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A bridge to the future


Ashish Tandon, MD, Egis India, offers a holistic view of what it takes to execute challenging projects and the technology it brings to the table.

Egis India has been consultant on several metro projects. Tell us about your role and the expertise you bring to the table.
Egis is a metro rail specialist as it has the experience and expertise of working on metro projects in several continents. We have experts and tools that are time tested and able to offer customised solutions around the world. We are one of the most capable companies to work on all types of terrains, conditions, technologies when it comes to metros.
We are associated with five metro projects – Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Nagpur and Mumbai Metro Line-3. The company is involved in a gamut of services encompassing PMC, design services, feasibility studies, supervision, and audit.

You have been highly active in the roads & highways segment. Could you offer a case study on the complexities of a project and Egis’s way of dealing with it?
We offer varied services including design reviews, construction supervision and road operations.
Every project offers a unique challenge and we need to use our global expertise to arrive at a suitable solution at a sustainable cost. We are working on a project called Trilateral highway connecting India-Myanmar and Thailand. This is a stretch of road that was developed during the Second World War and later abandoned. This road is predicted to offer huge trilateral benefits to the three countries and develop greater economic and social collaboration worth billions of dollars.
The road was treacherous. We used our geospatial services to map the road, study the topography of the region and then used that data to arrive at the design. The design also considered the options of execution and challenges associated with it – like lack of skilled technical resources to execute and the economic implications of the same. We tried to offer a comprehensive end-to-end solution using multiple tools and resources available globally at Egis.

As a French company, you have a strong inclination to aesthetics as well as sustainability. How do you comply with this when executing projects in India?
We don’t treat projects in India in isolation. Instead, we apply the same stringent standards that we apply anywhere in the world and strive to offer our signature in every project. As a global company, we have different processes of the infrastructure developed or planned at different regions. For example, a design may be developed in Brazil based on data analysis in Bengaluru for a project in Bihar. So the global work culture has a rub off and we ensure that the best experts of every region are utilised in every project.
Our designs also take into account optimum energy utilisation. In building projects, we try to accommodate features that reduce energy consumption by optimum use of natural resources. In smart cities we try to have a compact structure that minimises wastage and maximises resource utilisation.
For example, in the Shivaji Statue that we are working on in Maharashtra, we have taken into account the oceanic studies of the next five hundred years to build a structure that can withstand any change in the oceans. In MML-3, we are dealing with intricate underground network which passes below historic monuments.

In terms of Smart Cities, India is looking at MNCs to finance the master plan. Egis India has already won a project in Bhubaneswar. Could you tell us a little more?
In Bhubaneswar, we have been entrusted with implementation of all proposed projects within the boundary of ABD zone. The basket includes multi-level car parks, ICOMC building, 24×7 water and power supply, SCADA metering, city gas network design; master planning of institutional core redevelopment; and urban design guidelines for the ABD.
The aim of the Bhubaneswar Smart City is creation of vibrant public realm with integrated smart infrastructure. Urban design will be a key component of delivery – smart mobility solutions, efficient resource allocation and utilisation; creation of social equity initiatives – Aahar centres to feed the urban poor, common service centres to cater to services, affordable housing for rehabilitated slums; and urban lake zone development are the main modules we are working on.
Success in implementation of Smart City is dependent on ‘convergence’ – a bringing together of not only available funds but also efforts and intent of the stakeholders. Sustainability of smartness will be ensured only when the citizens experience a sense of pride and belonging towards its public spaces.

You had said that the challenges to shift the depot for the MML-3 project is a technological one. Please expound.
The technical challenge is being resolved by our client with cooperation from state government and we don’t see any roadblock in achieving the revenue operating date for the project.

What are the technologies that India could deploy across roads & highways and metro projects, but has deferred?

The technology being used in highway and metro projects are constantly being improved, and in the last two decades this has scaled up. Presence of international consultants and contractors coupled with an appetite for better quality, value for money and sustainability from implementing agencies have provided ample opportunities for adoption of better technologies, construction practices and safety in these sectors. However a lot depends on the implementing agency.
We have been able to use some latest technologies in our projects, appreciated by our clients for their usefulness. In one project in Karnataka, we have used ROMDAS (Road Measurement Data Acquisition System) and Ground Penetration Radar equipment for faster and accurate collection of road features and pavement evaluation. This, coupled with customised software applications, helps the government in prioritising the road maintenance works. Similarly, we have been involved in a projects where deployment of mobile laboratories, CCRA – software for automatic measurement of compaction of embankment and subgrades, Satellite transponder for asphalt paving machines have helped in ensuring high levels of quality. Use of Mobile LIDAR mapping technologies is another area which can cut down time taken in topographical surveys and asset mapping, tasks which are time consuming with the conventional methods. An area which is still not widespread is adoption of new pavement technologies.
In metro rail, while focus on new tunneling technologies has been deployed in India with participation from international contractors, the emphasis has been on energy conservation, aesthetics, and safety. Adoption of BIM will go a long way.

Considering the population density, several things go wrong with construction of projects in India. How can India build projects that can be enduring and sustainable?

The problem is that projects are planned and executed in isolation. We have metro projects with no end-to-end transportation. Unless we start seeing infrastructure as a whole, we will continue to face challenges. Technology is seen as a cost and not as an investment. Some technologies might be expensive, but they help in adding years and quality to the projects.
Another challenge is funding and delays. There needs to be clarity on sources of funds and approvals before the project starts so that delays can be avoided.

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Sept 2020
01 Sep 2020