Leaders Talk

Building India’s Sustainable Social Infrastructure

spandana patnam

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7 mins read
Summary

Established in 1938, Larsen & Toubro is a major technology, engineering, construction, manufacturing and financial services conglomerate, with global operations. L&T addresses critical needs in key sectors such as Infrastructure, Hydrocarbon, Power, Process Industries and Defence for customers in over 30 countries around the world. The Water & Effluent Treatment division that resides within L&T Construction, the construction arm of L&T, caters to turnkey infrastructure projects for the Municipal, Industrial and Agriculture sectors and is recognized as the leader in developing and providing water infrastructure in the country.

From the high calibre engineers at the Engineering Design & Research Centre to experienced project managers at project sites, the team has a full complement of skill sets to provide complete solutions to build defining water infrastructure. We bring to you an exclusive interview with Mr S. Rajavel, Senior Vice President & Head - Water, Smart World & Communication, Larsen & Toubro on Building India’s Sustainable Social Infrastructure.

S Rajavel
S Rajavel
Mr S. Rajavel joined L&T's Engineering, Construction & Contracts Division in 1977 and has over 35 years of experience in the field of power transmission & distribution and 6 years in the business of Water, Smart World & Communication. He aspires for quality improvements in construction businesses and foresees tremendous opportunities in water, smart world & communication sectors in domestic and global markets. His key achievements are pioneering activities in establishing gas insulated substations up to 765 kV for various Central & State Power Utilities and Industrial Process Plants and establishing extra high voltage underground cable networks for Central & State Utilities. Mr Rajavel is the first Qualified Assessor in L&T Ltd, Engineering, Construction & Contracts Division from Batalas, UK for Quality Assurance. He also created state-of-the-art testing laboratory in Chennai to test for compliance of IEC 61850 Protocol. He is spearheading the Water & Effluent Treatment business, one of the fastest growing businesses of L&T Construction. Mr Rajavel is a Senior Member in IEEE, Executive Council Member for Indian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers’ Association and Alumnus of LBS, London.
Q

Please take us through your journey with L&T. How do you see the Indian Water Infrastructure sector growing going ahead?

A

At the outset, I take pride in having traversed my entire journey with L&T that has nurtured and shaped me into what I am today. I started my career as a Site Engineer in the late 1970s in the Power Transmission & Distribution business. Having gained vast experience there, I was then asked to head the Water Business in its formative years. Currently, I head the Water & Smart World Business in L&T Construction.

At present, the agricultural, industrial and domestic sectors in India are competing for limited freshwater resources. In fact, growing imbalance of water supply and demand has begun to create issues of water scarcity in select pockets of the country. This has forced industrial units to reduce water consumption and look for alternative sources through desalination, rainwater harvesting, treated sewage effluent etc. There is a gradual increase in the recycling and reuse of effluent for industrial operations and non-potable purposes. On the drinking water front, there is an increasing gap in supply and demand owing to depletion of ground water sources and pollution of surface water sources, compounded by erratic rainfall due to climate change. Going with the emerging trend, it is imminent that water infrastructure is set for a quantum growth in terms of opportunities, while we handle the responsibility of providing safe water to the citizens that will improve the quality of life at large. In the years to come, L&T is poised for exponential growth in rather challenging and competitive market conditions.

Q

L&T is recognized as the leader in developing and providing water infrastructure in the country. Tell us how the company has been at the forefront in creating infrastructure for a water-surplus, energy-secure and green world?

A

Water security has always been our watchword and we have been committed to this responsibility for the last 20 years, ever since we forayed into this business. We have been very conscious about the water-energy nexus and optimization of energy costs to provide cost effective & sustainable projects to our stakeholders. More importantly, L&T has been contributing significantly towards improving the quality of life in India and has constructed some landmark projects in the field of water treatment plants and water supply & distribution, underground wastewater networks and sewage treatment plants, large water systems including lift irrigation schemes & greenfield and brownfield urban utilities. We are creating infrastructure to transport water & sewer through 5 lakh km of pipeline, irrigate 7.3 lakh hectares of land, supply 5100 MLD of potable water & treat 2100 MLD of wastewater thereby benefiting around 90 million people.

Q

Over the past 70 years, L&T has mastered the processing technology with an array of end-to-end customized solutions in water treatment. Tell us about the state-of-the-art processes that are engaged in WTPs.

A

WTPs function like the human heart for any water supply project. It has been of paramount importance to us to build customized solutions in water treatment. All our treatment plants effectively remove harmful pathogens and sediments. The WTP removes more than 99% of all sediment particles and contaminants using different processes/technologies in different projects. Our Garden Reach plant in Kolkata uses an inclined plate settler of capacity 240 MLD & the Vellore water supply project in Tamil Nadu uses a reactor clarifier of 180 MLD. The water treatment plant also effectively removes precursors of disinfection by-products like Trihalomethane (THM). We have executed a project where the total dissolved solids present in the river water of about 1500 ppm are removed by the membrane treatment process (Brackish water RO system) to bring it to the potable water standards of TDS less than 500 ppm. We are also going to execute a first of this kind project in India for municipal water application with advanced oxidation process like ozonation and Dual media filters with Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filter to remove organic compounds.

