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Engineering Sustainable Infrastructure Today To Build A Better Tomorrow

It becomes imperative for individuals and communities, industries and sectors, and all world economies – to ‘Invest in Our Planet’ and to “act boldly, innovate broadly, and implement equitably”.

Published: April 26, 2022 12:24 PM IST

By Business Desk | Edited by Raghav Aggarwal

Sustainable Development
In recent years, the world has been witnessing changing weather patterns and an increasing frequency of adverse weather events (Photo: Google)

New Delhi: With World Earth Day being observed in April, environment and sustainability are yet again flavours of the month. . It is a reminder for us to invest our time, finances and energy to strengthen a global environmental movement by way of education and action. In recent years, the world has been witnessing changing weather patterns and an increasing frequency of adverse weather events.

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As per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released last year, human activities–driven greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have caused approximately 1.1°C of warming between 1850 and 1900. However, the next 1.5°C rise in global temperature is expected to happen in the next two decades if urgent and drastic actions are not taken to prevent global warming. All stakeholders, primarily the Government and industries across sectors, need to be more proactive in reducing carbon emissions.

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With regards to sectoral accountability of carbon emissions, the construction industry has an important role to play. This is because the sector is responsible for around 36% of total carbon emissions. But even more importantly, the sector through environment-friendly civil engineering practices can not only bring down its carbon footprint but also strengthen the fight against climate change by building sustainable infrastructure. This requires investment in R&D, designing, and building of sustainable infrastructure, as it plays a critical role in preserving, restoring and integrating the natural environment, including biodiversity and ecosystems.

India has various geographies that have unique environments. Good civil engineering practices can provide sustainable solutions to resolve challenges particular to the region. It will give rise to sustainable infrastructure that is resilient and long-lasting, safeguarding human, environmental, and economic interests. For instance, a major landslide mitigation project was initiated by the Uttarkhand Government at Lambagarh to create a safe pathway to the Badrinath Temple. Apart from fencing the roadways with reinforced soil wall (RSW) with gabion as a facia, a 320-metre-long and 10-metre-high rockfall embankment was built to protect the road from the impact of falling rocks and debris.

In another instance, Border Road Organisation needed to construct a 60-metre-long bridge at Kalikhola, Sikkim to improve the road connectivity to certain remote areas of the state. After surveying the area and conducting a geotechnical investigation, the BRO Swastik team chose to construct an RSW instead of a conventional reinforced cement concrete (RCC) wall. The 30-metre-high approach wall was constructed with gabions as facia and high strength geogrid as reinforcement, making the whole construction, faster and much more economical and eco-friendly. Furthermore, the bridge enjoys the advantages and strengths of RSW with regard to quality control.

Today, advanced technologies in civil engineering are enabling sustainable construction at every level, leaving a greener planet for generations to come. A range of eco-friendly solutions for various construction needs such as basal reinforcement, drainage structures, erosion control, coastal, marine structure and pipeline protections, hydraulic works, etc., are available for diverse geographic and climatic conditions. There is a growing push to use recyclable and renewable materials for building projects as it helps in minimizing energy consumption and waste production.

One of the important strategies is to identify local solutions for local problems. This requires thinking out of the box and beyond conventional materials to find alternative and innovative solutions. The use of reno mattresses and gabions, geosynthetic materials, etc., should be promoted. Resource exploitation should also be given much thought. It is important that we show greater responsibility in the sourcing of raw materials, and we should prioritize the use of locally available resources. Often local materials are best suited for building infrastructure in a region. Using local materials cuts down the cost, but more importantly, it saves on energy consumption in transporting the materials, prevents wastage, and reduces the overall carbon footprint. These resources are more likely to withstand local weather conditions and backed by good engineering techniques can be constructed to be more resilient.

India has to encourage leveraging of the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) document which helps in communicating credible environmental information, evaluates environmental performance information of products and services, and identifies verified solutions.

Construction of infrastructure and civil engineering projects employ building information modelling (BIM) which helps architects in numerous ways. An advanced digital technology solution, BIM helps in developing an accurate building or infrastructural models in the virtual environment, which is digitally constructed. It helps in the creation of more innovative projects, predicts potential construction hazards, and prepare ahead of time by making required adjustment in design. This eventually leads to cost and resource savings, higher quality of construction, improves efficiency, and reduces the span of the project.

Sustainable growth and development are the need of the hour. It, therefore, becomes imperative for individuals and communities, industries and sectors, and all world economies – to ‘Invest in Our Planet’ and to “act boldly, innovate broadly, and implement equitably”. India has taken aggressive measures in that direction. Last year at COP26, the Prime Minister has committed to the world that India will achieve net-zero by 2070 and reduce emission intensity by 33 to 35% by 2030.

To achieve its sustainability goals, India has heavily invested in operationalising the largest renewable energy capacity addition program in the world. It has taken a lead in forging International collaborations for clean energy such as International Solar Alliance with France and Green Grid initiative with the UK. It has tremendously pushed the shift to green mobility by promoting electric vehicles. Consequently, the 2020 Climate Transparency report lists India as the only G20 country to have done its fair share to meet the two-degree goal.

In the construction and civil engineering space as well, the Government has taken progressive measures. Its Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Council quantifies energy consumption, adoption of renewable energy etc., for products and services and certifies them with green ratings.

Environment-friendly practices, green technologies, and innovation can really transform the way infrastructure around us is designed and built. Civil engineering has a critical role to play in mainstreaming eco-friendly construction. It is essential that the new projects are green, but it is also important that existing ones are retrofitted to make them environment friendly. Innovation is the key, and we should adopt newer ways to engineer sustainable infrastructure today to build a better tomorrow.

By Vikramjiet Roy, Managing Director, Maccaferri (India)

(This is an authored article. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to

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