History of ASCE India Section
The journey of American Society of Civil Engineers India Section (ASCE-IS) began in the year 1988 when eight bright Civil Engineers from Calcutta formed the American Society of Civil Engineers – India International Group (ASCE-IIG) to spread the message of ASCE across India.
The group was led by Dr. Anil Krishna Kar with active support from other ASCE members, Dr. Debasish Kumar Roy, Mr. Chira Ranjan Datta, Mr. Deb Kumar Sur, Mr. Adhir Kumar Sarkar, Prof. Patha Sarathi Banerjee, and two others. Most of these Engineers, by virtue of their education and exposure (particularly of Dr. Anil K Kar) to ASCE activities in the United States, were well versed with the basic ideas and goals for which ASCE stood for. This definitely gave them an edge over others to form such a group and move forward. This group of Civil Engineers thus became the founder members of ASCE-IIG. Dr. A K Kar was the first President of ASCE-IIG, and other officers were Dr. D K Roy as Vice-President, Mr. C R Datta as Secretary, and Mr. D K Sur as Treasurer.
The Group became very proactive by taking a lead role in organizing technical activities and taking positions on topical issues which could have positive impact on the society. The good work was recognized by ASCE and within a year of its formation, ASCE – India International Group was upgraded to an “International Section”. The society was then renamed “ASCE-India Section” in 1989. The upgradation was a reflection of creditable work that was performed by the ASCE-IIG.
The first technical event was organized by ASCE-IS at the R N Mukherjee Hall of The Institution of Engineers (India). The 2-day event on earthquake and earthquake resistant structures was very well organized and it was a total success. At that time, the event attracted more than 300 professionals, who stayed till the very end of the event to make this a grand success. The programs of ASCE-IS attracted many civil engineers in and around Calcutta, who effectively contributed to the success of technical programs. A keen interest among civil engineers could be developed for becoming members of ASCE, even though at that time the membership dues were considered by some individuals to be too high in comparison to their earnings.
Strong social commitments of ASCE-IS was reflected in its activities. In the early nineties, Calcutta experienced collapses of a couple of high rise buildings in quick succession within its Municipal Area. ASCE-IS was quick to respond and organized a few press meets to identify and discuss the reasons behind such building collapses. Afterwards, an Engineers’ delegation also met the concerned officials of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) with their recommendations so that in future such unfortunate incidences could be avoided. This later translated into significant changes in requirements for documents which were required to be submitted for approval of building plans from the CMC, which now includes detailed soil test reports, structural design calculations, etc., amongst other mandatory documents.
Eventually, ASCE-IS started publishing their printed newsletter and used to get them out to the members by post. A bi-monthly technical magazine cum newsletter was published that had contributions from both India and aboard. Technical events kept the members informed about the happenings within the Section. The name of “American Society of Civil Engineers” became a familiar name to practicing civil engineers.
ASCE-IS hosted it first ever visit by ASCE President when Dr. Delon Hampton, Ph.D, P.E., visited the ASCE-IS in Calcutta in 2000, accompanied by the then Executive Director of ASCE. The activities of ASCE-IS encouraged a President and an Executive Director of ASCE as well as several International Directors to visit ASCE-IS in Calcutta. Two of the International Directors, who visited us, later became Presidents of ASCE. Subsequently, a number of Executive Directors of ASCE visited this Section. During this time, ASCE-IS was adjudged the “Best International Section” of ASCE quite a few times. ASCE-IS kept up its good work in publishing the bi-monthly magazine, arranging monthly technical meetings, presentations, annual conferences, and occasional press meetings on contemporary issues. Besides helping civil engineers gain continuing education, the program of ASCE-IS served to educate the society at large.
The founding members of ASCE-IS, being all from Calcutta (now also known as Kolkata), the programs of ASCE-IS were mostly based in Calcutta. However, many civil engineers from other cities and states of India regularly contributed technical articles for publication in the bi-monthly magazine. Some engineers from distant places in India and abroad also participated in the annual seminars and monthly meetings.
To spread the activities of ASCE all over India and to discuss certain other policy matters, the current ASCE President Ms. Kathy Caldwell, P.E., F.ASCE, visited India from 31st May 2011 to 4th June 2011. She was accompanied by Mr. Patrick Natale, P.E., M.ASCE, Executive Director and Mrs. Meggan Maughan-Brown, Director of International Relations and Strategic Planning. A meeting was held with the ASCE-IS Interim Executive Committee in Kolkata. The Presidential delegation met the leadership of The Institution of Engineers (India) to sign a bilateral agreement of mutual cooperation. This was followed by a Round Table Conference in New Delhi with ASCE members from different parts of India.
ASCE-IS is divided into four Regions (East, West, North, and South) which operate under a central body of ASCE-IS which has representations from all these four Regions. A revised Constitution and Bylaws are being drafted for ASCE-IS. This interim arrangement has been proposed till the governing documents are final and election is held. The details of the Presidential Visit, issues discussed and agreed upon can be found in the ASCE-IS e-Newsletter, Issue 2, June 2011