A rural village in India has a better connection to the world, thanks to an innovative UBC-developed road design that resists heavy rains, intense heat and poor drainage, according to UBC civil engineering professor Nemy Banthia, who led the project.
In this Q&A, Banthia—who’s also the CEO and scientific director of the Canada-India Research Center of Excellence IC-IMPACTS—explains that the road in Thondebavi, outside Bangalore in southwestern India, should last for at least 15 years. The new technology could also be used for other rural communities around the world, creating new opportunities for Canadian industry.
Why is this new road design significant?
This pavement was an IC-IMPACTS demonstration project for a low-cost, long-lasting road that could be implemented in many rural or remote locations. We’re now planning to construct a similar road for the First Nations community of Lubicon, north of Edmonton, in January 2017. The Thondebavi project has also resulted in partnerships to build roads in two other states in India—a two-kilometre road in Haryana, and a five-kilometre highway replacement in Madhya Pradesh.
What makes this design different?
The road is one-third the thickness of a traditional road in India, has a 50 per cent smaller carbon footprint and is more sustainable. It costs less and is expected to last almost three times longer.
The road is built with ultra-high strength concrete reinforced with hydrophilic polyolefin fibres (also called HY5 fibres) with advanced nano-coatings. This concrete formulation is more resistant to cracking and more able to heal itself of cracks. The fibres also reduce the required cement component by 60 per cent, replacing it with locally sourced flyash, a by-product of the thermal power plants. The reduction in the use of cement is significant as the cement industry currently contributes around five to seven per cent of global emissions.
Smart sensors embedded in the pavement indicate the road is holding up under heavy rains and extreme heat, and other tests predict it should also perform well in extreme cold.
How does this project help Canadian industry?
A number of Canadian and Indian companies collaborated with IC-IMPACTS and UBC on the Thondebavi pavement project. These collaborations, and the unique Canadian HY5 fiber technology, open up the 2.4-million-kilometre pavement market in India to Canadian companies.
With the thaw in the North, Canada now needs nearly one million kilometers of roads in its rural, First Nations and remote communities. And China and other emerging economies have similar needs. Canadian industries could get a large chunk of these growing markets.
How important is this road to the residents of Thondebavi?
This 650-metre road is their first paved road and their sole connection to the highway network and other towns and cities. The village used to be virtually unwalkable, let alone drivable, during the monsoon months, making it difficult to get their produce to market. After the road was completed in October 2015, 10 families bought new cars to make use of the new pavement, several families were inspired to renovate their homes, and one disabled community member on a wheelchair can now visit his family and friends—something that was previously impossible without a road.