Robust, long-lasting and resilient civil infrastructure is the need of the hour, to satisfy the demands of the growing population. It is essential to choose sustainable approaches in civil engineering and construction, given the current state of global environmental challenges and the depletion of natural resources. Because of its unique benefits, geosynthetics are being used in the infrastructure industry more frequently now, and India’s focus on infrastructure development holds great potential for the sector.
Construction and infrastructure projects are the key drivers of demand for geosynthetics. Roads and bridges, dams, airfields, railroads, embankments, retaining walls, reservoirs, canals, dams, erosion management, landfill covers, mining, aquaculture and agriculture are a few of the important industries in this context.
Many forms of geosynthetic materials, including geotextiles, geogrids, geonets and geomembranes, are utilised in civil engineering and construction projects. These materials have enhanced performance and durability, raising the productivity of infrastructure assets. They can be utilised on all types of surfaces in the transportation sector, including waterways, airports, trains and roads.
Due to rising awareness and a rise in demand for more sustainable and long-lasting solutions, innovative materials such as geosynthetics have become an integral part of India’s infrastructure development. According to industry experts, the Indian geosynthetics market has grown from Rs 1.5 billion-Rs 2 billion a decade ago, to Rs 3 billion-Rs 3.5 billion industry currently, demonstrating the increased adoption of such technology solutions.
Over the last five to six years, geotechnical engineering and materials have seen a surge in adoption. The government has also been pushing the infrastructure and construction industries to employ sustainable materials for structural resilience including geosynthetics, geogrids and geo-composites through guidelines.
Key sectors driving growth
Roads and tunnels
Roads is the major user of geosynthetics, primarily geogrids. It is used in road works to create slopes/slope rehabilitation, widening pavements, erosion control, filtration and drainage. Notably, 70-80 per cent of the geogrids market caters to the roads sector, and the rest is used for coastal erosion, railways, airports and tunnels. The progress of the geosynthetics sector over the past few years has aided in the development of approaches to optimising the overall performance of paved roads. Geosynthetics are critical in the development of paved roads, because they operate as a separator by generating capillary gaps that mitigate frost activity in frost-prone soils.
Geosynthetics are also gaining traction in tunnel construction. Non-woven geotextiles and geomembranes are largely being used in tunnel lining. These provide excellent drainage of water into side ditches. According to India Infrastructure Research, 704 tunnels, totalling 2,847 km, will be constructed in the coming years, resulting in a major increase in the demand for geosynthetics materials.
Another rapidly growing application for geosynthetics, particularly geotextiles, is in the railway industry. Upcoming metro rail, bullet train and high-speed train projects in the country are anticipated to increase demand for geotextiles.
Many state governments are also taking steps to deploy geosynthetics, particularly geotextiles, across their railway sector. As per recent developments, railway tracks in the Imphal-Jiribam Line in Manipur are making use of geotextile technology. This is because the North-eastern states, especially Manipur, are prone to heavy rainfall, leading to flooding, landslides and soil erosion, thereby increasing opportunities for the usage of geotextiles.
Increasing use of natural geotextiles
Natural geotextiles are made of agricultural materials such as jute, coconut coir, straw, rubber, etc. The government has promoted jute-based geotextiles in an effort to facilitate jute production. Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, certain state governments have also encouraged the use of natural geotextiles for the construction of rural roads. These geotextiles provide the additional benefit of being environment-friendly. In applications where durability is required, synthetic geotextiles are expected to be of greater benefit than natural ones.
Alternatives such as natural geotextiles have gained increased appeal as a result of the numerous advantages they have in various industries. Natural geotextiles are biodegradable; therefore, their usage is typically restricted to temporary reinforcement until natural vegetation grows and becomes able to support the soil. These organic geotextiles support subsurface drains, stabilise slopes and river embankments, and reduce soil erosion.
The use of geosynthetics reduces the cost of construction materials and installation works. They are strong, durable and not affected by corrosion. Geosynthetics are considered to be all-purpose, environmental-friendly material suitable for use in construction. Geosynthetic materials are cheaper and hasten construction. They reduce the chance of human errors and have easy design methodologies. Additionally, they ensure consistency over a wide range of soils and have minimal need of regular repair.
Both domestic and international companies are operating in India’s geosynthetics sector. The majority of foreign competitors have entered the Indian market through joint ventures. Strata Geosystems, Techfab Geosynthetics, Terram Geosynthetics, GeosIndex, Enviro Geosynthetics Private Limited, Gayatri Polymers and Geosynthetics Limited are some of the major players in India right now. Garware Wall Ropes, Maccaferri India and Huesker (through Archana Structural Engineering) are a few of the major importers, and Ambica Polymers, SKAPs Industries and TechFab are a few of the major exporters.
Some new players such as Manas Geotech and Supreme Nonwovens have also started providing wide width polyester-based non-wovens for users in infrastructure sectors. International companies such as Fibertex Nonwovens and Tencate are establishing their presence as well.
Geosynthetics have been important in the development of infrastructure across the world. India needs to develop its own skills and capacities in order to maximise its enormous untapped potential. Geosynthetics provide better quality, faster adoption and lower life-cycle expenses for all infrastructure construction in the Indian setting. India’s technical textiles industry has enormous growth potential. Technical textiles are expected to become more popular as a result of the government’s ambitions of building world-class infrastructure and implementing several policies and programmes.
With the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) envisaging an investment of Rs 111 trillion for infrastructure development, the next few years could usher in a new era of rapid growth for the geosynthetics industry. Technical textiles may be extensively used in the energy, road, rail, urban development, irrigation and health sectors, all of which are listed under the NIP. Significant factors propelling the geotextiles market in the nation include strict government policies and regulations on the use of geotextiles, and rising investments in infrastructure projects. Through its increasing infrastructure spend, it is reiterating its commitment to using infrastructure as a force multiplier for sustained economic growth. This is expected to give a fillip to the geosynthetics industry, by ensuring widespread application.
Overall, concrete efforts are required to increase the use of geosynthetics. In addition to concentrating on infrastructure development, it is necessary to build widely recognised testing labs, raise research and development spending, and hold awareness workshops, to promote the use of geosynthetics.