[ASC-media] Media release: Australia facing clean-up shortage

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Thu Aug 17 00:06:19 CEST 2006

CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment

Media Release 06/05

August 17, 2006


Australia needs to train over 1000 new experts in environmental remediation if it is to become an international leader in the "clean society".

A severe shortage of skills in risk assessment, remediation and bio-remediation threatens to hamper the emergence of a billion dollar industry in cleaning up past contaminated sites and preventing future industrial contamination.

The Managing Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), Professor Ravi Naidu says technology is already under development which could make Australian industry the world's cleanest.

"There are some magnificent new approaches and technologies on the way for dealing with problems like heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants.

"But we are desperately short of the people who will deliver this new knowledge to industry and help them to implement it.  At present Australia has to import these skills from the UK and elsewhere."

Environmental risk assessment and remediation is a major new industrial field, using the latest advances in physics, biology and chemistry to lock up, break down or make safe the toxic byproducts of past industrial activity.

"The fact that thirteen of CRC CARE's 24 partners are from industry is a strong indicator of the level of interest and enthusiasm which this new science is generating," Prof. Naidu says. "Also, we have already formed partnerships in places like China, South Korea and Bangladesh, pointing to the huge export potential."

"Besides cleaning up past contamination, the technologies we are working on will turn low-value land into prime urban real estate, help reduce the level of environmental ill-health in the community, and deliver affordable, clean industrial processes that recycle waste.

"The most urgent need is for skilled Australians who can deliver this suite of new clean-up solutions. Market surveys indicate a demand for at least 1000 jobs in this area."
Prof. Naidu said a particular concern was the need for skilled biotechnologists who can deliver biological solutions to contamination.  At present the world biotech market is booming, and Australians are being lured overseas with promises of large salaries and research budgets. 

To address the problem, CRC CARE itself plans to train a total of 75 researchers to PhD level over the next six years, and assist up to 500 technical staff to acquire skills bridging industry and research.

"However, we acknowledge that this is only a part of what Australia needs if this new clean-up industry is to achieve its full potential.  There is a need for urgent focus by governments and industry on how we train more experts in risk assessment and remediation."

Prof. Naidu says that Asia alone is estimated to harbour 3 million contaminated sites and, as industrialising economies grow wealthier one of their first priorities is to try to eliminate the toxins that threaten the health of their citizens.

"Everyone remembers Minamata, and the impact that tragedy had on Japanese environmental awareness and industry. The demand for clean-up technology and services coming out of Asia in the next 20 years is going to be phenomenal to avert similar disasters," he predicts.

"Our partners in China, South Korea and elsewhere are already urging us to provide them with the knowledge, skills and services to make safe their old industrial sites. This is an opportunity Australia can no more afford to ignore than it can afford to ignore the Asian demand for energy."

Professor Naidu called on industry leaders, environment protection agencies and governments to address the critical shortage in skills in cleanup and prepare a national plan to resolve it.

More information:
Professor Ravi Naidu, CRC CARE, 08 8302 5041 or 0407 720 257
ravi.naidu at unisa.edu.au
Kim Sinclair, CRC CARE communication, ph 08 8302 3933 or 0416 095 324
Kim.sinclair at crccare.com


CRC CARE is an Australian partnership of scientific, industry and government organisations set up to devise new ways of dealing with and preventing contamination of soil, water and air. 

Its goals include:
*	Cleaner, safer food supplies, water  and living conditions leading to a reduced toll of disease due to toxic contamination of our food, water, air and living conditions
*	Benefits of up to $1.8 billion per year from direct savings in remediation and improved values or remediated land
*	A cleaner natural environment for Australia and its neighbours.

CRC CARE is part of the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres Program.

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