Change agents in Dresden

Change agents in Dresden

TU Dresden has been training environmental experts from developing countries since the days of the GDR. The CIPSEM program celebrates its 45th anniversary this year.

Subha Niranjan talks about his work on the occasion of the anniversary of the CIPSEM program. The international training program in Dresden celebrates its 45th anniversary this year.
©Victor Smolinski

It looks a bit like a big, world-class meeting when environmental experts from around the world gather in the ballroom of the Technical University (TU) Dresden on Tuesday. Among them are graduates and current participants of the CIPSEM continuing education program, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year.

Since the establishment of the “Centre for International Postgraduate Studies in Environmental Management”, more than 2500 participants have attended the courses at TU Dresden. Already at the time of the GDR, environmental issues were discussed on a global scale in the course of CIPSEM in Dresden. Since the program began in 1977, participants from 145 countries have been trained. The aim of the program is for graduates to apply their expertise in their home country in line with the United Nations sustainability goals.

It can be in politics or business, administration, science or in non-governmental organizations. The program is aimed at environmental experts from various disciplines, such as law or engineering.

Excursions in Saxony on energy and waste water issues

One of them is Subha Niranjan from India. She is responsible for sustainable development in a property management company in Bangalore. Last year, she took part in the six-month Foundation Course on Environmental Management in Developing Countries – but only via screen. During the Corona pandemic, classes were held online, which was a challenge due to different time zones and internet access. Nevertheless, she learned to work better, says Niranjan.

This year’s course is once again taking place on site. As a result, course participants also benefit from excursions. In the past, graduates have visited the town of Pirna, for example, which last year received the European Energy Prize for its energy management. A visit to the Federal Environment Agency or the sewage treatment plant in Dresden was also on the agenda, explains course director Anna Görner.

During discussions and group work, the participants exchange their ideas on sustainable development in their country of origin. The aim is to set up a sustainable concept for the post-program period during the course, which the participants can then implement in the target countries. Plans are often set up in such a way that they can be implemented with little financial resources, says Görner. For more expensive projects, alumni can apply for a grant of 2,000 euros.

Ideas from Dresden are implemented worldwide

Subha Niranjan was able to win one of these scholarships. On Tuesday, she presented her project to fellow graduates and current course participants: a rainwater harvesting system at a school in Bangalore. “The only source of water at the school was the water tanks,” says Niranjan.

To reduce reliance on expensive water purchases, she developed a system at CIPSEM that collects rainwater, filters it and channels it from storage tanks to taps. She implemented her plan with the students after bringing them closer to the topic of water recycling through group work and field trips. “Today, the students run the system themselves,” says Niranjan.

The starting point for the start of CIPSEM in the 1970s was the environmental program of the United Nations and UNESCO. The courses in Dresden were the GDR government’s contribution to the program. Even then, course participants came to the socialist GDR from all over the world, including from capitalist countries like Mexico, says Anna Görner.

Subha Niranjan studies the water cycle in her school with students from Bangalore.  The sustainability expert developed a rainwater harvesting system as part of the CIPSEM course in Dresden, which she implemented together with the students.

Subha Niranjan studies the water cycle in her school with students from Bangalore. The sustainability expert developed a rainwater harvesting system as part of the CIPSEM course in Dresden, which she implemented together with the students.
© Subha Niranjan

The program offers four courses per year

The exchange with experts from the Global South continued after the reunification of Germany. Since then, three special courses per year have been added to the six-month long course for up to 84 participants. CIPSEM coordinates the evolution of priorities with UNESCO and the United Nations Environment Programme. This year, for example, there will be a course on sustainable cities, on consumption and production, and on nature-based solutions in cities and municipalities.

Stephan Contius, Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the Federal Ministry of the Environment, thanked CIPSEM for its work. “The program is successful because you reach many regions in many countries,” he said on Tuesday. “Change agents” are needed to achieve sustainability goals.

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