Category: Alumni & Community

Alena ̶ IGCS Winter School 2022 Student Mini-Lecture Presenter Testimony

The IGCS Winter and Summer schools have open platforms for our participants to engage in peer learning. During our Student Mini-Lecture series, selected participants present their research project, area of expertise and recent findings.

Alena Spies (RWTH Aachen University) proves a testimonial from their presentation during the Student Mini-Lecture series:

In order to transform our current linear economic system into a circular economy, material flows that were previously declared as waste must be recognized and made usable as raw materials. The project EnEWA (saving energy in paper production by opening up the value chains of waste paper from lightweight packaging, residual waste, and commercial waste) addresses this issue precisely. Paper from mixed waste streams is currently mainly used for energy recovery.

The main reason why the paper is not used for material recovery is its contamination. The Chair of Anthropogenic Material Cycles (ANTS) at RWTH Aachen University is researching a solution. Project partners are the Chair of International Production Engineering and Management (IPEM) at the University of Siegen and the industrial partners Tomra Sorting GmbH, STADLER Anlagenbau GmbH and PROPAKMA GmbH as well as the paper producer LEIPA Group GmbH. The project EnEWA is dealing with the collection and the recovery of paper from mixed waste streams as well as the processes for recycling the paper fibers. Following an analysis of the recovered paper grades and paper composites, the necessary sorting technology will be developed and adapted. Subsequently, a process for the hygenization and preparation of the paper fibers will be designed. The application-oriented research helps to optimize the recycling of paper and gives an essential contribution to closing the loops in terms of a circular economy. The material characterization is essential for the development of all further process steps and therefore the necessary first step. The first results of the characterization of paper from lightweight packaging waste show that more than 45 % of the wastepaper could have disposed of in a separate paper collection system.

Gillian ̶ IGCS Winter School 2022 Alumni Testimonial

The IGCS Winter School 2022 began online on the 21st of February, and it took place entirely digitally. It was a great opportunity to participate in this Winter School, particularly with the topics Sustainable Waste Management for a Circular Economy. The school participants were a mix of students from Indian and German Universities. There were so many varied educational backgrounds of the students from Environmental sciences, engineering, sciences and even media informatics. The diverse fields of study and interests offered a very informative exchange of ideas, thoughts, and processes. 

The IGCS Winter School allowed me to dive deep into solid waste management systems, particularly in Germany and India. Its many facets to a circular economy. The two-week school had three main parts – Lectures, Panel discussions and Group Work. The sessions included 13 lectures and three panel discussions with experts from many fields in Solid Waste Management. The 3rd Panel discussion had the school participants lead the discussion topics that were decided on by a poll. Another unique feature of the school was the nine mini-lectures from fellow students participants, each with interesting research work and subjects from varied backgrounds. This was an exciting and informative addition to the school. The final part with which the school culminated was the 7 Group projects that covered a multitude of topics relevant to the school’s theme. 

The lecture sessions from numerous experts and scholars proved to be very educational and sparked many exciting discussions. As an Indian student studying in Germany, it was eye-opening to know the different types of waste resource management and waste management companies for areas such as energy, textiles etc. The talk on the contribution of solid waste management in the bioeconomy by Prof. Kranert was enlightening. Using bioeconomy to address the issue of solid waste management and the challenges caused by greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental concerns is an innovative solution to realistic and pressing problems faced by the world. The lecture by Dr Speier on the Aviral Project in India, which aims to reduce plastic waste in the Ganga, was fascinating because, being one of India’s biggest and most significant rivers, the challenge is to keep it alive and healthy. Dr Indumathi Nambi’s lecture on Sanitation in a circular economy was very insightful, giving us the ground reality, issues, and solutions. Another lecture I enjoyed was by Prof. Behrendt on the contribution of waste management companies toward Flexible Energy Systems. 

The mini-lectures by students were an exciting way to learn about the research of other school participants. The ones that stood out for me were the lecture on the “Occurrence of microplastics in the lakes” of Chennai by Angel Jessieleena, a PhD student at IIT Madras, and Tina Taylor-Harry, who is a fellow student at CAU Kiel and her project on “Using Compost to Improve Soil Fertility (and as a tool for successful Agricultural Waste Management)”. The project by Nikhilkumar Panchal on “Resource recovery from discarded COVID-19 PPE kit through Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis” was very relevant in our current Covid-19 affected the world and the constant need for testing.

It was also insightful to learn about the different entrepreneurial aspects of solid waste management from the 1st panel discussion, Carbon Loops, by Mrs Rajini Prabhakaran. Carbon Loops, a venture where biodegradable waste is converted into Biogas and compost, thereby reducing waste sent to landfills and helping small farmers stood out for me. Nepra, another startup run by Mr Sandeep Patil, is an Indian waste management company involved in the whole lifecycle of solid waste management – collection, segregation, processing and recycling of local dry waste, including plastic. In the 2nd Panel discussion, the role of plastic upcycling in creating value from waste material and the introduction to different technologies to extract raw materials from plastic was very informative. The 3rd panel, which was participant-led, was indeed a very interactive session and something I found very motivating—knowing that there is so much knowledge and interesting viewpoints and solution-based approaches was very inspiring. I think the panel led by Dr Gabriela- Garcés and Dr Daniel Rosado achieved its purpose – for students to become active learners and develop leadership skills and critical thinking. 

