Slow and Steady

Increase in use of geosynthetics

The geosynthetics market has been showing considerable growth in the past few decades. Increasing investments in infrastructure along with rising construction activity and urbanisation levels have been driving the demand for geosynthetics.

Geosynthetics have played an important role in the development of infrastructure in a number of countries as they offer improved quality, enhanced efficiencies, reduced carbon footprint, and lower life-cycle costs of assets. According to industry estimates, the size of the global geosynthetics market stood at around $13 billion in 2018.

Geosynthetics have some critical qualities that make them one of the most analysed materials for construction. They are largely manufactured from polymeric materials, which retain their properties when exposed to difficult environmental conditions. The segment comprises technical textile products that 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.

With regard to industry structure, both domestic and foreign players are active in the geosynthetics space. Foreign players have entered the Indian market mostly through the joint venture route. Some of the key players in the country at present are Strata Geosystems, TechfabGeosynthetics, TerramGeosynthetics, GeosIndex, EnviroGeosynthetics Private Limited and 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.

Growing use in infrastructure

The use of geosynthetics in infrastructure is slowly but steadily increasing though the uptake of these 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.

This notwithstanding, almost all the infrastructure sectors are using geosynthetics, though the penetration level varies. They are used to construct retaining walls, steep slopes, highways and airports, in municipal landfill sites (under Central Pollution Control Board guidelines), and for ground improvement and shore protection works.

The transport sector is one of the major users of geosynthetics, and, within transport, the road sector is estimated to account for the majority share of about 40 per cent. In fact, in July 2018, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had issued guidelines to further promote the use of geosynthetics in road construction. 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. However, 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 terrains and in reinforced soil structures. 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. In the case of the mining sector, the growth in the use of geosynthetics is due to their ability to resist the harsh environment they are exposed to.

Outlook

The global geosynthetics market is expected to grow at a rate of 5-7 per cent to reach over $12 billion by 2024. Government support worldwide along with rising urbanisation and construction to improve infrastructure will drive demand for geosynthetics in the housing, transport, construction and energy industries. Meanwhile, the growing focus on the environment and sustainable solutions will be other demand drivers for geosynthetics.

In India, the geosynthetics market is expected to continue its 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.

Overall, concrete efforts are required to increase the use of geosynthetics. Along with a focus on infrastructure development, there is a need to establish well-recognised testing labs, increase research and development spending, and conduct awareness workshops to drive the uptake of geosynthetics.

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