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Delhi is capital city of India and is also home to around 2.5 Crore citizens of it. In recent future, Delhi has been affected by traffic jams, snarls, and water logging issues quite frequently. Group was affected by these rising problems in Delhi and tried to find out solution to these problems through innovation in infrastructure industry. Group looked into various innovations which were spread out on all horizons of intensity of change they brought i.e. from incremental to radical innovations globally which were a match to these problems. Group identified that SMART tunnel project undertaken by federal government of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur is one such project which can be a possible solution to these problems with Delhi.

This Study tries to analyze feasibility of executing this project in Delhi and benefits that could be reaped out of it. As proposed initially by the group, it has also kept other innovations in consideration.

Introduction to SMART: A success in Kuala Lumpur

The Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART Tunnel) is a major project located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is a storm drainage and road structure that was built with a purpose to solve severe flooding and traffic problems. It is the longest multi-purpose tunnel in the world with a length of 9.7 km (6.0 miles) which begins at Kampung Berembang lake near Klang River at Ampang and ends at Taman Desa lake near Kerayong River at Salak South. (Exhibit 1 showing entry of SMART Tunnel and coverage area)

The tunnel is basically divided into three sections. Upper two sections – lower carriageway and upper carriageway are for traffic and the third section – storm water tunnel is present at the bottom (Refer Exhibit 3).

The tunnel operates in three modes (Refer Exhibit 4):

1. Mode 1: No storm or little rainfall

In this the motorway section is open and the storm tunnel is closed so no water would be released into the tunnel in this mode.

2. Mode 2: Minor storm

In case of minor storms and when the flow of the river at the junction exceeds 70 cumsec (cubic meter per second), the storm water tunnel opened to operate in “semi-open” status. This allows the water to flow through the lowest channel of the road tunnel section. The upper section of the motorway is still available for the motorists to commute.

3. Mode 3: Major storm

The storm water tunnel is opened to operate in “fully open” status when the flood detection system gives a reading of more than 150 at the river junction and a prediction of heavy and continued rainfall. So, the upper two sections are also closed and the traffic is evacuated. All the three sections thus carry the flood water in this mode.

The SMART Tunnel has also received the UN Habitat Scroll of Honor Award in 2011 for its unique innovation and capability to manage the storm water and traffic during the peak hours.

Study: SMART in Delhi or Not?

Water Logging, Traffic congestion

Water logging and traffic congestion are two primary motivators of group\'s choice of this project for Delhi. As per reports and data estimated around 10 million vehicles are registered in Delhi and many more in NCR region which take these roads on daily basis.

Various studies carried out by Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and the Railway Infrastructure Technical & Economic Services (RITES) suggest that by 2020 average speed of a vehicle on Delhi roads will be 5 Km/Hr.

As early as in 2010 a report quoting CRRI scientists stated that Six years of an average person from Delhi are spent in traffic and Rs. 100 crores in productivity are lost to gridlocks. Report also highlighted that motorists crawl at 4kmph for almost 24 minutes in two hours of driving, wasting 2 lakh liters of fuel for every one million cars plying daily.

As many as 150 water logging points have been highlighted on official website of Delhi Traffic Police (Table 1). We identified that most of these are near low lying areas near Yamuna basin and can be addressed by single corridor of SMART along with Ring road\'s section in that area (Exhibit 5)

Also, at least 1 major event of flooding and traffic jams due to it happen in Delhi, a search for \"Delhi flooding traffic\" keyword confirmed the same (Exhibit 6)

Environmental impacts of Tunnel Construction

A variety of problems like traffic, sewerage, routing steam, etc. can be solved by construction of tunnels but they have a huge impact on both the natural and man-made environment. Thus, making it important to take into consideration all these impacts during all the tunnel construction phases (design to implementation).

For our project, we took into account the following issues:

1. Emissions

2. Environment quality

3. Materials

4. Energy

5. Living conditions

6. Cultural quality

7. Habitat

Environment aspects/effects are associated with each issues which has been summarized in Table 2.

Each of the environment effect has its importance in different phases of tunnel construction. A summary of their relative importance is given in detail in table 3. Darker boxes denote high importance of that effect in that phase. The twelve most important effects are shown by arrows in front of them.

