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Briton works to defend China from flooding

Updated: Dec 02, 2016 Print


Ian Cluckie, British engineer [Photo provided to China Daily]

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 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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