Kategorie: Alumni & Community

IGCS Winter & Summer School 2021 Alumni Testimonial

-By Purnanjali Chandra

The water sector has always been intriguing, which eventually brought me to the Winter and later the Summer Schools in 2021 under the Indo-German Center for Sustainability (IGCS). Furthermore, having a postgraduate specialization in Water Policy and Governance from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, the courses at the IGCS added great value to my holistic and sub-sectoral understanding of the domain. It exposed me to discourses on inland water transportation (IWT), the complexities of converging ecosystems such as estuaries and mangroves formed due to saltwater-freshwater intrusion, their impacts on communities, and the challenges around ensuring sustainability and better governance. 

The design of the courses during both the schools was optimized to enable the best imparting of knowledge in a virtual medium. A comparative narrative through case studies and scenario analysis has been a key component of the learning modules. Speakers from both India and Germany shared their expertise on various topics under IWT and saltwater – freshwater ecosystem across both schools. They spoke about the sustainable practices, the evolving nature of research and the models that have been designed, such as under the Federal Institute of Hydrology, Germany, to detect the chain of deteriorating climate change impacts on the IWT sector. Furthermore, extensive panel discussions followed these lecture sessions, which created a vivacious space for exchanging ideas and knowledge among panellists and school participants. The discussions underlined the developments, challenges and potential scopes for both countries to learn from one another. Through these varieties of sessions, the learning hours were mindfully mapped to allow us to know and process and absorb the information shared. During both the schools, the courses were designed with an interdisciplinary approach where science, society and policies were extensively discussed, such as during lectures on IWT, Indian and German environmental policies were analyzed besides technology while in lectures on saltwater-freshwater intrusion, the importance of community participation in ecosystem management were highlighted. These lectures and concepts made the most relevant sense to me during the “working group” sessions. These being intensively peer-driven gave us enough space to research and explored different facets of the topic chosen for the school. 

Besides academics, a great part of the schools was the intercultural sessions on Zoom. Even during this pandemic, the session remarkably provided a great platform for making new friends and interacting with people of diverse cultures from different parts of the world.

Figure 1. Breakout rooms during Intercultural sessions

Additionally, the Wonderme sessions during the summer school enhanced this experience for me. It served more like a virtual “out of classroom” interaction space for us. We were also given weekend activities that we showcased in the initial hours of the school on Mondays, which certainly helped us beat the Monday blues!! Even the student lectures designed as a part of the school accentuated the culture of peer-learning where students got the opportunity to present their research work and drive interesting discussions and exchange of ideas.

Figure 2. IGCS Group Winter School 2021

Every day of the two weeks spent virtually during both summer and winter schools had been an enriching experience for me. It was a vibrant space of constant learning and unlearning of aspects of the water sector with people of diverse capacities and interests. The working group culture was also one of the key motivations for my application. The opportunity to learn about a subject in detail and then present the same through teamwork and guidance of supervisors indeed felt quite rewarding to me. Last but not least, IGCS and its schools provided me with immense scopes of networking and helped me plan for my higher education. 

IGCS Postdoc Dr. Christoph Woiwode organizes Covid-19 Emergency Relief in Chennai

We are currently facing unprecedented suffering, pain, and loss in many parts of India across innumerable hospitals and in people’s homes. What goes rather unnoticed at the moment is the impact on food and nutrition, especially for the deprived communities such as the shelterless, slum dwellers, migrant workers, and, of course, children. This is even aggravated when families have lost their main breadwinner.

IGCS Postdoc Dr. Christoph Woiwode has initiated an emergency relief for such communities in Chennai and other parts of India. This is an initiative leveraging personal contacts through well-established connections to several organizations on the ground to ensure money is used sensibly and for its intended purpose.

Dr. Woiwode has been in touch with the Information and Research Centre for Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), a local organization in Chennai, for the past two years which works for the rights of the slum, squatter, and shelterless people. This is an NGO that is rooted in the slums and highly committed. Last year he also initiated an in-kind collection of toys, books, stationery, and clothes for children of a huge slum resettlement housing complex near his home.