Guidelines for mitigating the environmental impacts

Air Quality

Pollution has been growing at an alarming rate in the national capital “Delhi” which is posing a huge threat to the lives of all the people living there. Hence, management of air quality takes the utmost priority in any type of project (especially infrastructure) being taken up in the future.

A few recommendations to manage air quality include:

1. Development and implementation of a dust management and monitoring plan to minimize and monitor the impact of dust.

2. Use of construction enclosures with truck wheel washers and concrete floors, water trucks, re-vegetating areas of disturbed soil, etc. as the earliest possible. Also, modification of activities should be done based on the weather conditions.

3. Removal of dust from the tunnels during construction by use of temporary ventilation shafts which are fitted with filtration systems.

4. Development of Air quality management plans which would work in accordance with the daily weather conditions and would also take into consideration the closeness of the construction site to sensitive areas like education facilities and hospitals, etc.

5. Collection of air quality data on regular basis and monitoring it regularly.

Noise and Vibration

The impact noise depends mainly on the type of source and closeness of the receiver to that source. And the amount of noise would change depending on the type of work being carried out and also the site of construction. So, the levels of activities above the ground would be different from the ones done below the ground. But regardless of all this, there are certain guidelines which should be followed to keep the noise levels as low as possible.

Working hour guidelines:

(1) Normal work hours:

a. Monday – Friday: 7 AM to 6 PM

b. Saturday: 7 AM to 1 PM

(2) Evening/Weekend hours

a. Monday – Friday: 6 PM to 10 PM

b. Saturday: 1 PM to 10 PM

c. Sunday & Public Holidays – 7 AM to 10 PM

(3) Night work hours:

a. Monday – Sunday: 10 PM to 7 AM.

However, some construction projects might be required to be carried out for 24 hrs a day and 7 days a week depending on its scale. To deal with such situations, acoustic construction sheds having a high performance should be built over the Tunnel Boring Machin (TBM) launch sites, station entrances and shafts. Also, to meet the applicable noise levels, temporary noise barriers can be installed around the construction. Noise from construction vehicles like trucks carrying the construction material can also have a potential impact on the residents, hence specific routes should be designed for them to commute so that the noise impact can be minimized.

Various guidelines like German DIN 4150 can be adopted to manage the potential impacts of vibration of the various existing structures.

A few recommendations to minimize the impact of noise and vibration include:

• Noise levels as stated by the environment protection authority and other relevant noise and vibration standards should be met.

• Relocation management framework should be developed.

• Property condition surveys should be conducted before starting the construction.

• Communication plan to cooperate with all the potential stakeholders should be designed.

Natural Environment

A few recommendations to manage biodiversity and surface water impacts include:

• Review of potential tree impacts should be done during detailed design phase and steps should be taken to ensure maximum tree protection.

• Replace the trees to maintain landscape value that should be in accordance with the governmental policies.

• Prepare and implement the protection of trees plans wherever necessary.

Geology and Ground Conditions

A few recommendations to manage ground movement and contamination include:

• Assess the potential movement effects from excavation during the detailed design phase.

• Develop and implement a ground movement plan.

• Conduct surveys before and after construction to identify any damages caused.

• Prepare a health and safety plan taking into consideration the risk of hazardous substances used in construction.

• Well tested construction techniques and management processes should be used.

Construction Methods

History of Construction Methods

De Re Metallica is published. Remained the –

authoritative text on mining for nearly two centuries

Nitroglycerine replaces less powerful black powder; steam and –  compressed air used to power drills to create holes for the explosive charge

British engineer James Greathead perfects –

tunneling shield method

Stabilize soft soil by circulating coolant through pipes embedded –

at intervals throughout the area

Shotcrete (liquid spray-on concrete) used as both a preliminary –        

And a final lining for tunnels (still used)

First drilling jumbos used to dig tunnels that would divert the – Colorado River around the construction site for Hoover Dam

American James Robbins invents the tunnel boring –

machine (TBM), used widely today

Australian tunneling specialists develop –

the New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM)

Inject grout (liquid bonding agent) into soft or fractured –

rock surrounding the tunnel route (still used)

-- 1556

-- 1850

-- 1884

-- 1900

-- 1920

-- 1931

-- 1954

-- 1957-1965

-- 1970

Current Construction Methods

Bored Tunnel

A tube like passage is dug in ground using the tunnel boring machine (TBM). TBM’s are capable of boring through almost anything. A circular cross section is created using them through the soil and sedimentary rocks. Exhibit 8 shows one of biggest tunnel created by a TBM.

