Without ground engineers, tomorrow's cities and the infrastructure to support them will not be built in a costeffective, safe and environmentally sustainable way.
Occupying the land for new urban areas and their infrastructure will mean solving increasingly more complex construction problems and lead to increased risk.
This will be true whether it is a brownfield site or a greenfield one with natural hazardous ground conditions.
Changing global climate may also require entire cities to be relocated or at least better protected from effects such as rising sea levels, increased frequency of storms, floods and droughts.
But young people are not being attracted into ground engineering and this issue must be addressed if the UK industry is to reap the benefit of the expanding international market.
While ground engineering pay scales are reasonably competitive, the UK industry must raise its public pro'le and demonstrate that it is 'hi-tech', lucrative, dynamic and exciting.
International conferences must be used as industry showcases. One opportunity is the 2006 Congress of the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment (IAEG), being held in the UK for the first time in 30 years, with its theme Engineering geology for tomorrow's cities (6-10 September, in Nottingham).
They must demonstrate the state of the art in areas like 3D visualisation, subsurface exploration, ground modelling, sustainable development, non-carbon energy resources and geohazard risk assessment.
These days ground engineers are as likely to be sitting in front of a computer terminal as a JCB, but it is this diversity that makes ground engineering so exciting. Let us make sure the next generation knows this, and ensure that the UK ground engineering industry does not lose its excellent global position.
Professor Jim Griffiths, University of Plymouth, Chair 2006 IAEG Congress; Dr John Perry, Mott MacDonald, chair engineering group of the Geological Society; Professor Martin Culshaw, British Geological Survey, IAEG UK representative