Increasing Deployment

Geosynthetics industry expanding with infrastructure growth

The global geosynthetics market has exhibited significant growth in the past couple of decades, driven by widespread urbanisation and an increased number of government initiatives aimed at infrastructure improvement. According to industry estimates, the size of the global geosynthetics market stood at around $7 billion in 2016.

Geosynthetics are largely manufactured from polymeric materials which retain their properties when exposed to difficult environmental conditions. The segment comprises technical textile products which are used in geotechnical applications pertaining to soil, rock, earth, etc. Based on their physical characteristics and subsequent applications, they are further classified into woven and non-woven geotextiles, geogrids, geomembranes, geonets, geofoams, geosynthetic clay liners, geopipes, etc. Each of these performs at least one or more of the basic applications of separation, drainage, filtration, reinforcement and protection. The key constituents of the geosynthetics industry are woven and non-woven geotextiles, which account for 85 per cent of the market. The market for geotextiles has grown at a significant rate of 30 per cent over the past five years. The geosynthetics market was estimated to reach Rs 9.91 billion by 2015-16 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 per cent and further to Rs 12.75 billion by 2017-18.

As per industry experts, India’s geosynthetics market in 2015 had sales of around 130 million square metres. This is expected to expand to 300 million square metres by 2020. Geotextiles has the largest share in production, followed by geomembranes and geogrids. The size of the geosynthetics market in 2017 is estimated at around 166 square metres (calculated at a CAGR of 13 per cent), constituting only 2 per cent of the global volume.

The geosynthetics market in the country is served by both foreign and domestic players. Foreign players have entered the Indian market mostly through the joint venture route. Some of the key players in India at present are Strata Geosystems, Techfab Geosynthetics, Terram Geosynthetics, GeosIndex, Enviro Geosyn-

thetics Private Limited, Gayatri Polymers and Geosynthetics Limited. Some of the key importers are Garware Wall Ropes, Maccaferri India, Terram and Huesker through Archana Structural Engineering, while some of the key exporters are Ambica Polymers, SKAPs Industries and TechFab.

Use in infrastructure

Geosynthetics are being widely and increasingly used in the infrastructure sector to construct retaining walls and steep slopes, highways, airports, municipal landfill sites (under Central Pollution Control Board guidelines), for ground improvement and shore protection works, etc. With climate change and the increasing carbon footprint posing a huge challenge, geosynthetic products offer sustainable solutions. The potential for the use of geosynthetics is dependent on the soil type in a project area. Some of the areas where these materials can be used are in black cotton soils, coastal and delta regions, hilly terrain and in reinforced soil structures.

Given the life extension benefits and durability that geosynthetics provide, they are being increasingly deployed for road projects in regions with high soil erosion and those susceptible to the vagaries of climate. Moreover, the increasing use of geotextile products in civil engineering applications such as reinforcement, filtration, separation and production, owing to their excellent performance and comparatively low cost are some of the major factors fuelling demand for geotextile products in the country.

The world over, geosynthetics have played a key role in infrastructure development, as they offer improved quality, enhanced efficiencies, faster adoption, reduced carbon footprint, and lower life-cycle costs. Therefore, emphasis is needed on indigenous development, constant research and continuous propagation of the material for its increased usage.

Sector-wise, the application of geosynthetics in the transport sector has increased significantly, as they increase the strength and stability of the underlying soil in roadways and railway tracks. As per industry experts, the road sector constitutes the highest share in the use of geosynthetics in the country at about 40 per cent. Among geosynthetic products, the sector primarily uses geogrids, which are used in road works for creating slopes/ slope rehabilitation, widening pavements, erosion control, filtration and drainage. As per industry estimates, every 15-20 km of road length under the National Highways Development Programme has at least one elevated structure and experts are of the opinion that 5,000-10,000 square metres of geogrids are required for each of these structures. Notably, the road sector accounts for 70-80 per cent of the geogrid market. Besides transport, geosynthetics are also extensively used in the construction of dams and embankment canals, drainage works, irrigation, solid waste management, and soil erosion prevention in coastal areas and riverbanks.

The growth in the use of geosynthetics in mining activity is due to their ability to resist the harsh environment they are exposed to. On mining sites, geomembranes are used primarily for liquid containment (drainage water, process solutions, treatment ponds) as basal liners. Geogrids are used to stabilise soft soils present in upper layers and mine tailings for soil cover placement. Geopipes are used for the conveyance of drainage, run-off, process waters, or leak detection around mining sites. Geotextiles are used as cushion layers to avoid abrasion of metals. They are also used to filter by-products. With the ever-increasing requirements of metals and fuel, mining activity has grown over the years, and this, in turn, has led to an increase in the amount of geosynthetics used.

Outlook

The global geosynthetics market is expected to be over $12 billion by 2024, growing at a rate of 5-7 per cent. Rapid urbanisation in China, India and Brazil along with favourable government initiatives to improve infrastructure will favour the housing, transport, construction and energy industries, thereby scaling up the size of the geosynthetics industry. Increasing environmental concerns along with a shift in consumer trends towards green buildings and material is likely to positively influence industry growth. In India, the geosynthetics market is expected to continue the momentum of double-digit growth on the back of a strong infrastructure push. Growing road construction in the country is one of the major factors expected to aid the geotextiles market. The railway sector is another fast emerging application area for geotextiles, as upcoming metro rail, bullet train and high speed train projects in the country are expected to fuel the demand for geotextiles.

The use of geosynthetic products in several emerging economies including India is quite low as compared to that in developed countries. One of the major challenges is the lack of awareness of the benefits associated with using these materials. Therefore, there is a need to establish well-recognised testing labs and conduct awareness workshops. In addition, more education in geosynthetics, both at academic institutes and the industry level, is required to improve human resources. Further, state agencies should encourage the use of geosynthetic products, in light of state-level spends on infrastructure under rural development programmes. The government has underlined the need to streamline the process of standardisation for faster development of the standards in the geosynthetics space.

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