Its advantages are:

1. Suitable for use in highly urban areas as tunnels walls made are smooth.

2. TBM’s also restricts the disturbance to nearby walls.

3. The tunnel lining costs are reduced.

 Its disadvantages are:

1. TBMs are expensive to construct.

2. Transportation of TBM’s is also difficult.

New Austrian Tunneling Method

New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) has revolutionized the tunneling industry. It is also known or Sequential Excavation Method (SEM) which is highly being used for designing and construction of tunnels.  In this method, the tunnel is stabilized by using the geological strength of the neighboring rocks. Refer Exhibit 9 for elements of NATM.

NATM follows the principle of monitoring the underground construction performance during its construction. Hence, this approach is known as “design as you go” and “design as you monitor”; the desired action is taken on the basis of observed ground conditions.

There are seven elements in NATM:

1. Exploitation of strength of native rock mass

2. Shotcrete protection

3. Measurement and monitoring

4. Flexible support

5. Closing of the invert

6. Contractual arrangements

7. Rock mass classification.

Its advantages are:

1. Expensive TBM equipment needn’t be used.

2. Shafts, junctions, tunnels and non-circular tunnels with variable shapes can be constructed using this technology.

Its disadvantages are:

1. Not suitable for grounds that are soft.

2. Not suitable below the water table in highly permeable soils.

Cut and Cover

Simplest method of construction to build shallow tunnels wherein a pit is dug out. A strong support system is placed above the pit and that system will have the capability to carry the loads which is required to be built above the tunnel. This type of tunneling can be further divided into:

1. Bottom-up construction – Tunnel constructed in the channel which is dug out (with ground support if required)

2. Top-down construction – Tunnel roof is made after beams and support walls are ready followed by excavation.

One main disadvantage of this method is that it generates a lot of chaos and disturbance on the surface. Refer Exhibit 10 for cut and cover approach

Other Innovations

Topmix Permeable

Topmix permeable can absorb around 1000 liters of water per square meter in a minute. It is developed by a Tarmac which is a UK based company. Due to its ability of absorbing such huge quantities of water, it can play a very important role in drainage systems in urban areas since it would be able to put away any extra water from the streets, parking surfaces, footpaths, etc. This is seen as a long term, extremely cost effective solution in solving the problems related to high rainfalls. Its void content of 20-35% is quite high which lets the water to drain through from the surface and disappear naturally, hence leading to reduction of flooding problems and risk of contamination. (Exhibit 11)

How it works?

Using topmix, three design options can be implemented (Exhibit 12):

System A – Full infiltration

All the water which falls on the footpath will trickle down through the topmix surface making its way through the lower footpath and reaching to the subgrade. This design at times would retain some water in the reservoir of the footpath before it trickles down further and the existing drainage system will not receive any extra water from it. Depending on the nature of the subgrade, geotextiles might be put to use.

System B – Partial Infiltration

Feasibility of this design is more in places where some amount of penetration is permitted through the ground. The extra water is drained out into the other drainage systems by means of outlet pipes which are installed in the subbase layer. So, preferably this design should be used in areas where subgrade is not capable of draining all the water by itself.

System C – Full Attenuation

Used in places where subgrade is weak or due to saturation is not capable to absorb water. This design involves installation of an impermeable member above the subgrade and outlet pipes are used to drain out water which thus allows for water recycling and this water can be re-used in flushing toilets or irrigation.

Some of the applications would include residential roads and parking lots which have lesser traffic intensity, pathways for bikes, footpaths, etc.

Benefits of Topmix Permeable

A variety of benefits are offered by topmix permeable:

Storm Water Management:

Its capability to absorb up to 1,000 liters/minute/m2, helps in making the roads and parking areas safer. It would ensure quick removal of surface water, this reducing the risk of flash floods due to its high drainage and penetration capacity.

Environment Management

It is capable of filtering petroleum hydrocarbons from dirty road water, this helps in reduction of the impact of urbanization of the natural water cycle. It also allows for recharge of ground water naturally.

Reduced Costs

Surface maintenance and storm water management costs are low because of its high capability of absorption.

