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Global Road Construction & Safety Conference 2022

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New Delhi: In the pink winters of Delhi, the Taj Palace, New Delhi, witnessed the warmth of immersive deliberations by the confluence of Government, Industry, and Academia on innovative technologies, which can redefine the future of road construction, financing and safety in India at the Global Road Construction & Safety Conference 2022 (GRC – 2022) on 30th November.

The conference's agenda was “Building Green & Sustainable Infrastructure with New Age Technologies and Road Safety 2.0.” The conference was collaborated by CRRI and supported by Ease of Doing Business (EODB).

The GRC-2022 conference was spread over 11 sessions of discussions & presentations over a long day without any tea/coffee break with power-packed agenda till 9 PM, where over 50 speakers from various organisations in this field participated. The conference was attended by over 400 delegates from India and overseas from the road construction industry, equipment manufacturers, IoT experts, and Drone operators.

The speakers included 07 professors from top IITs, including Prof Bahia, who came from USA for this conference; more than 10 senior government officers from Niti Aayog, MoRTH, NHAI, CRRI, CPWD, RITES & IRCON; over 20 speakers from the industry leaders Ashoka Buildcon, G R Infraprojects Ltd, Cube Highways, OSE, L&T, 3M, Keltron, Park+, Humasafer App, BITCOL, HP, Indian Oil and over 15 Subject matter Experts and participant from World Bank.

Welcoming the delegates and speakers, Chairman of the organising committee, Shri Akhilesh Srivastava, Ex CGM–NHAI, World Economic Forum, External Advisor McKinsey & Co, IT Advisor to Uttarakhand Government and Road Safety Brand Ambassador of International Road Federation (IC), stressed the need of Innovation in the construction industry to achieve scale & speed for building infrastructure to meet the vision of Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi of a fully developed nation by 2047. He said the desired Speed and Scale couldn’t be achieved without Innovation. He stressed the need for new construction technologies which reduce time & cost and new greener and more cost-effective materials which lead towards Net Zero and Zero fatalities on roads with new-age technologies to assist drivers & vehicles.

The stimulating deliberations took place on these five major themes:

  1. Innovative technologies in road construction to optimise cost & save time, 
  2. New sustainable and green construction materials with the most negligible carbon emission,
  3. New-age road safety technologies to reduce road fatalities,
  4. Emerging financing trends in the road sector and 
  5. How to reduce carbon emission in road construction- a step towards Net Zero in road construction.

In the opening address, Prof (Dr) Manoranjan Parida, Director - CSIR – Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), highlighted the innovative research works being done by the CCRI.

Shri Nirmal Singh, Ex-DG Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and Secretary General Indian Road Congress; NHAI Member(Project), Shri R K Pandey; Advisor (Infrastructure & Transportation) Niti Aayog Shri Sudhendu J Sinha, and construction industry veteran Dr P R Swarup, Director General of Construction Industry Development Council, gave keynote addresses and highlighted the need of innovative technologies in road construction and the need capacity building to implement these on the ground.

The budgetary allocation has increased from INR 33,414 crores (Financial Year 2015) to INR 1,83,101 crores (Financial Year 2022). But, we can’t rely on government support perennially and need to innovate new financing models to build and maintain better & safe roads. Mr Sajany Varma, General Manager (Fin) NHAI, highlighted the government initiatives of new finance models through TOT (Toll Operate & Transfer), InvIT and SPVs. The speaker stressed that the government would shortly list InvITs on the stock market so that retail investors can trade units, creating an opportunity for the common person to invest in infrastructure projects. 

The sessions dealing with the New Construction & technologies were dealt with in much detail. Professors from IITs suggested innovative bituminous design mixes and cost-effective new materials as possible substitutes. The industry leaders shared their practical experiences of innovations in improving the construction process and optimisation. They also highlighted that the increasing cost of conventional construction materials severely affects the health of the projects. They stressed the urgent need for alternative materials to reduce volatility. 

Awards for the 06 best research papers and technologies were given to encourage innovation and applied research in this sector. The awards winners included Dr Ambika Behl, Principal Scientist, CRRI, Prof Dhramveer from IIT Mumbai, Prof Nikhil Saboo from IIT Roorkee, Prof Agnivesh Pani from IIT (BHU) Varanasi, and Ms Atasi Das from G R Infra Ltd.

Chairing the road safety session, Shri Akhilesh Srivastava highlighted that it is impossible to improve road safety without using the latest technologies. The conventional methods of road safety are not yielding desired results, as evident from the fact that despite all efforts by MoRTH & NHAI, fatalities on roads increased by 16% in 2021 from 2020. NHAI CGM Mr Naqvi highlighted the road safety measures being taken by NHAI. The session deliberated upon the safety measures with the help of AI, Telematics & Data Analysis. Mr Akhilesh stresses that we need technology to assist drivers in making them safer and ADAS systems in vehicles to prevent accidents apart from the advanced traffic management system on roads for better enforcement.

The session's highlight was the launch of the “School Zone Road Safety Portal” made in IRF in collaboration with 3M and Proactive Foundation.  One out of every ten RTI-related deaths among children aged between 0 and 14 occurred in India. Only 17% of schools had roads showing school zone signage, and only 11.5% displayed speed limits. How safe are our school zones if children are the most vulnerable users?  

The portal will capture and highlight the gap between the road safety features available in the school vs what is required per the IRC by displaying it on a single dashboard so that everyone can view the road safety vulnerability near the schools where their children are studying and can put pressure on schools and the administrative and engineering authorities to rectify the shortcomings and make school zones safer for the children.

The main features of the portal will be:

  1. Ranking of schools based on the scores calculated based on the road safety features in the school zone and displayed on the IRF website.
  2. Citizens and parents can view the status of road safety in schools. 
  3. Unique role-based login features for schools, road safety auditors and district administrative and engineering authorities. 
  4. User-friendly data submission and conversion of road safety features in scores for easy understanding by common people. 
  5. Escalation matrix to scale the matters with the concerned senior administrative authorities if no action is taken in time bound manner.

Chairing the most crucial session of “How to reduce carbon emission in road construction- a step towards Net Zero in road construction”, Dr Ambika Behl stressed the need for green materials and greener construction technologies. Ms Atasi Das, Asstt Vice President of G R Infraproject Ltd, highlighted the industry's concerns about adopting these technologies due to higher costs. She stressed that ample incentives and subsidies should encourage the initiatives to embrace these. In reply to this, Ms Neha Vyas, Senior Environmental Specialist at The World Bank, explained the various schemes incentivising the adoption of greener technologies and materials.

Another conference highlight was the Curtain Raiser “Circular Economy -India Confex 2022” by Ease of Doing Business. 

Shri Akhilesh Srivastava concluded the session by stating that critical recommendations of the GRC-2022 will be submitted to Ease of Doing Business to take up with various Ministries to get policies which can facilitate the construction industry and requirements of the industry will be given to IITs/Academia for carrying research aligned to the industry needs to achieve the vision of the Prime Minister of Atma-Nirbhar Bharat.

(The content is a paid-for, sponsored article. Journalists of The First India are not responsible in reporting or writing it.)

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