Born on May 12, 1949, Rajendra Desai, who is now Joint Director and Managing Trustee of the National Centre for Peoples Action in Disaster Preparedness, obtained his M.S. (Structures) Civil Engineering in 1972 from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. He has 20 years of diversified experience in technology development and transfer, structural design, disaster mitigation and rehabilitation, repair and seismic retrofitting of masonry structures, assessment and improvement of vernacular building systems, and site development in India, and 13 years of diversified civil engineering experience in USA. Desai worked as an associate member of Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, California, USA, and is a life member of Indian Society of Earthquake Technology.
Since 1997, Rajendra Desai has been a consultant to Government of India, UNDP, UNCRD, UNESCO, Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (Bangkok) and Oxfam India Trust among others for post-disaster damage assessment, vulnerability studies, vulnerability reduction strategies, disaster mitigation and preparedness, engineer’s capacity building etc. He has published a number of guidebooks for the common man.
Rajendra Desai’s ongoing training programme for skills upgradation of existing masons focuses on improving existing building artisans, notably masons, through rapid hands-on and classroom training in quality improvement and earthquake resistant construction primarily in Gujarat and other parts of India. Moreover, the building artisan certification system project involves evolving a system that is friendly toward building artisans, which can help improve their skill and knowledge.
Desai worked from 1985 to 1993 at Centre of Science for Villages, Wardha, Maharashtra, and ASAG, Ahmedabad, doing field research on appropriate building technologies and their transfer to grassroots, and on use of alternate cost-efficient building technologies for institutional buildings. He has also worked in civil engineering disciplines of structures, soils and foundations, land development and civil works with various consulting engineering companies. His other interests are travelling, mountaineering and photography.
In 2012, Rajendra Desai was honoured with the Distinguished Alumni Award by IIT Bombay from where he obtained his B.Tech. in civil engineering. His other awards include A.S. Arya University of Roorkee Award 2000 for Disaster Mitigation and Hari Om Ashram HUDCO Award for Dissemination of Earthquake Resistant Housing Technology in Latur in 1996.