Maria R. interviews several members of the organizing committee on the upcoming event and the opportunities which the deliberations and discussions will throw up for India’s tunnelling industry. Excerpts:

Nirmaana 2022 - International Conference

Organizer INSTRUCT is geared up for its major Nirmaana 2022 conference on Tunnelling & Underground Construction, wherein international and national technical experts will exchange views, experiences, and share ideas and case studies of tunnel projects across the globe. The conference will disseminate knowledge on underground structures and tunnelling projects with technical sessions, discussions on the latest tunnelling technologies, machineries, applications, and implementation protocols in India’s tunnelling projects. The two-day conference will be held on 12 and 13 May 2022 at Hotel Lalit Ashok in Bengaluru.

What are the objectives of Nirmaana 2022 – Two-day international conference on Underground Construction & Tunnelling?
Er. Gururaj TS, Chairman
Er. Gururaj TS, Chairman, Conference: India is at the cusp of Infrastructure development which include roads and highways, railways, ports and waterways, hydro power plants, mass rapid transit systems, crude oil underground storage structures, sewage systems etc. Underground tunnelling and excavations are necessary for such project developments. In India, these construction activities are growing by leaps and bounds, with many outstanding projects nearing completion, ongoing, or in the planning stage.

Nirmaana 2022 aims to bring the necessary know-how to delegates from the Infrastructure Development sector and the Construction Equipment industry, and to the civil engineering professionals at large.

Underground tunnelling and construction of deep underground structures in urban areas are needed for mass rapid transit systems, railways, roadways, ports etc – all of which require extensive understanding of what the projects entail including their planning, designing, use of technologies, awareness of the appropriate equipment, and their efficient application. The projects will require monitoring, grouting, cast-in-situ concreting, precast, shotcreting etc.

Nirmaana 2022 will explore the latest technologies and high-tech equipment, in order to bring the best solutions to companies and civil engineering professionals involved in tunnelling projects.

Er. Ravishankar M
Er. Ravishankar M, Secretary General, organizing committee: India’s tunnelling and underground construction activities are growing at a fast pace since the last few years. This growth is being driven by factors such as our expanding cities for accommodating a growing population, which demand an increase in transportation systems like railways, roads, aviation, and tunnels, along with sustainable solutions, use of mechanized equipment for more efficient and speedier constructions, good quality construction materials, and advanced construction technologies.

Tunnelling and underground constructions are complex projects that require investigation, planning, design and modelling, functional cross-section and alignment optimization, mechanization, excavations, construction of deep shafts, shotcrete shell shafts, underpinning of buildings, designing and building temporary structures, monitoring, supervision of migrant labourers, and a lot more.

Given the complexities involved in constructing tunnels and underground structures, there is a need for more advanced technical know-how on modern construction processes and new technologies. Nirmaana 2022 conference aims to address these requirements by the industry.

What led INSTRUCT to choose the topic ‘Tunnelling and Underground Construction’ for Nirmaana 2022? How will INSTRUCT address the key challenges and issues of this construction segment (Tunnelling and UGC) in Nirmaana 2022?
Er. B.A Madhukar
Er. B.A Madhukar, Chairman, Organizing Committee: INSTRUCT has been continually addressing the issues and challenges in the Construction Industry through training and updating sessions for the construction fraternity. It has been our practice to choose relevant topics after deliberating on the current and future needs of the industry, by considering the complex nature of structures being built, and the technologies that are being increasingly deployed, such as the precast and pre-engineered construction techniques.

Having identified the need for urban transport systems like metros, inter-city high-speed rail, sewage, waterways, etc, (all of which require underground tunnels), INSTRUCT Programme Committee decided on drawing focus on the challenges and issues in Tunnelling and Underground Constructions for its Nirmaana 2021 seminar (now postponed to 2022 due to the pandemic).

To address this complex topic, INSTRUCT (as always) draws on its in-house resources – experts who are well-versed in the construction of tunnels and underground facilities, and companies that can call upon their highly accomplished engineers in this segment to share their insights and knowledge.

With its strong intent and ability to engage specialists to speak on a given complex topic, INSTRUCT is able to obtain the concurrence of some of the best people in the Tunnelling and Underground Construction field to address technical issues from soil engineering to post construction, and analyze the challenges and solutions, for the benefit of the stakeholders, especially those who are actively involved in ongoing and upcoming infra projects.

What are the themes/topics to be covered by the experts during the conference?
Dr. Bharathi Ganesh
Dr. Bharathi Ganesh, Technical Committee: The knowledge dissemination regarding the tunnelling and underground construction is aimed at but not limited to, the Societal & Planning Aspects, Pre-Contract (Geo-tech, Design, Procurement), Post-Contract (Technology, Construction), Project Management, Environ- ment, Health & Safety EHS & Risk Management, Post-Completion Maintenance, Forensics & Failure Studies etc.

Currently many critical but strategically important tunnel projects like all-weather tunnel road construction in hilly areas, tunnel mining projects, underground metro projects, etc. are in various phases of construction, can we expect the experts from various segments (road, metro, mining etc) to discuss the key opportunities, standardization and advanced mechanization in tunnelling technologies which are being used on challenging sites to complete the projects safely and smoothly?
Dr. Bharathi Ganesh: Of course, yes. Eminent Speakers at Nirmaana 22 would be the ‘Who’s Who” in the field of tunnelling and underground construction from across the Globe. It is expected that they would be elaborating on Case Studies of underground constructions and challenges at various levels of the projects from inception to completion, including operation and maintenance. Analysis and design aspects using the latest tools, trends of technological advances in construction etc. including risk assessment and safety management aspects of underground constructions are expected to be covered.

