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The 159th President Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Professor Anusha Shah from Arcadis, outlined her presidential theme at her first official address warning the industry that “working in harmony with nature is vital if we’re to reach our net zero and climate resilience goals”.
Professor Shah, Arcadis’ Senior Director for Resilient Cities and UK Climate Adaption lead, has great ambitions for the coming year. Her focus will be on the need to work collaboratively and to foster unconventional partnerships to create sustainable, equitable and resilient infrastructure.
In her speech, Professor Shah discussed how the climate change and nature crises are interlinked, and they need to be addressed in tandem. “It's not enough to minimise harm to nature. It’s time we moved to restoring, reviving, and regenerating it”, she stated in her address at the ICE headquarters in London. Solutions that safeguard nature whilst providing multiple benefits to people are key to solving the problem – we now need to deliver them at pace.
During her presidential year, Professor Shah wants to shift focus to ensure that the civil and infrastructure engineering community work collaboratively with actors across the value chain such as investors and financial institutions. “Together, we can crack business models for grey- blue- green infrastructure that makes good business sense.” The World Economic Forum estimated that in 2020 a nature-positive economy can unlock $10 trillion of business opportunities.
Professor Shah also emphasized the need to prioritise “systems thinking and system of systems thinking”. She spoke about a ground-breaking ’50 Litre Home Coalition’ partnership that she represents from Arcadis as lead technical partner. It has fostered a systems thinking of water-energy- carbon nexus and has brought together unique partners such as Procter & Gamble, Electrolux, Ikea, Engie, L’Occitane and many others breaking walls of their respective sectors for a shared objective to enhance water efficiency for end users. ‘It’s about building connections, recognising and embedding connections.” she said.
"My presidential year will be about ‘how’ we become a nature and people-positive profession at heart, about making those connections for shared outcomes," Professor Shah said in her speech. ‘We need to show ingenuity, yes, but also empathy. Kindness to all people and all species too.’
In her inaugural lecture, Professor Shah spoke passionately of her ambition to inspire the next generation, and encourage people from diverse backgrounds to become engineers. She said: “Not only am I the third female President, I'm the first person of colour.
“What a historic occasion for the diversity of our profession. What an honour – and what a responsibility, to make sure I'm not the last. For the young child sitting in school and wondering what their future might look like, I want to say to them: It can look like this. Because we all share this world. We all play a part in shaping it. And we all deserve a say in its future.”
Shah is also a member of the ICE Fairness, Inclusion, and Respect Committee and was the co-chair of ICE London and the South East Diversity Task Force. She plays a leading role in the field and has been commended for her contributions having won several awards, including the Top 50 UK Women Engineers Sustainability Award in 2020 and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association For Inspiring Engineers Award 2019.
Shah’s also a non-executive director at the Met Office, UK, and a former Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) visiting professor at King’s College London on climate adaptation, sustainability and inclusive design. She is also a trustee of the Green Alliance.
In 2021, the University of Wolverhampton gave her an honorary professorship for knowledge transfer and the University of East London gave her a doctorate for her services to climate change in engineering.
Professor Shah is also a visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh and has been invited for lectures at Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership at the University of Cambridge. She specialises in water and environmental engineering with over 22 years’ experience in designing, managing and leading projects and programmes in the UK and internationally. Anusha is a past chair of the Thames Estuary Partnership Board (2017-20).