Building cities offuture - key toIndia tomorrow

Building cities of the future - key to the India of tomorrow

10:14 AM, 19th September 2017
Waterproofing solutions applied at Ottera International Hotel in Bangalore.
Waterproofing solutions applied at Ottera International Hotel in Bangalore.

By Nilotpol Kar

Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer - Great Britain, famously said, “To those who say our country cannot afford to invest in infrastructure, I say we cannot afford not to invest in our future.” This statement holds true today, more than ever.

According to the UN Global Health Observatory’s findings, cities across the world will witness a high population growth in the forthcoming years. By 2050, almost 70 percent of the global population2 will live in cities. A case in point is the megacity of Mumbai, where the population1 has crossed 1.8 crores, according to the 2011 census as against 1.2 crores2 in 2001. Assuming a similar population growth rate and migratory pattern, the city may house more than 4 crore3 people by 2050.

India too is staring at rapid urbanization, as more and more people migrate from rural areas to megacities.

Rapid urbanization also brings to the forefront, a unique set of challenges - one which needs the effective partnership of public as well as private players when it comes to investment in both - resources and time. Given this explosion, the need of the hour is to develop structures that support the demands of a growing population and simultaneously withstand the test of time. After all, sustainable housing and infrastructure are the key requisites for a developing economy.

When I say infrastructure, it encompasses residential and commercial facilities as well as assets such as metros and rails, highways, bridges, tunnels, ports and harbours, cold storage capacities etc. Development on these fronts will also have a direct impact on other industries such as agriculture, by providing storage facilities to feed the growing population; manufacturing, by enabling growth industries such as automobiles, FMCG, nutrition and pharma to expand their capacities sustainably and in an efficient fashion.

Historically, many infrastructural projects in India were not built for the population explosion or differing climatic conditions that we are witnessing today. Extreme weather conditions around rain and heat lead to multiple challenges like - uneven and pothole-ridden roads, development of cracks in buildings resulting in waterproofing problems, water logging due to inadequate drainage facilities etc. These issues need to be addressed, now, before it’s too late.

Without making our current structures strong and durable, it is difficult for us to think of the future. Hence here, chemistry will play an important role. Solutions such as waterproofing systems, insulation systems, precision grouts, adhesives and injections, admixtures for concrete and cement additives, wall systems, flooring systems, mortars, coatings, pigments and dispersions etc. become pivotal. That’s not all, resource efficiency will also play a key role. Hence, the focus needs to be on rapid and cost-efficient construction, easy maintenance, high performance and quality materials, and infrared-reflective coatings, which can all enabled by innovative chemistry.

Chemistry largely depends on Research & Development (R&D), as it empowers companies with in-depth knowledge of local market needs for specific construction challenges. It will help increase productivity, quicken progress, lower overall costs, reduce consumption of natural resources, improve energy efficiency and safety processes.

Furthermore, infrastructure is completely dependent on government initiation and support. It is for this reason, that the infrastructure segment enjoys intense focus from the government for initiating policies that ensure the time-bound creation of world-class infrastructure in the country. For a long-term vision, it is important for them to give priority to value-based solutions over pricing based tactical approach. Additionally, the government needs to constantly review our existing building and product codes to suit the evolving climatic conditions and population requirements while ensuring sustainability.

In line with this, stakeholders need to study and adopt best practices from emerging global economies and try to replicate them in the country, further boosting customized and tailor-made solutions for the country. Hence, in line with this, stakeholders need to come together and ideate and discuss solutions resulting in right specifications for the right applications. This will help everyone to support the emerging mega-trends in the industry - productivity, economy, durability and sustainability.

Through these actions, the resulting solutions will definitely support the ever dynamic market demands. For example: with the introduction of initiatives such as Make in India, Smart Cities and Amrut Cities the infrastructure industry has received a much-required boost. The Smart Cities and Amrut Cities plan are to develop 500 cities, under the public-private partnership strategy. To put it into perspective, through Smart Cities alone, India will add 11.5 million homes every year.

These initiatives bode well for the construction chemicals industry. According to a knowledge paper on construction chemicals by Tata Strategic Management and FICCI4, Smart Cities are expected to trigger a manifold increase in demand for construction chemicals with the industry reaching Rs. 7000 crore by 2018-19 from Rs. 3,500 crore in 2013-14. Thereby, the industry is expected to grow by 15 percent per annum over the next five years.

This is exciting as well as challenging. Companies in the infrastructure business need to be ready to support this kind of volume as well as ensure a perfect blend quality, by providing durable and sustainable solutions.

The Global Infrastructure report by World Bank indicates that India needs an infrastructure investment outlay of $4.5 trillion by 2040, making it the second-largest infrastructure market in Asia after China5! I would like to end this article, by again invoking Philip’s quote on investment in infrastructure, as it is the only path towards a sustainable future and continue our partnering role towards the advancement of the country. 

Author: Nilotpol Kar is business director, construction chemicals, BASF, South Asia.








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