As cities worldwide rely on groundwater for drinking and industrial use, the first joint project will focus on finding ways to monitor toxic contaminants spreading in groundwater.
CRC-CARE is a partnership of five Australian universities and more than 20 companies and government agencies. Managing Director of CRC-CARE Professor Ravi Naidu says: "This is both a scientific opportunity and a business opportunity for Australia and for India.
"We have particular skills in fields such as risk assessment and new remediation technologies. IIT-K is known worldwide for its technological and engineering expertise, and has a number of technologies which we consider will enhance the assessment of contamination," adds Naidu, who is of Indian origin and migrated to Australia from Fiji in 1989.
He says: "The redevelopment of former industrial areas as inner-city residential suburbs, the spread of the urban fringe across old industrial, gasworks, petrol and landfill sites and the urbanisation of former mining and farming sites mean that more and more Indians and Australians are being exposed to past industrial pollution unless the sites are remediated.
"It has to be recognised that disposal of waste can ultimately find its way into subsurface environment thus posing risk to underground water. Depending on the depth of the water table, there is constant danger of groundwater contamination. Given that groundwater is mobile it tends to carry pollutants with it. Remediation of groundwater, therefore, is both technically and financially challenging. We are collaborating with IIT-K to find tools to reduce the cost of assessment and remediation of groundwater contamination."
In Asia, industrial development and resulting contamination is outpacing the need to preserve a clean and healthy environment. This agreement will also offer opportunities for Australian companies specialised in clean-up technologies to take advantage of India's rapid growth market.
An environmental scientist, Naidu says: "It's a case where scientific progress and commercial advantage go hand-in-hand. Companies which join our new Australian Remediation Industry Cluster (ARIC) will not only have early access to powerful new technologies but also to oversee market intelligence arising out of alliances such as this one."
The partnership's second research project will develop a wireless sensor network for detecting and monitoring pollution in either air or water. The agreement entails exchange of staff and students from both organisations as well as joint workshops.