RoaDrain – Roadway Drainage System

The RoaDrain Roadway Drainage System consists of a synthetic subsurface drainage layer (SSDL), thus providing it a flow rate five times greater than the traditional base layer. It was developed by the Tensar International Corporation (Tensar). It has a tri-planar geonet core with durable, nonwoven geotextile filters laminated to the top and bottom sides. (Exhibit 13 & 14)

RoaDrain has the capability of controlling moisture in the subgrade which is weak. It is easier to install, cost effective and has a better life. It also has the ability of driving away the surface water fast.

Various placements

RoaDrain helps in reduction of maintenance cost and extends the life of the footpaths greatly. Below are the various RoaDrain placements (Exhibit 15):

Drainage beneath footpath surface

Installation is done just below the footpath surface in order to remove the water rapidly.

Drainage beneath base course

Drainage path is reduced by installing it below the base course. It also leads to increased structural support design.

Capillary break beneath frosts susceptible soils

Acting as a capillary break under soils which are frost susceptible at lower depths to solve the problem of frost-heave.


Forecast Method: Expert Opinion

Group interviewed Mr. Sugreeb Singh (Senior Town Planning Officer, Ajmer Region - Rajasthan) who agreed to be quoted for this discussion. Group shared with him proposal and work completed till yet, and asked for his inputs and opinion.

He outright said that work was in its initial stage and will need to undergo multiple stages of refining before it can actually appear as a feasible project. Although he was appreciative of effort put in by group for initial ground work. He confirmed group\'s theory that any problem in Infrastructure industry generally doesn\'t gets resolved by one single solution but instead needs a lot of smaller solutions working together. He suggested complementary innovations are way more important to keep a cutting edge new technology working and delivering maximum output.

As per him bad drainage system doesn\'t affects traffic conditions and roads only in rainy season but round the year as pot holes, damaged roads hamper productivity and attract huge reconstruction costs and that Group\'s consideration to apply any innovation to solve this issue is appropriate.

When enquired about whether it\'s cutting age technology or addressing institutional voids which will impact this problem more? He pointed that any Technology needs support from its adaptors and so does this one. As per him only addressing voids also won\'t resolve the issue and some work needs to be done for sure.

He pointed out an interesting point during discussion that it\'s not just corruption or loafing which hamper work of government officers but even honest or good officers are concerned about block or area allocated to them and try to do best for that area only. However, good work in pieces works as an \"assembled machine\" or \"2 bad pieces of puzzle\" whereas city like Delhi needs a well thought plan with established communication channels for all stakeholders. So that any work related to infrastructure if carried out in one area of city doesn\'t hampers traffic conditions or roads in other part of it. He recounted the fact that Delhi metro work progressed much faster and efficiently under leadership of E. Sreedharan.

Forecast Method: Monitoring

Group monitored collected all the data for project\'s success in Malaysia; group is optimistic and firmly believes that project will be successful if executed properly. Simultaneously, group also found out that tunneling is a trusted infrastructure solution when land is the issue and many global projects are in pipeline of construction with tunneling like the floating tunnel project of Norway.

Forecast Method: Scenarios

Similar to scenarios in Kuala Lumpur high level of flooding happens once in a year in Delhi while typical traffic snarls happen for around 15-20 days a year. However, due to unavailability of new roads traffic is getting slower day by day and hence all 3 scenarios shown in Exhibit 4 are valid for Delhi.  

Technology Audit Model

We shared TAM checklist with our expert to fill and received interesting insights in terms of ratings, and remarks (Refer Table - 4). It highlighted that although long standing governance process is slow as is perceived but highly motivated ministry and government is changing this scenario. It also pointed out that Indian government departments are weak in terms of technology transfer as procrastination creates a lag between handover and takeover of technologies. Please refer table 2 for all remarks and ratings

Industry, Policies and Factors

Technology Management in the Sector

Management of technology can be largely seen evolving in the engineering spaces of IT and software systems, telecom and communications. Civil and construction engineering on which the growth of an economy is heavily dependent has lagged behind in India due to the sector remaining closed to innovations from private sector. Old practices in construction have been followed for centuries due to which the condition of roads in India continue to remain in poor state, and are worst affected during rains. Some elements of technology management in the study have been taken into consideration:  


 Cost: Use of modern technology for effective construction of roads, bridges and tunnels not always add to high costs. In fact, cost of construction of roads in India is higher than some of the developed economies.  When the same companies construct roads in other economies, the cost is lower for the same job due to freedom in designing and building using modern technologies.