How do you rate India in terms of technical expertise in tunnel construction?
Er. B.A Madhukar: In tunnelling technology, we missed out on the bleeding edge since tunnelling on a large scale has taken off quite lately in India compared to countries like US, Europe, Singapore, Korea, China, and Hong Kong. However, the sudden spurt in tunnelling and underground construction projects meant that we are now at the cutting edge of technology due to the sheer volume of work being undertaken. This is akin to the telecom boom or the 4G network proliferation in the country, which was very nominal to start with, but now we are on the cutting edge of mobile telephony and communication.

I could say that the time has never been so good to be involved in the tunnelling and underground segment, or even to make a fresh start in this industry, as technological advances have thrown open new and hereto unknown career opportunities in the construction sector.

How effective would be the outcome of the discussions on the Construction Industry’s concerns and issues on the INSTRUCT Nirmaana platform, and in presenting them to the government’s policymakers for consideration and implementation?
Dr. Manamohan Kalgal
Dr. Manamohan Kalgal, Chairman, Technical Committee: We have confirmed representation from the government and the public sector. We also have speakers from government bodies; these are in the tunnelling and infrastructure space, and they will share their experiences. The industry and the government are never apart and are equally keen to improve our country’s infrastructure.

The conference will provide an opportunity to policymakers and the decision makers from the private and public sectors, the academia, research scholars, and the construction industry to share their knowledge and expertise for the common good of all as infra developments will enhance the public’s lifestyle and thereby their sense of well-being and pave the way for better infrastructure in the years to come.

What positive impact will the event have on innovations in tunnelling methodologies and technologies, and on the construction sector?
Dr. Manamohan Kalgal: India is a very large market and very diverse too - not just socio-economically but also geographically, with various sub-soils and terrains posing serious challenges during tunnelling. This will be discussed in detail through case studies which will discuss tunnelling challenges in different soil strata, sometimes encountering multiple types of soft soil and hard rock, which are not a common phenomenon in the world.

We hope that the case studies and discussions at Nirmaana will lead to an India-centric design approach, which will not only meet our technical challenges but also result in cost effective and innovative solutions. It is our intent that the event will provide an opportunity for such intellectual stimulation and knowledge transfer.

How is the event being promoted and what opportunities is it likely to throw up?
Dr. L.R. Manjunatha
Dr. L.R. Manjunatha, Chairman - Media & Publicity: Nirmaana is the flagship international conference organised by INSTRUCT. This year’s theme on Tunnelling and Underground Construction is very relevant as India is fast tracking infra development and growth across the country in all sectors from housing to ports to high-speed rails etc.

The event is being promoted worldwide through our media partners and social media platforms, inviting people to attend in person or through online participation. We have lined up eminent speakers and exhibitors to make the conference highly informative and useful to the participants. The 2-day program will cover the entire gamut of underground construction and tunnelling activities - not just for the uninitiated but also for veterans in the field, by providing a glimpse into the methodologies, the challenges, contractual issues, along with presentations of case studies, new technologies, and high-tech construction equipment. The carefully selected experts from around the world are recognized for their contribution in their respective filed of work, and will bring decades of experience to the platform.

Er. B.A Madhukar: Currently, many strategically important tunnel projects are in various phases of construction; these include all-weather tunnel roads in hilly areas, mining, underground metros, etc. The participating experts from the various tunnel segments will discuss key opportunities, standardization, mechanization, technologies, and solutions, more so for the challenging sites.

The invited speakers are well known names from the industry sharing their vast experience with the attendees. It would not be an overstatement to say Nirmaana 2022 is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to rub shoulders with the who’s who of the tunnelling industry. It is an opportunity for practitioners and academicians keen to ask questions and find answers to challenges that they encounter time and again.

The tunnelling segment is one of the fastest growing in the industry and has seen phenomenal changes in the last decade or so. With the advent of digitalization, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, in particular, we are at the cusp of some fundamental changes in the way work is carried out; how safety measures can be adopted using technology and devices like wearables, etc. all of which needs to be well understood.

What response is coming from potential participants for Nirmaana 2022?
Er. B.A Madhukar: The world has changed completely from the last edition of Nirmaana, which was highly successful. Preparation had started in end-2019 as the event was planned to be held in mid-2020, but the pandemic forced us to postpone it by nearly two years.

From the early planning of about 550 participants (physically present) and a negligible percentage of participants via online, we are seeing a dramatic shift to about 250 persons confirming their physical presence and thousands logging online, making it a truly hybrid event. The same scenario repeats when it comes to the speakers who are the real stars of the event – From literally everyone being physically present at the venue, today we are seeing speakers from around the world presenting at the conference either virtually or in person. This indirectly has eliminated the limitation of travel & logistics and availability of all the speakers who are among the who’s who of the industry and provides a great opportunity for attendees & others for interaction & networking. The limited number of in-person attendees also means that the seats are filling up fast thanks to our outreach campaign through extensive coverage about the event in both social and print media, and dozens of professional groups on WhatsApp and LinkedIn from across the world through which we hope to reach as many interested people as possible. The online response is very good and we expect to see a record number of enrollments from around the world, with enquiries coming from USA, Europe, Singapore, Australia, etc.
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