Q

All water infrastructure projects begin to flow from the tapping point and L&T’s Water Supply and Distribution Business has pioneered several intake structures at major water sources. Please share your experience.

A

Yes, our scope of work starts right from tapping water at the source. Over the years, we have constructed many intake structures across rivers Ganga, Narmada, Yamuna and others. Although each intake structure has its own specialty and hardship, I would like to mention one particular intake structure for the Sahibganj Mega Water Supply Scheme under NRDWP in Jharkhand. The intake structure was proposed on the river Ganga which is known for its meandering nature. The conventional RCC Intake Jetty proposed by the client couldn’t be constructed so we proposed an alternative of a floating barge intake.

In another project at Garden Reach Kolkata, the 110 MGD Jetty type intake has been constructed on the Hoogly river by means of movable platforms and the barricading was done by fender piles, which were designed for stray marine vessels navigating in the river. Each intake brings with it rich experience and we keep learning and keep getting better every time.

Technology is a major enabler to solve the issues of UFW. In my opinion, there are 4 major components to control losses in the distribution system namely, Pressure Management, Leakage Management, Command and Control and Metering. We have demonstrated this in our D2A & D2B water zones in Bangalore for BWSSB.
Q

Elucidate about the customized electro-mechanical solutions and challenges in the pumping systems to enhance the efficiency and performance of the electromechanical components in your projects.

A

We have been giving utmost importance to technology interventions to dovetail the requirements of efficient pumping systems in all our projects. Most of our projects are equipped with automated monitoring tools such as PLC powered SCADA which logs and monitors data round the clock. Using certain algorithms for predictive analysis and predictive maintenance, we are maintaining the performance standards of each equipment as per the design parameters and site conditions. We have been able to effectively optimize the pump running hours, pipeline pressure, valve opening and closing sequences, filter bed backwash, water quality, etc. with the help of SCADA. We also have implemented a Central Water Management Centre to control 5 WTPs and 9 pumping stations from a single control room to monitor and control the entire network from a single point at our Jawai WTP project.

Q

Can you please tell us about L&T's Engineering Design and Research Centre in Chennai?

A

The Engineering Design and Research Center (EDRC) located in Chennai is an engineering arm of WET IC which comprises a 600-string, multi-disciplinary team of engineers. The team is involved in Process, Mechanical/Piping, Civil/Structural & Architectural, Electrical, Control & Instrumentation systems and has designed more than 500 projects. Our engineers work on the latest software and hardware along with in-house innovative packages to provide value-added integrated engineering services/solutions to our projects across India & abroad with basic and detailed design and engineering support as part of our comprehensive EPC services.

Q

Is desalination the key to future source of water? Please elaborate on L&T’s prowess to provide solutions for new generation water systems with noteworthy projects.

A

Sea water is an abundant resource that can be converted into drinking water and the Sea Water Reverse Osmosis Desalination technology is one way of doing that. With the increasing stress on water and the high pollution levels of surface water, it is evident that seawater desalination will be the savior of humans in the 21st century. Our earth comprising 97.5% salt water is from sea/ocean. Presently, it may be feasible to formulate desalination plants along the coastal areas only. L&T as a pioneer in the infrastructure sector is promoting Reverse Osmosis to treat seawater and reduce salinity levels to meet drinking water standards.

Q

What is L&T’s strategy on reducing Unaccounted for Water in India?

A

It is a known fact that ‘Unaccounted for Water’ is a big challenge in the Indian context wherein the losses are to the tune of a staggering 46%. Out of this 32% is due to thefts and the balance is lost during transmission.

We have been propagating this message and the need for UFW reduction at several knowledge-sharing forums and global conferences. We have been working with the decision makers and consultants to factor relevant components of UFW reduction in all our DPRs and Tenders. Technology is a major enabler to solve the issues of UFW. In my opinion, there are 4 major components to control losses in the distribution system namely, Pressure Management, Leakage Management, Command and Control and Metering. We have demonstrated this in our D2A & D2B water zones in Bangalore for BWSSB. During the last 6 years, we have been able to reduce losses in these two areas from 49% to 22%, through our strategic UFW scheme. Besides this, we are currently working on 5 other water management projects in various cities and scouting for more.

Q

Tell us about your views on L&T getting positioned in the Indian water & wastewater market in the coming years?

A

L&T is presently the market leader in water infrastructure. As discussed, this sector is set to grow exponentially in the coming years and we have positioned ourselves well, with the capability of executing large scale and complex projects within stipulated time frames. We constantly reinvent ourselves and giving utmost importance to continual learning and operational excellence. We are therefore all set to retain our position as market leader in this industry in the years to come.

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