India, a reluctant powerhouse 15 Dec 2016

Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk

India is a powerhouse, but it doesn’t seem to know it, or doesn’t know how to maximize the advantage or manage the reality. This is not the case for the exceptionally wealthy individuals who have taken advantage of the reality, but it seems the case for the country as a whole.

A week here in Delhi to attend the bauma CONEXPO India construction equipment exhibition reveals the tremendous amount of investment needed to improve, extend, increase the public infrastructure of the country and there are promising noises coming from the current administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of multi-billions of rupees to be invested but still the country is yet to experience the leap forward that is long predicted and anticipated.

The exhibition hosted 650 exhibitors and more than 31,000 visitors
The exhibition hosted 650 exhibitors and more than 31,000 visitors

Bureaucratic red tape continues to hold back initiatives, plans for new projects take years to move into construction, incompetence or poor management of issues on projects delay their finish until long beyond the programmed service date, projects always seem to be half finished in the final details, and the urgency to keep the projects rolling from one phase to the next seems to be missing.

These shortcomings are recognized and acknowledged but their resolution to ensure progress seem to be too paralyzing to tackle.

The one positive example of public infrastructure moving forward at a reasonable pace is the Delhi Metro. Travelling to and from the bauma showgrounds on the elevated metro was much easier and faster than trying to travel by car on the vastly overcrowded roads. Start of the metro system under the leadership of Dr Sreedharan has not stopped its forward progress and Phase 4 is now in design preparation for tendering before the Phase 3 system is completed and opened to service.

Other cities have started construction of metro systems, with varying degrees of success, more are in the preliminary or advanced stages of development while so many other large and dense conurbations should be developing metros to help ease chronic traffic congestion and pollution but are yet to start. Ahead of that all the same cities and conurbations are in urgent need of water supply, sewerage and drainage systems and that is ahead of considering the need for hydro power development, high speed rail connections, and new highway connections within and between cities.

<em>TunnelTalk</em> Editor, Shani Wallis, met with the leading tunnel equipment companies at the show
TunnelTalk Editor, Shani Wallis, met with the leading tunnel equipment companies at the show

The need is truly tremendous and similar to the great economic surge that China experienced some 10 years ago and continues for public infrastructure but could India experience, implement or manage such a similar economic surge is the question.

In his conference presentation at the bauma CONEXPO India event, Wilfried Theissen, Managing Director of Putzmeister Concrete Machines India made the comparison that, at its peak, the number of truck mounted concrete pumps in China in 2010, totalled some 12,500 units per year. At peak in India in 2011, the number of the same truck mounted concrete pumps in India was 150 units in the year. The prediction for India for this year (2016) was about 100 units with the hope of much improved statistics for the years to come. The number of these units into Turkey at the moment is more than 500 units per year.

But India is not China, as everyone agrees, and the exhibitors at the bauma CONEXPO India event this week were looking forward to predictions of improving market trends during the coming years. “We should not be pessimistic,” as one manufacturer said, “but we should also not be too optimistic. We should be realistic.”

For the tunnelling world, the buzz among the suppliers and contractors was news of orders placed for the 17 TBMs needed for the very long awaited underground Line 3 of the Mumbai Metro system and prospects that tunnelling and underground works will be well represented in the many billions of rupees promised by Prime Minister Modi into the countries urban, rural and country wide infrastructure.

We shall see and will report again when we visit the next bauma CONEXPO India in 2018.


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