Nadine El Assar is an environmental engineer and project manager.
What drew you initially to environmental engineering? And after over 20 years of professional experience, what’s motivating you to remain in this field?
In the late 90s, I was studying civil engineering when my attention was drawn to the importance of environmental engineering and its role in improving the quality of the environment by controlling water and air pollution and managing water resources. At the time, the news was that more and more jurisdictions and legislations were being imposed to protect the environment in Egypt. At this point, I decided to pursue a career in environmental engineering by first completing a graduate degree in this specialisation and then joining one of the leading companies in this field.
After 20 years, I believe even more strongly that the environmental engineering field is vital for our future, and there is a lot to be done to conserve natural resources especially as we attempt to cater for the needs of a growing population, while avoiding pollution and ecological damage to the environment and promoting green energy and more sustainable solutions.
How has the field of environmental engineering changed since you began?
Throughout those 20 years, more governmental policies, regulations, and standards have been introduced or updated to cater for the growing changes in this discipline and in order to protect the environment. On the other hand, new design software packages have been developed to improve our knowledge of how infrastructure behaves and our ability to run different scenarios, simulations, and cost analyses and optimise system operations accordingly. It’s an exciting time.
You have worked on a wide variety of projects – from airport expansions, ports, environmental rehabilitation projects, stormwater drainage master plans, infrastructure for major residential developments, university campuses, etc. Tell us a little bit about that.
I have been involved in a wide variety of projects, and I believe every new project has its own challenge, its own appeal, and its own opportunities for creativity and positive impact.
However, stormwater drainage master plans presented one of the greatest challenges I faced, because of unplanned urban sprawl and the associated increase in runoff volumes and water velocities, loss of the attenuation capacities of catchments, increased erosion, wadi encroachments, lack of major infrastructure, and data scarcity. All of these issues render the task of rehabilitating wadis and achieving levels of service and protection for people and properties a major design challenge which requires studying many options, prioritising key areas, and having a global integrated vision. In turn, that needs significant knowledge, experience, and even persuasion and negotiation skills to convince the decision makers of the rightfulness of the proposed budgets and the importance of prioritising environmental considerations in the decision making. This became harder nowadays with budgetary cuts and financial crises.
Still, the success is worth it. I was involved in two projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia related to the Hajj. One was related to designing stormwater channels in Menna to protect the pilgrimage areas. This project safeguarded the Hajj experience for millions of pilgrims. The other project was related to conserving the water quality of the aquifers in Wadi Ibrahim. I always remember these two projects with a lot of pride.
And finally, what would your advice be to a girl thinking of a future in environmental engineering?
I advise any female engineer to pursue her career in Dar as the company has a long-standing history of supporting women to assume leadership positions, become influential, and present positive examples to others. I believe such a future is something women can easily aspire for at Dar, because the work environment nourishes and enhances the abilities of women and is centred around empowerment and equal opportunities.