Group projects were the highlight of the winter school, as the seven topics were very relevant and varied and covered almost the whole spectrum of waste management. We were given the option to rank our first two choices in the research topics and were then assigned a group on that preference. I was selected to be a part of Group Project 4: Public-Private Partnerships in Waste Management. We were mentored by Prof. Ashwin Mahalingam and Dr Christoph Woiwode. We, as a group of 6 from Germany and India, had to understand the advantages and disadvantages of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), study the experiences of cities across the world in using PPPs for waste management, and understand what models have worked, what models have failed, and what are the critical success factors in this domain and determine the appropriateness of various PPP models for the waste management. We decided to use case studies of PPP waste management models from Mallorca, Colombia, Bulgaria, Pune and Saharanpur in our presentation to see whether PPPs are an effective model in waste management. We concluded that PPPs are suitable for solid waste management, mainly if they include recyclers or vulnerable communities. They are needed due to the lack of capacity of Municipalities to deal with waste. They can contribute with the capital and technology necessary to provide technical processes, build infrastructure, alleviate the administrative burden from municipalities, etc. 

I researched solid waste management in the city of Pune, India. I was very impressed with their model. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) entered into a PPP with SWaCH – Solid Waste Collection and Handling, India’s first cooperative wholly owned by waste pickers. Some of the impacts of this PPP are that around 3500 Waste pickers have been integrated into the system with health and welfare protections, 60 metric tonnes of recycled waste have been diverted from landfills every day, and there have been savings of INR 900M (USD 12.5M) per year for PMC,  etc. The model offers sustainable and efficient daily waste collection services to residents while improving the livelihoods of waste collectors within the city. It should be expanded and standardized throughout the city and across other cities in India to multiply its effects. 

During the research work and discussions for our project, we learned about each other’s educational and cultural backgrounds. It was an enriching experience to learn from each other’s varied backgrounds and knowledge. One of the key takeaways from our group work was that we knew that the problem of solid waste management is very real over the world. However, they may be different issues that need addressing collectively and immediately. I also found that we are all united in our concerns for the environment and want to make a difference in any way we can for a better tomorrow. 

One fun activity over the weekend was the video project. We were all tasked with making a short 2-3 minute video over the weekend related to waste management. I enjoyed this very much because I had the chance to involve my daughters Tara and Leela in the video. They had a blast with the whole process of filming and, of course, learning about our neighbourhood waste management.

I would also like to mention the WonderMe app, where we could stop by virtually for a coffee with other participants and experts from the lecture session and panels. I wish we could have had more time for networking and sharing our experiences. This is one of the areas I would think that an in-person school would capture better. 

The very purpose of the IGCS Winter School – is “ engage students from different disciplines to learn and share techniques and methods, which they may apply in their research at their respective institutions in India and Germany.” and “..provide a unique opportunity to interact with invited international experts in their fields, especially from India and Germany, who share their knowledge and expertise in an exclusive environment.” was more than achieved and very successfully at that. Even though the entire format had to be changed and moved online, I honestly never felt the lack of anything. The experience was exceptional, as was the management and planning. The entire program was executed without any hiccups. It was indeed a seamless experience, and for that, I thank the IGCS team.

I have come away from this two week IGCS Winter School with more clarity and direction. It has given me the basis for my master’s thesis, which I have been struggling with. I am also really appreciative of all the support afforded by the IGCS team. 

I would recommend applying for an IGCS Winter or Summer School. They also have many options, such as applying for a research stay or an associated scholarship in your field of interest. The possibilities are endless and all within reach. The two week Winter School has helped me absorb so much knowledge and insight. I have already begun working on my way forward, hoping for more interactions with IGCS Schools and programs.

The two week Winter School has helped me absorb so much knowledge and insight. I have come away from this two week IGCS Winter School with more clarity and direction. It has given me the basis for my master’s thesis, which I have been struggling with.

Gillian Valerie Esther Woodman,
M.Sc Environmental Management, Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel (CAU)

IGCS Scholarship Grantee Testimonial – Veronika Fendel

I was in South India for two months, conducting research for my doctoral degree. I carried out surveys with farmers, workers, and plant managers at the Nilgiris Mountains in Tamil Nadu and Bangalore in Karnataka. 

While the preparations were longer than usual due to the global pandemic, I was fortunate to receive an opportunity to travel to India. My visa caused some problems, and I received them just in time even though I applied early. Thus, I recommend applying at least two months in advance or simply driving straight to the consulate instead of sending the application by post.

On arrival, I booked a hotel and made other logistical decisions based on recommendations or the hosts. Personally, I would recommend the Liwa Hotel near the airport and the Agricultural University in Bangalore for accommodation. It is both excellent and inexpensive, and the breakfast is delicious.

I worked with the local organizations who supported me immensely through my research. None of this would have been possible and easy without their support and hospitality. Each time I was given a lot of tea with even more sugar and not allowed to leave until I had a minimum of biscuits. The interviews with the farmers and plant managers, which were documented with the help of local translators, turned out to be incredibly useful. Even though things were busier than my regular schedule in Germany,  I learned to be more relaxed, like the locals I worked with, and in the end, all my goals were achieved.

My experience was a bit chaotic, but it can be the perfect place combined with the colleagues’ support, hospitality, and open-mindedness. The food was, of course, excellent and spicy. Public transportation was cheap and comfortable because of buses, trains, and Uber. As a woman travelling alone, I always felt comfortable venturing into South India. I would recommend travelling during the day and confirming all logistics during long travels. I also noticed that the personal space seemed smaller than I am used to at home. It was a bit strange at first, but I grew normalcy to this different approach after a while and found it pleasant and comforting.

This was my fourth stay in India. It solidifies my previous impression that there is more to see every time; one is always surprised. It was an excellent opportunity to do local research and meet all the inspiring people and places, and I highly recommend it. In summary, it was a very enriching stay, both personally and professionally.

For more information on IGCS scholarship opportunities visit our webpage.

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)


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

Bank Details:

Please state purpose: CHENNAI COVID-19 RELIEF


(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

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


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