 Availability: Technology management in infrastructure is an amalgamation of various fields - engineering, management, consulting, IT, government policies etc. Despite availability of resources, a skill in India is lacking to develop state of the art structures comparable to international standards.

 Quality: Smart Tunnel of Malaysia has stood the test of time not just due to huge investments but top-notch planning, use of standard material, best engineering and designing minds etc. The elements have to blend the past experiences in the industry with visionary future plans that do not need frequent up gradations. An opposite example is London Tube, which is not in a good state after 30 years of operations. Quality can be ensured by connecting different layers of purpose, delivery and resources given in the figure below:

 Functionality: There needs to be efficient line of communication between the technical and commercial functions for effective management. The infrastructure sector is largely dominated by commercial functions with only basic level of technical resources.

 Performance: The performance of the sector at the national and sub-national level has to be in tune with long-range planning incorporating strategic and knowledge asset planning to align various dimensions of opportunities and threats with technological developments. In it time the competence in private sector is used to create a model for \'technology push\' in the sector which gradually can be adopted by the government to create a \'market pull\' demand, which is typically the framework used in the infrastructure sector.


There are a range of factors that affect the management of technology across industry. The factors affecting innovation in infrastructure sector have been discussed here:

 Culture: Despite nearly 70 years of India\'s independence, construction of roads has primarily involved a huge role of the government. Furthermore, due to long gestation periods in the infrastructure sector, technological advancements in India have been limited. There are only 2-3 institutions which allow use of new technologies in this space thus restricting the culture of innovation.

 Economic and political issues: Due to old practices in policies, private construction companies, vendors and government entities have to have to adhere to a set pattern of construction defined by the government that is age old. Despite private companies eager to use latest technologies, the policies hold them back as a result of which innovation cannot be done in construction for mitigation for problems even like flood control. At present, even the Make in India scheme does not offer any incentives for the road sector.

 Knowledge and strategy: The Indian Academy of Highway Engineers is the apex organisation in the country for highway professionals for adopting innovative technologies in construction. design, operation, maintenance and management of roads. However, it is still far from making use of global best practices in building of roads and promoting innovation.

 Operational and supply chain arrangements: Several technological advancements have been observed in the past decade in management of traffic such as use of RFID, automation of signals, use of IT-enabled and centralized traffic control systems; but such advancements are yet to be seen in construction and designing. The sector is largely unorganized with very less policy intervention at the implementation level. For improvement of supply chain arrangements, GPS and modernized tracking services can be used.  

Operations at SMART Tunnel

Once this project is undertaken and completed by Indian government and other stakeholders, to maintain and harness its capabilities will also be a demanding task. Measures in several directions would be required to keep this tunnel up and running and in great shape. We have identified few such initiatives vital for successful operations of this project (Note: List is not exhaustive)

1. Weather Forecast Connect - A team which can keep a tab of weather forecast and plan operation of tunnel accordingly

2. Regular Maintenance and Cleaning - Team of professionals who can look after regular maintenance of tunnel and cleaning. All wear and tear, minor patching and damages to be handled

3. Mode 3 Maintenance and Cleaning - Although, same team as in point 2 albeit using different expertise to manage tunnel post mode 3 where flooding has happened.

4. Monitoring and Emergency Response - Monitoring for any sudden floods, closing and opening of tunnel and other emergency response to be handled

5. Toll Collection - If toll tax is placed than collection of toll tax will also be required. Although, automatic toll booths can be commissioned but they will attract further costs and complexities to manage

6. Information Portal - It would be required to maintain a portal with information about project and tunnels status (Exhibit 16)

Implementation Roadmap and Change Management


Study conducted by group concludes that SMART tunnel can be implemented in Delhi. However, group is also aware that such aspirational projects need a strong backing of government will and execution capability. If pursued, it can change current scenario of traffic and water logging in Delhi and will create a lot of jobs too.

However, since this project will have to be undertaken on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) basis, it will have to face the heat of government approval process and time delays, especially where the government has the task of providing public goods like right of way, land and viability gap funding. Since the project is \'distinctive\' in nature, taking cues from Smart Tunnels in Malaysia, estimating costing for construction and tunneling would be a challenging task, very high as assessed in the Technology Audit Model and have political consequences.

Despite the bottlenecks, the long-run benefits of the project are multifold, hence it is proposed that a pilot study may be conducted to assess the feasibility of the project for Delhi.

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