INCEPTION & GROWTH OF THE CHAPTER O
by Dr. S.V. Ramaswamy
Immediately after independence the government of Madras started building a number of earth dams to harness the river water for irrigation. This kindled the interest of civil engineers in the emerging field of soil mechanics. The Public Works Department established the Soil Mechanics Research Station for testing the soil samples and to control the quality of construction in the earth dams. At the same time Highways Department also established Highways Research Station where soil-testing section was an important component.
Soil Mechanics Research in Madras got a further boost when the postgraduate department of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering was started at College of Engineering, Guindy, Madras in 1958. This was one of the earliest such programmes in India. In the initial years out of ten seats available two seats each were reserved for students from the states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The postgraduate programme in Soil Mechanics and Foundation engineering started in Indian Institute of Technology in the late sixties gave further impetus to the geotechnical engineering activities in Madras.
A number of consulting firms were active in site investigation and foundation design from early sixties. Problems encountered in expansive soils, soft clays and loose fills needed experts in soil mechanics for solution. Construction of large factories, harbour facilities, multi-lane highways and multi storey buildings further expanded the scope of geotechnical engineers in Madras.
Research work in two post-graduate institutions and expanding consulting and construction activities resulted in active participation of geotechnical engineers from Madras in technical conferences. In the Annual Geotechnical Conferences organized by Indian Geotechnical Society in different cities there was always a sizeable contingent from Madras. Their contribution in the form of papers, key-note lectures, panel discussions and organizational work was significant.
Seminars, Symposiums and lectures were regularly organized by Anna University, IIT, HRS and other organizations. The Annual Indian Geotechnical Conference was organized at IIT Madras in December 1983.
As a result of regular participation of geotechnical engineers from Madras in the activities of Indian Geotechnical Society and increasing geotechnical activities in Madras, there were proposals to start a chapter of Indian Geotechnical Society in Madras even in the early sixties. However the matter was not pursued as the parent body at Delhi was itself getting reorganized. Starting a chapter gained momentum in the eighties and the chapter was formed in 1987. Dr. V.V.S. Rao was the Chairman and Dr. A.Sargunan was the Secretary. The first National Seminar on "Geotechnical Challenges in Civil Engineering" was organized in June 1988.
The chapter has been organizing seminars and symposiums every year since then. The emphasis in these seminars is on field practices and practicing engineers were encouraged to actively participate in the organization and deliberations of these seminars. At the request of Bureau of Indian Standards the chapter undertook a programme, "Installation, Testing and Exhumation of Under-reamed Bored Piles in Sands" to determine whether under-reams can be formed in sandy soils. The programme was attended by a number of engineers from all over India and it formed the basis for revision of BIS Code on under-reamed piles. The chapter organized the Indian Geotechnical Conference IGC 1996 at Anna University in December 1996, which was attended by more than three hundred delegates. IGC 2006 with the theme Geotechnical Engineering – Indian Experience was successfully conducted during 14-16 December 2006 under the chairmanship of Prof. S.R. Gandhi.
The chapter strives to maintain close contact with the students. They were encouraged to attend the seminars and there were concessions in the registration fees for them. Seminars for under-graduate students and post-graduate students have been held. Two post-graduate students, one each from Anna University and IIT, were depute to attend the Indian Geotechnical Conference at Bangalore in December 1995. The chapter donated five soil mechanics text books to Crescent Engineering College and Anna University and at the presentation ceremony in the colleges a special lecture was delivered.