TUM Mumbai: TUM student interns at the GIZ project "Support to Ganga Rejuvenation" in India
Simon Lutz is studying Environmental Engineering at TUM in his 1st Master’s semester with a specialization on “Environmental Hazards and Resource Management”. For his 6-month internship with GIZ in New Delhi in the “Support to Ganga Rejuvenation” (SGR) project, he took a leave semester.
How did you find out about the internship possibility with GIZ in India?
I came to know about the internship possibility with GIZ in New Delhi through my professor, Mr. Markus Disse, who is heading the Chair of Hydrology and River Basin Management. The offer was forwarded to Prof. Disse via Ms. Hanna Kriebel of the TUM Mumbai office and then circulated by him amongst the students of his Master’s course “Flood Risk and Flood Management”.
What were your tasks as an intern in the GIZ project “Support to Ganga Rejuvenation”?
One important aspect of the SGR project is the Indo-German scientific exchange and the conveyance of practical experiences about the remediation of river basins. To convey this knowledge to those employees of the Indian government, who are responsible for the remediation, the SGR-Team organized several workshops, where German and other European experts shared their knowledge on river basin management. The organization of these workshops was part of my duties, as well as the preparation and the follow-up. This included: Development and implementation of an organizational concept: number of participants, conceptualization of working material, display of info material, moderation of the workshops etc.
- Preparation of the workshop agendas
- Identification of potential interested parties within the Indian government
- Stake-holder and NGO mapping, identification of potential partners and collaborations • Organization of the technical equipment
- Drafting of the final reports, which are important for the follow-up on the decisions and ideas developed in the workshops as well as for the reporting to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
As the SGR project works on the national as well as the federal level, the activities and developments had to be analyzed and the work of the consultants examined and coordinated with the GIZ Delhi office.
Which experiences and knowledge could you gain for your studies during the internship in India?
The internship gave me the possibility to gain an extensive insight into the professional working environment of an engineer. I was very surprised to learn that a huge part of the day-to-day work consists of project management, communication as well as the understanding of governmental structures and the allocation of duties that results from this. Detailed technical knowledge, predominantly taught at the university, served more as profound background knowledge. Therefore, the internship was very useful to rearrange my priorities in choosing courses for my Masters.
What was the most important lesson you learned during your internship in India?
When I started my internship, I was aware of the fact that the remediation of such a vast river system like the one of the Ganges, with 40% of the Indian population living in its catchment area, is an immense task. Nevertheless, I assumed that it is a challenging yet manageable task in the medium term, since the knowledge how to remediate a river is available – especially in Europe and in Germany in particular. I was, however, completely overwhelmed by the complexity of the challenge especially at the beginning of my internship. Slowly, I came to understand just how many different interests exist at the Ganges: from agriculture to industry and tourism, drinking water and then, of course, the religious significance of this holy river. Additionally, the Ganges and his tributaries respectively flow through 11 out of 29 Indian federal states. Each one of them with its own authorities, individual interests and plans. All these circumstances slow down a remediation process extremely, of course. Therefore, the most important lesson I learned during the internship was to be patient and to accept that some processes just take time in India. This holds true for India in general. Patience is a virtue, which the Indians master admirably and which we rushed Europeans should learn from.
What did you appreciate most during your time in India?
My time in India was the most interesting and beautiful international experience I have had so far. The astonishing diversity of the Indian culture is surely unique in the world. I was equally fascinated by the diversity of the landscapes: from the breathtaking mountain scenery of the Himalayas to the heavenly palm beaches in the south, in between jungles, highlands, deserts, marshlands and savannas. I even liked New Delhi as a city to live and work in. Beforehand, I was a bit daunted by the sheer size of the city and the approx. 16 million inhabitants of the metropolitan region of Delhi. However, there is a big and very well-connected expat community in Delhi, where I felt at home straight away. It didn’t matter which challenges of the daily chaos in that city I had to face, I always found someone from the community who knew what to do and who would help willingly. I got to know expats from all over the world. You party together, travel together, help each other to find suitable accommodation and incidentally get to know numerous further cultures on the way.
What will you most definitely not miss?
For me personally, the biggest shortcoming of my time in India was the enormous air and noise pollution of the city. While one can block out or partly avoid the constant noise, nothing can be done against the air pollution. Of course, one can wear respiratory masks, they are, however, not very comfortable and are not suited for physical activities. While shopping, traveling and going out with friends they are disturbing, as well. To go for a run in the park or enjoying a beer outside on a lawn are things that one can’t do or doesn’t want to do in Delhi. And as the development of the infrastructure can’t keep up with the fast population growth, one is nearly always stuck in traffic, exposed to the heat, noise and exhausts. Only in Delhi did I begin to realize just how valuable and important recreational zones like the Isar or the English Garden in Munich are for a city, its environment and its inhabitants.
Do you have any piece of advice on India that you would like to share with future interns and students from TUM?
Don’t be put off by the earlier mentioned conditions and circumstances. When people think of India, and especially New Delhi, they think of dirt, noise, exhausts and poverty (and maybe the Taj Mahal). However, this country has so much more to offer and 6 months are by far not enough to discover and understand this subcontinent. Indians in general are very helpful people and English is quite common. Therefore, communication is unimpeded and in India, there is a solution to nearly every problem. If you commence the journey into this country that is so different from Germany with a good portion of openness and confidence, nothing stands in the way of a unique and memorable experience.