Professor Anusha Shah has been elected as the first president of the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) in its 205-year history. In the UK, ICE is a nonprofit organization that represents 95,000 members and is an independent professional association for civil engineers.
Shah took the helm in her new position as the 159th president of the organisation on Tuesday night at ICE's London headquarters with a presidential address focused on the subject of nature-positive civil engineering.
Shah has over 22 years of experience designing, managing, and overseeing projects and programs both domestically and abroad. She specialises in water and environmental engineering.
“My presidential year will be about how we become a nature and people-positive profession at heart,” Shah stated in her speech. “We have failed to understand the interrelationship between infrastructure and nature. We are implementing nature-based and green solutions globally, but in pockets. It’s not the norm yet,” she said.
Professor Shah, who is in her 40s, claims that 30% of the loss of biodiversity worldwide is attributable to the construction industry. However, engineers can stop the environmental decline by embracing a nature- and people-positive approach.
“Not only will we reach net zero faster, we’ll also improve climate resilience and reap multiple benefits for our society and the planet,” she noted.
Shah stated that it was time for civil engineers to do more and have a deeper understanding of the relationship between infrastructure and the natural world in a film that accompanied her speech.
“Building assets which do less harm to our natural world is not good enough anymore. To put it simply, we don’t have an option but to be nature-positive… Our infrastructure needs to interact with nature in a way which is restorative and regenerative, rather than extractive,” she said.
Shah was fascinated by the natural surroundings and how they interacted with the man-made elements when she was a young child growing up in Kashmir. At the age of 23, Shah came across a New Delhi-based consultancy that was involved in the preservation of Kashmir's Dal Lake. She visited their office with the intention of negotiating her way into the position of consulting project engineer.
She later went on to become one of just two recipients of a coveted Commonwealth scholarship in 1999, and she traveled to the UK to enroll in the University of Surrey's MSc program in Water & Environmental Engineering.
“There’s absolutely nothing you can’t achieve if you set your mind to it and drive your life with the right values,” she told students as she accepted her honorary doctorate from the University of East London for her services to climate change in engineering.
She received an honorary professorship for knowledge transfer from the University of Wolverhampton in 2021, the same year. Before becoming a fellow of ICE in 2016, Shah held the distinction of being the youngest and first female chair of the London Region of the Institution of Civil Engineers. She established the climate change consulting firm Plan for Earth two years later with the goal of raising public awareness of the climate emergency.