Commenting on his initiative, Dr. Woiwode says: ” The second wave in India is even more devastating for the poor who have not been able to recover from last year’s impacts. Only recently I again received a call for donations from them.” (images below)

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Dr. Woiwode is now organizing an international call for support to these and other deprived people such as migrants, shelterless, and slum dwellers in Chennai.

“At this stage, we intend to provide immediate emergency relief (food and other daily needs). I will be personally involved in the execution and implementation of the emergency activities with IRCDUC to ensure funds reach the intended beneficiaries,” he says.

Beyond this, his team is planning two additional, more mid-term activities. First, to use the donations to set up a Livelihoods Relief Fund to provide seed funding for small self-employed enterprises to get back into business whenever possible, or to establish a new income-generating activity. Second, develop a mid-term food strategy. He says, “Food insecurity, shortages, and malnutrition have dramatically increased as people lost their already precarious, informal, employment. This is directed to move from immediate relief to mid-/long-term food security.”

If you wish to support the cause through financial donations please refer to the bank details below. This is a personal call and not made via a large organization. Hence donations are based on trust and can be done to Dr. Christoph Woiwode’s personal accounts. To be updated and informed about the ongoing work after making donations, you can kindly drop an email to woiwode@igcs-chennai.org.

Bank Details:

Please state purpose: CHENNAI COVID-19 RELIEF

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(Note: German and EU tax law does generally not allow for tax reclamation of donations to organizations in countries like the USA, Canada, and African, Latin American and Asian countries)

For international, secure transactions especially from outside the EU or from EU countries directly into the Indian account, it is recommend using www.wise.com

Read more on Dr. Woiwode’s work published by Indien Aktuell

IGCS WINTER SCHOOL 2021

The past year has been a difficult time for everyone around the world because of the ongoing pandemic. During this time, among many other things, education came to a standstill. I was one of the many who found themselves in this whirlwind. The world took some time to catch up, but eventually, it got there. Online learning became a global phenomenon. With all things functioning over the internet, the education sector found a comfortable niche as well. Slowly scientific lectures, seminars, and conferences being held on online platforms became the new normal. During this time, at the beginning of the winter semester last year, I discovered this IGCS winter school 2021 through the department of hydrology at Kiel University, Germany, where I am enrolled in the Environmental Management Master’s program. My affinity towards the winter school’s topic of “Sustainable Inland Waterway Transportation” (IWT) for a Blue Economy comes as no surprise as I was born very close to the sea. I hail from Mumbai, a major port city on the western coast of India and a city that never sleeps, especially when it comes to trade via the waterways. I browsed through the IGCS website to see what I was signing up for before sending in my application, and I fell in love with their winter and summer schools concept. I saw that they had recently held a summer school online, which was a total success considering the times it was held in. This school’s multicultural and interdisciplinary approach put a nail in my decision to attend this Winter School.

I applied for the school in late December 2020 and received the acceptance email in mid-January. The school took place from the 22nd of February 2021 to the 5th of March 2021. This Winter School attempted to look into the developmental initiatives, issues, and challenges, improving IWT infrastructure and operations to further strengthen the IWT sector. It brought together about 30 international students from the Indian and German academic institutions who jointly and interactively developed their skills with respect, for instance, to understand the systemic nature of IWT activities, identifying the challenges and issues in IWT – special reference to channel maintenance and navigation, recognizing sustainability issues associated with IWT transport – Strengthening public-private partnership, understanding the systemic nature of urban transport activities, and developing ideas on ‘smart technology’ solutions.

