islamabad - A book ‘The Making of an Expert Engineer’ claims to have solutions to longstanding problems of Pakistan including energy shortage that, it explains, stems from engineering knowledge gaps.

The book authored by Professor James Trevelyan, who teaches at University of Western Australia, was launched yesterday. It presents the answers to critical questions faced by Pakistan, based on the 15 year research by Mr. Trevelyan and his colleagues. The questions include high end-user costs and disappointing returns for investors, aid programmes, persistence of electricity loadshedding despite the government’s efforts and high cost of drinking water. Speaking at the launch, Professor Trevelyan said that non-availability of water to the villagers of Thanda Pani, a place located just 20-km away from Islamabad, frustrated him just like all engineers in Pakistan. 

So, his students and colleagues started systematically observing engineers in Pakistan, Australia and other countries. Trevelyan said that they found that the answers lie in the deep social barriers that inhibit effective collaboration and knowledge-sharing among engineers, labourers, clients and investors.

He said power cuts and other major problems in Pakistan today are directly related to engineering knowledge gaps, adding supply of water and energy is the business of engineers.

“A myth that reverberates through engineering schools is that the job of engineers is to solve technical problems. No! Research shows that good engineers, expert engineers, use engineering science to avoid problems. Having solved a technical problem shows that someone has failed to avoid it,” he added.

He said organising technical collaboration and knowledge-sharing among everyone in the engineering enterprise - investors, government, regulators, engineers, contractors, suppliers, skilled and unskilled labour and end-users -  is essential for delivering real results but it is neither taught nor recognised in engineering until now. “That’s why this book focuses on this critical part that has not been recognised, yet consumes at least 60 per cent, and more often up to 90 per cent of what engineers do, every day.”

In the book, he explains technical collaboration is so much difficult because of the deep social divisions among all the people involved including investors, engineers, labourers and end-users. “Because silence and mistrust reign supreme and knowledge is withheld and not shared,” he added.

Other factors that contribute to the longstanding issues include: a few local and knowledgeable specialist engineering supplier representatives, weak procedures and systematic organisation to choreograph collaboration, and myths about labour costs. The professor asserted, “Pakistani labour is not cheap but it is very, very expensive when you take productivity into account.”

The book also presents comprehensive learning material for young engineers, and compelling evidence that they could earn rich rewards for themselves and their employers.

Engineering solutions for loadshedding, clean water, sustainable energy supplies and sanitation in Pakistan are all within reach, provided engineers can learn the skills described in this book, the professor claimed.

The author said knowledge presented in this book is relevant for engineers everywhere and not just in Pakistan.  However, there are insights in this book that provide powerful explanations for continuing poverty in low income countries.

Speaking on the occasion, Australian Deputy High Commissioner HiJurek Juszczyk said the book will not only benefit engineers individually but the whole Pakistani economy.

Engineering covers all the spectrums of human living and can’t be separated from human life, said Gulfraz Ahmad, former secretary petroleum. “It’s a bridge between science and its usefulness that can end human misery and this book is a first step towards that goal.”

Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme, Marvi Memon said the book can have many cheap engineering solutions for 5.2 million poor enrolled with the programme. She suggested all policymakers to read the book. She invited all engineers to come up with solutions to improve the livelihood of the poor.  

At the end, to demonstrate one of the many answers for Pakistan’s challenges, Trevelyan exhibited his latest invention: a low power consumption air conditioner designed specifically for Pakistan. Using only 300 watts, it reduces the typical monthly bill for an air conditioner from about Rs 9,000 to around Rs 1,200.

There’s no installation, no consumables, and virtually no maintenance and it runs on a UPS through power interruptions, he said.

That makes air-conditioning affordable for so many people in Pakistan, he said. “one day it will be affordable for everyone who wants it,” he hoped.