The rapid growth of urban populationcoupled with the reducing subsurface, as well as ground spaces for layingutilities, are the base catalysts for the application of trenchless techniquesin India and other nations of South Asia.

Added to this, the deteriorating state of existing physical subsurfaceinfrastructures evolves into a situation where the conventions are giving way toadvancements — trenchless technologies.

In India 10 years ago, trenchless techniques was a term known only foradvancements and automation and the information in subsurface construction. Eventhat knowledge at the time was rather bookish. During the last decade, Indiantrenchless markets have seen a substantial growth in the population of drillingrigs — in fact, the population grew from non-existence to the current total ofmore than 400 operating units.

Similarly, lining businesses, which started with a few meters ofdemonstrational applications, have evolved into businesses worth millions ofdollars. A recent project executed in New Delhi boasts of CIPP lining withdiameters up to 1,900 mm with an approximate length of 7 km. A substantialamount of glass-fiber reinforced pipe (GRP) linings have also been executedduring this period and at times, it serves as a cost-effective alternative toCIPP.

In this article, we will discuss the business of trenchless technology inIndia, which is the largest market of trenchless in South Asia and is poised togrow further.

State of Infrastructure
Indiansubsurface infrastructure has a varied age, starting from newly laid pipes toones that are as old as 200 years. Lengthwise, New Delhi has one of the largestsubsurface pipe networks with approximately 5,000 km in length. There arefunctional sewers in old cities such as Benaras, Kolkata or Mumbai, with pipeages exceeding 100 years.

In New Delhi the lines are not only silted but settlements of crown and otherstructural failures are rampant in some of the other locations. In some of thecities, such as Coembtore, another type of problem is the aging of the pipeswhere the pipe materials have completely failed.

Apart from the above problems, another difficulty dogging the Indiansubsurface networks is at times the failure of proper grades for gravity lines,necessitating an all-weather round pumping due to sluggish flow. Moreover, thepresent state of affairs is that after an extremely long period of neglect, nowthe utility service providers have started feeling the pinch as to the failureof the networks, which are now leading to serious environmental disasters.

One prominent example is the of the Yamuna River. Faced with such situationsall over, several utility service providing authorities have embarked uponEnvironmental Improvement Projects (EIPs). Some of the examples are RajasthanUrban Infrastructure Development Project (RUIDP), Tamil Nadu Urban DevelopmentProject-III (TNUDP-III), Kolkata Environmental Improvement Project (KEIP), etc.These are from Gurgaon, a town in the National Capital Region where the road hassettled and cars fell in the ditch one after the another.

Trenchless Market
The projects indicatedabove are only the tip of iceberg. For nearly half of the 602 districts ofIndia, such projects are needed and a large number of them are already undervarious stages of execution. The alternative to using trenchless technologies inthese instances is utilizing open-cut methods — until now, a large portion ofsuch projects were being done by using these methods. Space paucity (both overand under ground) and the successive failures of networks are now forcing theuse of trenchless applications in a big way. The difficulty, however, is thenon-availability of such service providers in sufficient numbers, which leads tothe adoption of fewer trenchless activities or delays in the project executions.The monitary valuation of some of such projects can be seen by visiting thevarious project authorities’ Web sites. A substantial part of these projectfunds is expected be applied toward trenchless applications.

Application-wise, the largest need for trenchless techniques is in the waterand sewer sector, where the networks are either failing badly or deteriorated toan extent where new installations are becoming a necessity. There are, however,lines where rehabilitation work can still be done and even this work issubstantial. 

An interesting fact to note is that although India has a largepopulation of drilling rigs, microtunneling machines are still few and farbetween — despite the huge need for them. For an example, in New Delhi alone asubstantial length of various diameter pipelines needs to be installed bymicrotunneling and pipe jacking methods, as open-cut has been completely ruledout in those cases.

The next popular application of trenchless is in the oil and the gas sectors,where the networks are not as old as the water and sewer lines and are presentlyunder development. Naturally in this case, the new installation techniques aremore applicable and some of the new drilling rigs of larger size andpush/pullback capabilities have started arriving in India because of theseprojects.

One such job under construction is at Paradeep in Orissa. With the growth ofoil and gas pipeline networks, such projects are expected to continue toincrease. Although the lines for oil and gas are not that old, there are lineslike HBJ, where the rehabilitation need is apparent. The Indian Society forTrenchless Technology (INDSTT) has been interacting with different projectowners and service providers and has been promoting the application oftrenchless techniques in all such projects.

The Indian trenchless marketis now on the path of growth and expansion, with the project owners realizingthat these techniques are useful and, in certain cases, they are the only way toget the projects done. Global trenchless service providers need to take noticeof this market, as the magnitude of projects available in the Indian markets issubstantially large. The low wage economy that is prevalent in India, however,presents a challenge for the global stakeholders but the opening markets havesomewhat mitigated such risks to certain extent.

Other positive points are the stable currency and the democratic governancesystems. In addition to these presence of INDSTT for the last eight years haslent substantial support to the global trenchless service providers to achievethe market presence and networking. Further, as the demands for such servicesare rapidly growing today, there is need for more trenchless service providersand specialists. One must therefore consider expanding in the Indian markets fora better future.

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