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The International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering's 5th International Congress on Environmental Geotechnics takes place in Cardiff from 26-30 June. Over the next few pages GE previews the event, including the main lectures, workshops and supporting exhibition.

For more details on the programme and how to register as a delegate, visit www. grc. af. uk/5iceg

A word from the ISSMGE president...

It is my great privilege and pleasure, on behalf of ISSMGE, to address Ground Engineering readers as part of this preview of the 5th International Congress on Environmental Geotechnics.

The congress is an opportunity to reflect on the future development of environmental geotechnics. Environmental monitoring and control has become a priority for governments. New legislation for environmental impact assessment, with proposals for planning, programming and risk analysis, has gained increased attention.

More than 600M. m 3 of sludge are dredged in the US annually and special consideration is needed during dredging and disposal to minimise the adverse impact on water quality and local organisms.

In Europe, dredged material is getting increased attention and EC directives govern this topic, with limits on concentration of heavy metals in soils where dredged material is used on agricultural lands. Additionally, an EC directive on environmental impact assessment needs to be adhered to.

Environmental control issues were recognised as important in the geotechnical community as early as 1970. The theme of environmental problems was first addressed in at the 9th ICSMFE in Tokyo. Since then, geotechnics associated with the environment has continued to receive considerable interest, leading to the organisation of the 1st International Congress on Environmental Geotechnics in Edmonton in Canada in 1994.

There is clearly a need to avoid environmental damage resulting from high population growth combined with limitations of land and energy resources and subsoil pollution created by increased industrial development.

These are cross-border issues and international co-operation is required. Against this background, the UNCED Conference on Ofcial Development Assistance in Rio de Janeiro, in June 1992, and the 1997 Kyoto Conference, among other conferences, have provided forums to discuss ideas and actions for the 21st century.

In almost all major cities there is a demand for construction of solid waste land lls. There are ten times more illegal land lls than legal ones, which is a matter of great concern. The storage of hazardous wastes from abandoned uranium mines is another problem that is some way from being solved because of cost and a lack of adequate legislation.

During the last two decades the number of accidents leading to ground and water contamination have increased.

Because of biodegradation and time effects on physio-chemical properties, and the need for large testing devices capable of withstanding possible corrosive impacts, the mechanical properties of many waste types are not properly characterised.

Some cheap, imperfect and less time-consuming solutions have been implemented with unfortunate results, severely damaging the credibility of geoenvironmental engineers.

This serves as a reminder that the arrogance of our convictions should be subordinated to the study of alternative solutions and to the effort of reconciling divergent interests and opinions.

Environmental geotechnics is complex and a great challenge, but we need humbly to recognise the existence of uncertainties and the importance of dialogue and the pursuit of perfection to reach the best solution.

It is also important to evaluate the risks to health and welfare of people and ecosystems. We need to pursue a policy of sustainable development, facilitating growth and ensuring appropriate comfort for every human being while respecting the environment. We should not renounce progress, but we need to protect our precious natural heritage.

Integration of knowledge from various disciplines such as natural sciences, humanities, social sciences and technology is needed to preserve our heritage. We are still very far from our goal.

Professor Pedro Sêco e Pinto, president of ISSMGE

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