On the first day of the Winter School, we had an introductory session where the whole IGCS organizing team from both sides – German and Indian, introduced themselves. The center coordinators started with their brief introduction, and then the focus area coordinators took the stage to introduce themselves. The event coordinators from RWTH Aachen and Kiel University gave us a warm welcome talk. This whole session marked the beginning of the IGCS Winter School 2021. The IGCS video was played to the entire group. We, the participants, then moved on, introducing ourselves to the whole group. We took our conversations to a chat-based platform thereafter, where we had the freedom to express more informally. I think this helped everyone gel better with the whole group and for everyone to feel at ease. On the second day, in the afternoon session, we had intercultural activities planned for us by the organizing team that included breakout rooms where students from both sides got to chat and bond a bit in smaller groups. We also indulged in an intercultural quiz and survey (on the platform called “menti-meter”), which helped us bond better in a more formal setting.

The Winter School lasted for 2 weeks and was majorly divided into 3 segments. The first segment included seminars and lectures from professionals from this domain. We had 11 different speakers who spoke about various aspects of the IWT sector throughout the school.  They talked about the scientific aspect with regards to IWT, how it affects the surrounding ecosystems, what measures can be taken to mitigate climate change from a government point of view, and the different technological advancements that are used and that can be implemented soon for IWT’s smooth functioning. The second segment was made up of panel discussions. There were 3 of them during the Winter School that included different panelists with different backgrounds that brought a unique perspective to the panel discussions. I thoroughly enjoyed the panel discussion where we spoke about the impact of the recently ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the Blue Economy. The third segment of the Winter School was the working group/group project. The outcome of which was to make a presentation of our findings at the end of the school. The participants were divided into 6 working groups. Each group was assigned with one supervisor who would guide the group during the 5 group sessions that were allotted. Each group had about 4-5 group members. On the last day of the Winter School, each working group had to present their findings in the form of a presentation, which should have lasted for roughly about 20-30 minutes. The audience had a chance to question the working group after their production as well. After all the presentations on the last day of the Winter School, we had the last feedback. The final remarks were given by the IGCS Winter School organizing team.

Topic Slide of my Group’s Presentation

I enjoyed many activities throughout this Winter school. Mainly, the one activity that I have never come across in any other schools that I have been a part of, and I would see more of it in future schools, is the weekend activity session of making videos. As part of this activity, we were asked to make videos of our surrounding areas, especially water bodies and the activities in them. As a secondary part, we were also asked to capture the cultural aspects observed in our surroundings, which brings out the intercultural aspect of this IGCS Winter School when shown to the whole groups.

A still from the video portraying Kiel Canal in the background

The format of this digital school was well planned and very well executed. The duration of the school was perfect, in my opinion, to achieve the right depth in the topic of the school – not too deep to be a narrowed study/domain topic, and not too shallow to be a one-off seminar talk. I am not only going to give positive recommendations to fellow students who plan to attend future IGCS schools but also going to convince a lot of them to take it up as a good experience in the first place. It is not every day that a chance like this comes in hand to be part of a school with such an intercultural and an interdisciplinary approach deeply rooted to the core. A student attending a school like this, especially during these times, is surely going to have a lot of learning coupled with fun and interactive sessions that would make the time invested in it.

Despite the physical restrictions, the Winter School was a success. It allowed participants to gain an international experience without stepping a foot out in the real world. In addition to its multicultural working environment, the Winter School presented a different challenge of understanding the novelty of online learning in interdisciplinary collaboration. Overall, the Winter School presented an exciting model of how digital communication platforms can interact and reach people beyond what was possible through conventional means. A lot of learning has been done on both sides throughout this school. It leaves a lot of dwelling upon for the participants and the organizers to take away from this school. I had a great time being part of this IGCS event, and I will take part in the next one. In all honestly, I would like to take advantage of the opportunities that the IGCS has laid out for us. A big thank you to the entire IGCS Winter School 2021 organizing team and everyone from IIT Madras, RWTH Aachen University, and Kiel University. They were part of it in making this event a huge success. A special thanks to the funding institute German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) through its program ‘A new Passage to India,’ without whose help this event would not have been made possible.

Group Photo taken on the last day of the Winter School

Anthony Noronha