Bri­ton works to de­fend China from flood­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE | PEOPLE - By WANG MINGJIE in Lon­don wang­mingjie@ mail.chi­nadai­

Wa­ter en­gi­neer Ian Cluckie says that when he first vis­ited China in 1989 he was sur­prised to find he was al­ready fa­mous.

“I was in­vited to give a talk at the Min­istry of Wa­ter Re­sources in a very crowded room,” re­calls Cluckie, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus in the Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing at Swansea Univer­sity, who spe­cial­izes in hy­drol­ogy and wa­ter re­sources.

As soon as he fin­ished his four-hour pre­sen­ta­tion, mem­bers of the au­di­ence in­sisted he sign his name in a well-known Chi­nese book writ­ten by the head of the Yangtze River con­ser­vancy.

He was to learn that the book con­tained many ref­er­ences to his own re­search, which ex­plained the fact that many in the field al­ready knew him.

Since his first visit, Cluckie, who is an ex­pert in weather radar, flood con­trol and wa­ter re­source man­age­ment, has trav­eled to China al­most 70 times.

He has been heav­ily in­volved in build­ing in­sti­tu­tional links and re­search col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween Swansea Univer­sity and many Chi­nese in­sti­tutes. He has su­per­vised PhD stu­dents, chaired in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences and given key­note speeches at many re­search sem­i­nars.

His co­op­er­a­tion with China has been in the area of weather radar de­vel­op­ment and real-time flood fore­cast­ing.

This has fo­cused on the ma­jor river basins of China and in par­tic­u­lar on the Yangtze in the con­text of the Three Gorges Dam.

The main chal­lenge to a flood fore­cast­ing sys­tem in China is the size of the coun­try and the num­ber of rivers. A real-time model of weather and po­ten­tial dam­age has to be done quickly.

“A big flood could po­ten­tially put mil­lions of peo­ple’s lives in dan­ger when it comes,” he says.

Cluckie ob­tained his MSc in wa­ter re­sources tech­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham in 1972, and con­tin­ued his PhD in wa­ter re­sources con­trol en­gi­neer­ing at the same univer­sity.

A Fel­low of the Royal So­ci­ety for Arts and Man­u­fac­tures and of the Royal Academy of En­gi­neer­ing, Cluckie was re­spon­si­ble at Swansea for de­vel­op­ing strate­gic links with China, lead­ing to ma­jor part­ner­ships with a num­ber of Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties and in­sti­tutes.

He has been in­volved with Sun Yat-Sen Univer­sity in

I am pleased to see that en­gi­neer­ing is be­com­ing one of the top pri­or­i­ties for the Chi­nese govern­ment.” Ian Cluckie, Bri­tish en­gi­neer

Guangzhou for the past decade, work­ing on a joint project to de­velop a sys­tem for flood-risk fore­cast­ing on the Pearl River in south­ern China.

“As there are huge de­vel­op­ment ar­eas on the flood plain, the govern­ment is wor­ried about flood­ing get­ting worse,” he says.

“So we have done some de­vel­op­ment work on us­ing weather radar data from the Pearl River basin to protect the city of Guangzhou and ci­ties down­stream like Dong­guan.”

In 2015, Cluckie was awarded the pres­ti­gious Chi­nese Friend­ship Award, the high­est honor given by the Chi­nese govern­ment to for­eign­ers for their con­tri­bu­tions to the coun­try, and later the same year was elected for­eign aca­demi­cian of the Chi­nese Academy of En­gi­neer­ing.

“I am pleased to see that en­gi­neer­ing is be­com­ing one of the top pri­or­i­ties for the Chi­nese govern­ment,” he says.

Cluckie, 67, be­lieves the key rea­son for the hon­ors be­stowed on him is his con­tri­bu­tion to col­lab­o­rat­ing with Chi­nese col­leagues in de­vel­op­ing real-time flood fore­cast­ing, which has re­in­forced links be­tween China and Bri­tain.

When­ever he is in China, Cluckie likes tak­ing time out to visit cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal sites, with the Sun Yat-Sun Me­mo­rial Hall in Guangzhou be­ing his fa­vorite.

He ap­pre­ci­ates Chi­nese food, and reck­ons he is an even greater fan of spicy food than most of his north­ern Chi­nese col­leagues.

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