The application of geosynthetics in the infrastructure sector is becoming more and more recognised today because of its special advantages. Geosynthetics have proven to be among the most versatile and cost-effective materials. These are synthetic products used to stabilise terrains. They are planar products manufactured from a polymeric material that is used with soil, rock or other geotechnical-related material as an integral part of a civil engineering project or structure.
There are various types of geosynthetic materials used in civil engineering and construction works, such as geotextiles, geogrids, geonets and geomembranes. These materials offer advantages such as improved performance and durability and increased productivity of infrastructure assets. They can be used for a variety of purposes, including all surfaces of the transportation industry such as roadways, airports, railroads and waterways.
Geosynthetics have made it possible to construct roads and pavements in difficult locations. While geosynthetics can be used in the construction of roads, they can also be used in retaining soils of steep embankment slopes. They, moreover, help in subgrade separation and stabilisation, base reinforcement, overlay stress absorption and reinforcement, etc.
The application can also be seen in the railway sector, such as in the construction of steep slopes (non-railway loading), embankment slip repair, construction of high banks on soft soil, erosion control of slopes, and protection against rockfall. Additionally, there are several applications specific to railway loading including track-bed design, reinforced earth embankments, formation rehabilitation and high banks on soft soil, erosion control of slopes and protection against falling rocks.
In the airports sector, they are used in the construction of airports for creating space for runways and reinforcing pavements. Steep reinforced embankments or gabion walls provide the flat area for runways and other infrastructure. With these innumerable benefits, geosynthetics are certainly paving the way for improved infrastructure around the world. The global geosynthetics market was valued at $13.2 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $37.9 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.2 per cent from 2021 to 2030.
However, at present, within the infrastructure space, the use of geosynthetics is still at a nascent stage in India. Geosynthetics are being used in the infrastructure sector to construct retaining walls and steep slopes, highways, airports, municipal landfill sites, ground improvement and shore protection works, etc.
But with climate change and the growing carbon footprint posing a huge challenge, geosynthetic products are expected to gain prominence going forward. As per recent studies, the geosynthetics market is anticipated to grow at an impressive CAGR of over 9 per cent by 2025 in the country.
There are still challenges being faced in the adoption of geosynthetic materials in the country. Some of the major challenges in the Indian market include lack of desired legislation, lack of required standards for geosynthetic products as well as design, construction and installation guidelines, lack of policy and regulatory initiatives by the central and state governments, lack of awareness of standards and guidelines by the site engineers and field staff, lack of national certifying and accreditation
agencies for geosynthetics, lack of research and development facilities, incompleteness of existing standards and guidelines, among others. In India, the use of geosynthetics is also constrained by its relatively high costs in comparison to alternative materials.
The government has been undertaking various initiatives to further expand the infrastructure sector by promoting foreign direct investments and infusing capital into the economy. With a year-on-year increase of over 35 per cent in capex and a proposed infrastructure spend of over Rs 10,000 billion in the Union Budget 2022-23, the government has reiterated its commitment to using infrastructure as a force multiplier for sustained economic growth. Various upcoming projects under government schemes such as the National Infrastructure Pipeline and the construction of 100 new airports by 2025 under the UDAN scheme, among others, are expected to give a fillip to the geosynthetics industry by ensuring widespread application.