| 03 June 2024

World Environment Day: generation restoration and environmental engineering 

Ahead of World Environment Day on Wednesday 5 June, we spoke to Engineers Australia’s Environmental College Chair Kala Senathirajah FIEAust CPEng NER about its importance. 

World Environment Day serves as a platform to raise awareness about environmental issues and reminds us of the interconnectedness of the Earth’s health, our wellbeing and our shared responsibility to protect the planet.  

Kala says “as an environmental engineer, I feel the urgency of our current situation. We must set and meet ambitious non-negotiable targets. 

“Four areas that I strive to contribute to are people and public health [safe and affordable water and reduction of emerging contaminants], the planet, climate change and sustainability [building resilience as we face unprecedented changes] and partnerships. We need more STEM in all aspects, which directly helps to alleviate disparity and increase prosperity and achieve equality,” Kala explains. 

Kala’s journey into environmental engineering was sparked by global environmental challenges like Amazon deforestation and the ozone layer hole. Inspired by the collective efforts to address these, it set her on a clear path into environmental engineering. 

“Water, essential for survival, became my career focus,” Kala says. Kala has had a diverse career, working across the water supply cycle and spanning all aspects of the asset management cycle.   

“I have had the privilege to work in the private sector, academia, semi-government, government and NGOs,” she says. Kala’s experience is a testament to the diversity of roles within environmental engineering, which spans sectors such as water, sustainability, mine rehabilitation, waste management, recycling, energy, built environment, coastal and marine. 

This year’s World Environment Day theme is ‘generation restoration’, which highlights the need for urgent action to heal the Earth. It involves healing, repairing and returning an ecosystem to its former undisturbed state and preserving its original functions and structure.  

Kala says “restoration is our collective effort to heal the wounds inflicted upon our environment, ensuring a more sustainable and harmonious coexistence with nature.  

“The results of restorative efforts cannot be visible overnight, which is encapsulated in the generation restoration theme. We need to start now and be the generation that effects positive change,” Kala affirms. 

Kala believes even seemingly small steps can be built upon or accumulate into powerful change. "We are all part of generation restoration," she says.  

For aspiring environmental engineers, Kala offers this advice: “You’re not just solving problems; you’re safeguarding our planet for future generations.  

“Environmental engineering offers a chance to make a tangible impact. A holistic approach addressing root causes is necessary and an understanding of interconnected systems is vital,” Kala explains. “Solutions often lie at the intersection of science, policy, and technology. Given the pressing timeframe, collaboration is essential to address these complex changes.” 

The Environmental College serves as a hub for environmental professionals, fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing, and sustainable practices within the engineering community. 

Want to learn more about how your engineering skills can contribute to addressing climate change? The program for this year’s Climate Smart Engineering Conference (CSE24) has just been announced!