First British Indian President of Institution of Civil Engineers sets nature-positive course
Professor Anusha Shah took charge as the 159th President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) this week, making a mark in the institution’s 205-year history as not only the first chief but also the first from an ethnic minority background.
ICE is an independent professional association for civil engineers and a charitable body in the UK representing 95,000 members. As its new President, Shah set the course for her tenure with a presidential address in which she spelt out a and people positive approach as her focus.
Shah said: “My presidential year will be about how we become a nature and people-positive profession at heart.
“We have failed to understand the interrelationship between infrastructure and nature. We are implementing nature-based and solutions globally, but in pockets. It’s not the norm yet."
Shah also encouraged ICE members to collaborate internationally and across : "I want to bring the global north and global south closer together. I want us to learn from indigenous populations, who’ve drawn resilience from nature for centuries.
"And I want the governance, planning, and strategic thinking in wealthier nations to be available for the benefit of all."
Anusha Shah is a Senior Director for Resilient Cities and the UK Climate Adaptation lead at Arcadis. She is currently seconded to Effiage, Kier, Ferrovial and BAM Nuttall joint venture on the UK’s High Speed 2 railway project, as Senior Director of Environmental Consents.
Shah also serves as a non-executive director at the Met Office UK, and is a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at on climate adaptation, sustainability and inclusive design. 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.
She told students at the time: “There's absolutely nothing you can't achieve if you set your mind to it and drive your life with the right values.”
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Shah is a visiting professor at the 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.
Growing up in Kashmir in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, she was fascinated by the natural surroundings and their interaction with the built-up elements from an early age. It was at the age of 23 that Shah discovered a consultancy in working on the conservation of the Dal Lake in Kashmir and turned up at their office to talk her way into a consulting project engineer's role.
She went on to become one of only two candidates to win a prestigious Commonwealth scholarship in 1999 and came to the UK to pursue an MSc in Water & Environmental Engineering at the University of Surrey.
While initially wanting to pursue a career in architecture, failing the drawing part of the exam set her on a civil path.
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"I'm so pleased I failed. I would never have discovered the wonderful civil engineering profession at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. People have wrong perceptions about civil . It's not just about construction, it's about everything around us. Land. Water. Transport. Buildings. Communities. Environment. The entire system."