Long delays in infrastructure are not just peculiar to India but a challenge in many democracies. It is after all a hallmark of an open society that affected citizens have the right to ask for reviews and changes. However, even considering those necessary checks and balances we have some egregious delays and cost overruns. For example, the much-needed Santa Cruz-Chembur link road has been called by the World Bank as “the world’s most delayed road project”.
Delays and cost overruns have significant and far-reaching implications. The short-term inconvenience and disruption of slow under-construction projects aside, it means that public goods take significantly longer to achieve the impact they were planned for. Vital infrastructure like schools, hospitals and housing are crucial for a healthy and skilled population. Infrastructure is also an essential pre-requisite to spurring economic growth and job creation. In short, delays in execution can have a serious impact on social and economic progress.
In the Global Competitiveness Index released by the World Economic Forum for the year 2015 -16, India still ranks 84th out of 140 countries on social infrastructure.
Hospital infrastructure is unanimously recognized as severely lacking in India and can illustrate the size and nature of this problem. India has only 0.7 hospital beds per 1000 population as of 2011. This is well below the global average of 2.6 and the WHO benchmark of 3.5. With population growth and steady urbanisation, India’s urban population is increasing by around 22,000 people per day. Taking the WHO benchmark into account, our cities require 79 hospital beds to be added every day to provide optimum healthcare. Even if an average hospital holds 100 beds, we need about 4 new hospitals a week to service our demand. This highlights the urgency in building more hospitals and building them quickly. Subject matter experts are of the view that accelerating the speed of construction is even more pertinent for hospitals given that permits and approvals can take up to a year. Faster construction would not only allow for providing necessary services sooner but also improve the business case for the investor and drive higher private investment in healthcare.
Education is another area that needs urgent improvement in quality and quantity. With the right to education becoming a fundamental right, the enrollment rates have been steadily increasing. We need schools to service this demand. A report by Ernst and Young forecasts that by 2022, at higher overall enrollment rates and a lower dropout rate, an additional 130,000 private schools will be required. This translates to a need for almost 16,000 new schools a year.
In addition to health and education, India is in dire need of quality affordable housing. A report by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) states that we are short of around 19 million urban housing units. Most of the housing requirement is for economically weaker sections of society and progress has been slow. The central government’s ‘Housing for All by 2022’ program, with an aim to construct 20 million housing units, only managed to complete 19,255 houses in its first year. Adoption of faster construction technology is critical in reducing cost of construction, which is undoubtedly crucial for this segment, as well as meeting demand and providing a reasonable quality of life in India’s densely packed cities.
Construction of commercial infrastructure also has a wide ripple effect in propelling industry sectors and job creation. The recent rise of Gurugram, Hyderabad and Bengaluru as major commercial centers can be largely attributed to the creation of infrastructure. What has helped these centers develop so rapidly is the development of social infrastructure like schooling, healthcare, housing and urban transport in tandem. Delays in any element of infrastructure can retard uptake of housing and investment by multi-nationals in setting up offices, ultimately slowing economic growth.
While the length of project delays has reduced over time, India has a long way to go. Project planning and approval timelines involve complex and multiple considerations and are hence tougher to reduce. But faster construction is an aspect that can be achieved and can contribute significantly to reducing India’s infrastructure lacuna. In this scenario, technology can play an important role in aiding India’s next phase of growth.
One company is all set to address these yawning gaps in India’s growth story. KEF Infrastructure is harnessing technology to increase the speed of construction of infrastructure projects, especially in essential sectors such as Healthcare and Education. It uses off-site manufacturing technology to completely transform traditional construction methods to a modern component-based assembly process at its state-of-the-art KEF Infra One Park in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. Entire building components can be built here and transported for assembly on site, helping speed up the pace of construction by up to 50% and delivering infrastructure projects ahead of time. KEF Infra One is thus a fully integrated one-stop ‘offsite manufacturing’ destination. By integrating the best technology from around the globe, KEF Infra is at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution 4.0, fast-tracking the pace of India’s infrastructure development. Some of the company’s notable projects include the 205-bed Meitra Hospital in Kozhikode, which is planned to be completed in 21 months against the industry average of 4 years, a new Infosys block in Electronic City, Bengaluru, which will be completed in 7.5 months compared to the average construction time of 2 years and the Embassy 7B Business Park in Bengaluru which will be Asia’s first fully off-site manufactured project. To know more about KEF’s revolutionary building methods and infrastructure projects, see here. Watch the film below to know how faster construction of infrastructure projects can lead to positive social impact.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of KEF Infrastructure and not by the Scroll editorial team.