theme will also focus upon novel approaches to providing consistent, stable, and affordable power to ensure the effective operation of water sensing and treatment solutions. Access to safe drinking water is fundamental to human survival and yet it is one of the world’s greatest challenges. The United Nations reports that more than one in six people worldwide – 894 million people – do not have access to improved water sources that are imperative to meet basic needs such as drinking, cooking, and cleaning.
Key Challenges in Canada & India
The IC-IMPACTS partner communities in India share these challenges and are in urgent need of new technologies to monitor, treat, and prevent water contamination. In some regions Indian agricultural, food processing, textile, and metals industries are devastating the local groundwater, in turn contaminating rivers and waterways with arsenic, mercury, uranium, cadmium, and pesticides. This problem is exacerbated by the annual production of nearly two million tons of fly-ash, a byproduct of India\’s thermal power industry that is stored as pond-ash and which further contaminates water supplies through seasonal runoff and groundwater infiltration. Downstream from agricultural and industrial production activities, contaminated groundwater and industrial effluents coalesce in rivers and lakes. These large water bodies are often the sole source of water for a community, rendering it extremely vulnerable to a broad variety of waterborne diseases.
Industrial areas of India Nagpur share some of India\’s more rural water contamination challenges. In some instances, cement production and geothermal power generation combine to render water undrinkable. Urban water treatment facilities work hard to remediate the regional drinking and waste water, but aging infrastructure is integrating drinking water and waste water streams and enabling groundwater contamination as it leaves the treatment centres.
Water quality is an equally challenging problem in Canada. Despite being one of the world’s most water-rich nations, Canada issued more than 1,800 boil-water advisories in 2010 alone. Some residential communities in Canada have been under a boil-water advisory for more than 20 years.
Canada’s urban communities typically have tertiary water treatment facilities and sophisticated infrastructure for water quality testing, but even these are not failsafe—as seen most dramatically in the Walkerton water crisis of May 2000, in which seven people died and more than 2,500 became ill when farm runoff contaminated the municipal drinking water supply with E. coli. Moreover, rural Canadian communities have varied water treatment facilities and many rely solely on ground wells. As in India, standing water bodies and groundwater are increasingly contaminated by heavy pesticide use from agricultural activities, wastewater from the resource sector, and industrial manufacturing effluents. Even natural processes such as mineral erosion contribute to groundwater contamination by leaching dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, magnesium, and other minerals into community water supplies. Finally, the frequency and severity of natural events induced by climate change, such as mudslides and flooding, are contributing to increasingly contaminated water supplies.
A new vision for the health theme of IC-IMPACTS is being developed to reflect insights gained from interactions gained during recent visits to partner communities and meetings with collaborators in India and Canada.
Building on existing partnerships in the area of infectious diseases and community outreach, IC-IMPACTS will focus its new health vision on community-centric projects with an overarching goal of preventing the spread of waterborne and water-associated infections diseases through early and accurate pathogen testing. Mobile health technologies and platforms will be developed to aid in the prevention and treatment of community health issues. The IC-IMPACTS Public Health theme will also focus upon engaging industrial partners and initiating technology transfer activities to help support field deployments of point of care monitoring and screening systems for infections diseases.
Through research in public health, IC-IMPACTS aims to support collaborative research projects that aim to improve the long-term health of Canadian and Indian citizens.
Key Challenges in Canada & India
Safe water is a major public health issue in developing countries and in rural regions of developed nations. There are a broad variety of waterborne and water-associated (i.e., carried by vectors associated with water) infectious diseases with a wide range of morbidity and mortality. For example, protozoan diseases caused by Plasmodia, Toxoplasma, etc. infect a wide number of populations and cause many deaths, especially in children and immunocompromised individuals.