Versatile Solution: Geosynthetics applications across infrastructure sectors

With a growing population and developing economy, India is currently witnessing tremendous large-scale in­frastructure development. As a result of invest­me­nts in sectors such as railways, roads, po­wer, and water and sanitation, the market for geo­synthetics is also growing. Geosynthetics are synthetic materials made from polymeric or natural substances in the form of a sheet, a strip or a three-dimensional structure. These materials can be utilised to make projects more environmentally friendly since they are easy to produce and ship. They perform five primary functions – separation, reinforcement, filtration, drainage and containment. Geosyn­the­tics are classified based on physical attributes and manufacturing procedures. The categories are geotextiles, geo­me­m­branes, geogrids, geo­nets, geosynthetic clay liners, geofoam geowells, geopipes and geo­­­­composites.

Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the applications of geosynthetic materials across infrastructure sectors…

Roads and bridges

Geosynthetics are a top choice for developing long-lasting and sustainable highway infrastructure. With the growing development of roa­ds across the country, the use of geosynthetics is also increasing. These are used particularly to fill gaps between roads and improve the soil structure. The most commonly used geosynthetic products in the construction of roadway systems include woven and non-wo­ven geotextiles, and geogrids (biaxial and multiaxial). Geotextiles are being used in the cons­tr­uc­t­ion of roads and bridges. They help ensure quick and quality construction of roads, thereby increasing the life of pavements by 30-50 ye­ars. In addition, geocells, geonets or geo-co­m­­posite drainage products and geomembran­es are also used for various purposes.

The Ministry of Road Transport and High­ways is conducting multiple studies related to geosynthetics, geogrids, geonets and natural fibres in collaboration with the IIT Hyderabad and IIT Chennai.

Conventional construction materials have a high carbon footprint, which poses a signi­ficant environmental concern. In contrast, geo­synthetics are built for durability and sustainability, resulting in a significantly lower carbon footprint. The use of geosynthetics not only re­duces the overall cost of a project but also the need for natural aggregates. These man-made materials play a crucial role in the migration of reflective cracking in asphalt overlays, separation, stabilisation of road bases, stabilisation of road soft subgrades, and lateral drainage.


Geosynthetics offer various functionalities that make them ideal for various applications related to railway embankments including construction of new embankments with fine-grained soils, ground improvement in case of soft sub-soils, reduction in the thickness of the blanket layer, etc.

The most commonly used geosynthetics in the railway sector are geotextiles, geogrids, geo­nets, geomembranes, geocomposites and geocells. Geotextiles coupled with geogrids pro­vide stabilisation and reinforcement to tra­cks. Geotextiles are being used in railway tra­cks on the Imphal-Jiribam line in Mani­pur. The north-eastern states, especially Mani­pur, are prone to heavy rainfall throughout the year leading to flooding, landslides and soil erosion. Thus, the use of geotextiles is being inc­reased to avoid such situations. Further, geo­synthetics can be utilised for rehabilitation and strengthening of existing weak formations in the railway sector. These materials are also being used for waterproofing and drainage and reinforced steep slopes.

Further, geosynthetics are being used where heavy axle loads and high speeds are in operation. Dedicated freight corridors and high speed rail corridors, which entail heavy axle loads, are being implemented in the country, further driving the use of geosynthetics in the construction of railway tracks.


With air traffic increasing over the years, there is a need for better engineering, increased ca­pa­city and enhanced safety measures. With this, the use of geosynthetics is also increasing in the sector. Geosynthetics are largely used in the construction and extension of runways as well as in reinforcing pavements in the airport sector.

In July 2022, the trial landings on the first airstrip in Idukki district of Sathram, Kerala, were unsuccessful because a portion of the air­strip was washed away in a landslip following heavy rain. After assessing the entire situation, the State Disaster Management Authority team recommended a geotextile fixing on the caved-in portions to ensure the safety of the runway.

In another development, the Kolkata airport runway faced problems of rainfall drainage during the monsoon season, which posed a risk to the pavement due to the erosive effect of water flowing underneath it. To address the­se issues, a non-woven geotextile called Geod­ren was used on the runway. Geodren was able to serve three functions – separation, filtration and drainage. To achieve superior permeability performance on the geotextile surface, a blend of fibres of a specific linear density was also used, resulting in a considerable increase in drainage capacity. In addition, the thicker fib­res ensured improved durability in terms of both chemical ageing and microbiological resistance.


Geosynthetics are highly valuable in the tunnel sector, with extensive use in tunnel engineering, including two major applications – wa­ter­proofing and drainage. Geomembranes are used as liners in hydraulic tunnels. Hydraulic tunnels that transfer water are lined with different materials such as steel and shotcrete to provide structural stability and prevent water leakage. Geomembranes ensure minimal liner de­te­rioration in such cases. Geotextiles and geo­membranes have low permeability, which ma­kes them ideal for waterproofing. They are re­sili­ent to rotting, swelling, ageing, puncture and chemicals, and they can withstand adver­se we­ather conditions. Geomembranes are th­in, so they do not compromise the tunnel dia­meter, eliminating the need for cross-sectional area reduction. Moreover, they can be used for re­pairing old tunnels. Overall, they are important components in the construction of tunnels, significantly improving the structural integrity and long-term performance of the projects.

In a recent development, the GMR Group started repairing the headrace tunnel of its 188 MW Bajoli-Holi hydropower project in Chamba district, Himachal Pradesh. The GMR Group has appointed a Swiss company to install a geo­membrane in the tunnel to block the seepage from the it, since this is affecting the entire village of Jharauta.

Water and wastewater treatment

Geosynthetics are being effectively employed across a wide range of applications to improve the pro­cess of storing and treating water and was­tewater. These materials are being used becau­se of properties such as cost-effectiveness, ease of installation and increased efficiency. In addition, geosynthetics are environmentally friendly. The growing use of geomembranes in wastewater management due to their exceptional chemical resistance is driving market growth.

The way forward

Geosynthetics provide cost savings, extend the lifespan of infrastructure projects and, most importantly, cause less environmental harm. Today, the benefits of geosynthetics are inc­re­asingly being recognised. However, their adoption in the infrastructure sectors has not yet taken off, and their promise is still largely unrealised. It is necessary for players in the infrastructure sector to make use of geosynthetics more frequently. While the government promo­tes the use of geosynthetics, much more needs to be done to increase their deployment. The need of the hour is to carry out necessary re­search and development for the use of geosynthetics in infrastructure sectors, particularly for specific use cases.

The geosynthetics market in India is ex­pected to grow significantly due to the ongoing infrastructure development. The road sector is expected to be a key driver of growth for the geosynthetics industry. The railway sector is also rapidly developing and is expected to inc­rease the demand for geosynthetics due to the upcoming dedicated freight corridors and high speed train projects.