Market Outlook

Government’s thrust on infrastructure to drive demand for geosynthetics

India has emerged as one of the fastest growing geosynthetic markets in the last few years. This is primarily due to the government’s emphasis on quality and sustainable infrastructure as well as increased construction activities. The fast pace of adoption of geosynthetic materials will continue in the future as well. As per industry estimates, the total demand for geosynthetics (including geo-textiles) is estimated to increase from 100 million square metres (sq. m) in 2013 to 178 million sq. m in 2018.

The demand for geosynthetics is mainly driven by construction and infrastructure activities. The key sectors include roads and bridges, dams, airfields, railroads, embankments, retaining structures, reservoirs, canals, dams, erosion control, sediment control, landfill covers, mining, aquaculture and agriculture.

Upcoming opportunities in some of the major sectors are discussed below…

Roads and bridges

The road sector represents the most lucrative area for India’s geotextile segment due to direct applicability and the sheer scale of projects. These are used to separate different layers of sand, aggregate and bitumen, as well as for constructing bridges, flyovers, underpasses, culverts, embankments, etc.

One of the key areas of opportunity in the road sector is in projects under the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP). As of February 2016, the NHDP had a total project pipeline covering 13,373 km. Most of the construction and investment opportunities exist under Phases III, IV, V, VI and VII of the programme.

The expressway segment, which is expected to see increased activity in the next one year, is another big area for geosynthetic players. The government plans to undertake the Nagpur-Mumbai, Jaipur-Ajmer-Ahmedabad, Nagpur-Hyderabad, Pune-Hyderabad, Hyderabad-Bengaluru, Amravati-Hyderabad-Bengaluru, and Delhi-Amritsar-Jammu-Katra expressway projects. Besides, the Uttar Pradesh government has recently approved the Lucknow-Ballia and Sonauli-Ballia expressway projects to be taken up soon.

In addition, the hilly and rough terrain regions of the country, including states in the north and Northeast, offer significant opportunity for geosynthetic companies. The government is implementing projects covering 10,000 km in the Northeast through National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL). During 2016-17, NHIDCL targets the award of 54 projects covering about 4,200 km involving a total cost of Rs 405 billion.

Further, state road development authorities are also encouraging the use of geosynthetics for roads. According to India Infrastructure Research, states have lined up about 300 projects to be implemented on an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and public-private partnership (PPP) basis. These include projects at the concept or bidding stage as well as those in the pipeline. Meanwhile, a number of EPC projects are expected to come up in states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Railways

Indian Railways (IR) is another big market for geosynthetics. Usually, polymeric products are used in the sector to solve civil engineering problems like soil erosion, embankment and ground protection, stabilisation of rail lines, and rockfall protection works. Soil erosion is a major concern as the integrity of the sub-

ballast and ballast layers may be affected by severe cuts arising due to weathering. This can be easily overcome with the use of geosynthetic or geotextile materials. Currently, geosynthetics play a very limited role in the engineering of railway tracks. There is great scope for geosynthetics to evolve safe, economical and sustainable designs for railway tracks.

According to the Railway Budget 2016-17 announcements, 2,800 km of broad gauge lines will be commissioned during 2016-17 as compared to the 2015-16 target of 2,500 km. Also, 400 km of new lines will be constructed during this year. Meanwhile, 90 new projects at a total investment of Rs 1,261 billion covering about 8,432 km related to new line, line doubling, gauge conversion and metropolitan transport have been included in the budget. In addition, the Dedicated Freight Corridor project, which is currently under way and is expected to add 3,338 km by 2019-20, offers significant opportunities to geosynthetic/geotextile players.

IR has already identified routes  of about 2,500 km for deploying geosynthetics, of which about 2,000 km witness speed restrictions during the monsoon season. Most of these railway corridors fall in the Konkan belt and the southern and eastern parts of the country and face problems of poor soil or rocky terrain. The use of geosynthetics, therefore, becomes invaluable in these conditions.

Further, IR has identified nine stretches on inter-metro corridors for high speed train operations. The Ministry of Railways proposes to increase the speed of trains from 110-130 km per hour (kmph) to 160-200 kmph on these sections. It has also been accepted by IR that some of these high speed train corridors will not be successful without the use of geosynthetics.

Solid waste management

The use of non-woven geotextiles has been widely recommended in developing landfill sites for scientifically managing solid waste. Geotextiles have already been used in several landfill projects across the country. Currently, there is a massive lacuna in solid waste management (SWM) in the country and there is a huge deficit in terms of scientific solid waste disposal. Several studies have indicated that there is an urgent need to develop scientific landfill sites to prevent groundwater contamination and soil quality deterioration.

In the past year or so, the central government launched several initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), and the Smart Cities Mission, which deal with improving SWM in the country. Meanwhile, the segment offers a pipeline of 40 key projects (tracked by India Infrastructure Research) as of October 2015. These projects, worth at least Rs 45 billion, entail a capacity of close to 29,000 tonnes per day. Karnataka, Delhi, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have the maximum number of upcoming projects. These will directly or indirectly augment the demand for geosynthetic materials.

Airports

Large quantities of geosynthetic materials are used while constructing runways and taxiways at airports. The Indian airport sector thus offers considerable opportunity for geosynthetic players as several projects are in the offing.

Seventeen projects worth about Rs 410 billion are at various stages of planning. Of these, six are brownfield while the remaining 11 are greenfield projects. Of the greenfield projects, eight are at a nascent stage of planning and are not expected to see on-ground work before 2020. The key upcoming projects include Bengaluru airport’s Phase II expansion, Navi Mumbai airport, and Mopa airport in Goa.

Metro rail

Metro rail is another sector that requires significant amount of geosynthetic materials. The demand will come from the ongoing/upcoming metro rail projects while constructing elevated corridors or undertaking tunnel works. Most of the state governments have chalked out plans or have shown a strong intent to introduce metro systems in key cities.

Currently, 17 metro/monorail projects covering 723 km spread across 10 states – Delhi, Karnataka, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra – are under implementation. Besides, there are 25 projects – 23 metro projects and two monorail projects – that have been announced and are in the pipeline. Together, these comprise 1,107 km across 11 states. Of this, the maximum opportunity exists in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Delhi, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. All these projects provide significant opportunity to geosynthetic manufacturers.

Conclusion

There are several ways in which Indian authorities can help enhance the use of geosynthetics in infrastructure projects. Some of these aspects include certification of geotextile products based on the material consumed, machinery used and in-house testing facilities; the establishment of an autonomous and competent authority along the lines of the British Textile Technology Group, UK, to certify geotextile products; setting up of a national authority for judging the degree of geotextile/geosynthetic acceptance; and the evolution of the Indian Standard Codes and Indian Roads Congress guidelines for design and construction using geosynthetics. Going forward, the increasing awareness about the benefits of geosynthetic materials will drive demand.

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