During the GeosPeru 2017 conference (March, Lima), the International Geosynthetics Society’s Peruvian Chapter president, Augusto Alza, sat down for an interview with Geosynthetica Latin America editor Natalia Rodado. They discussed the current state of geosynthetics in the country and the growth of IGS Peru. Natalia’s article follows, with translation and additional detail added by Geosynthetica editor Chris Kelsey.
AUGUSTO ALZA ON GEOSYNTHETICS IN PERU
By Natalia Rodado – Among the 44 chapters of the IGS, Peru’s chapter has undoubtedly been one of the most active. The chapter has continually developed new activities and events that bring together the various sectors of geosynthetics, creating opportunities among manufacturers, educators, and other professionals. The chapter has grown steadily since its founding in 2001. The success of IGS Peru is largely due to continuous execution of new chapter activities, notes Eng. Augusto.
Strong efforts have been made to elevate geosynthetics within the context of Peruvian engineering. The origin of the major activities was Peru’s 1st National Conference on Geosynthetics, which was held in 2004. The event, held just three years after the chapter’s establishment, saw the involvement of roughly 40 people. It was the first step in connecting this core group of supporters. National companies got involved, boosting the chapter’s resources and reach. Also, the chapter committed to adding strong technical components to each of its events, which helped foster a profession-building culture. This attracted trade unions. One of the technical influences in the development of these programs was the work of Professor Robert Koerner through his seminal text “Designing with Geosynthetics.”
Another major effort that contributed to the growth of both IGS Peru and the influence of geosynthetics within the country’s engineering community was the establishment of university courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The Peruvian Chapter was also well-involved in the First Pan-American Regional Conference on Geosynthetics (GeoAmericas 2008), which was held in Cancún, Mexico—an event that helped raise the profile of the growing Peruvian community within the larger Latin American civil engineering field. At GeoAmericas 2008, the Peruvian Chapter delivered a course on reinforcement geosynthetics.
Following the successful work in Mexico, IGS Peru won the bid to host GeoAmericas 2012, which it staged in Lima.
Augusto Alza notes that the growth of Peru itself has also played a significant role in IGS Peru’s growth. New infrastructure works have made the country an attractive market for manufacturers from different countries, and this infrastructure has incorporated geosynthetics in various ways.
Finally, Alza cites the resources of the IGS—technical information, papers, journals, events, committees, etc.—as indispensable to growth. For all Latin American chapters, he advises utilizing these IGS tools and never stop developing events and outreach programs that promote geosynthetics and technical understanding. One such program, he notes, is the Educate the Educators program, which has greatly helped expand the number of educational institutions that incorporate geosynthetics in their engineering curricula.
CHALLENGES TO GEOSYNTHETICS IN PERU
Regarding the challenges to geosynthetics in Peru, Augusto Alza points out that while education has helped elevate geosynthetics in the country, it also stands out as a place in need of more involvement. The universities incorporate geosynthetics in different courses, yes, but these courses need to acquire greater relevance to raise knowledge.
One reason that geosynthetics have not advanced as steadily within academia seems to be a lack of realization among some academic leaders about how important the materials are to practicing engineers. Geosynthetics are used through civil engineering; yet, many professors do not pass along the knowledge.
More case studies, emphasizing the practical and wide-spread use, could be of value here, as they would show the positive and negative experiences that have occurred with geosynthetics. One must see how proper application of understanding and a lack of understanding impact infrastructure.
While the full formal rigor for geosynthetics is lacking in Peru’s engineering education system, IGS Peru is developing programs that will expand the academic field’s knowledge.
Again, it must also be noted that some universities in Peru already have elective geosynthetics courses and are doing a fine job of training the next generation. More support, though, is needed.
Another challenge to Peru is the absence of enough independent laboratories. Manufacturers have established quality control laboratories in their geomembrane and geocell plants, for example, but more venues for independent testing are needed.
Peruvian authorities must also be willing to allow more geosynthetics pilot projects, and regulations need to be updated to enable the adoption of geosynthetics into certain sectors.
The Peruvian Chapter, Alza notes, is committed to ensuring that these challenges are met.
BENEFITS OF GEOSYNTHETICS IN PERU
It is well known that the proper utilization of geosynthetics can help reduce infrastructure costs and increase project service lives. In Peru, geosynthetics have provided significant benefits to the mining industry. Leach pad liners may need to be constructed in the rain. Slopes may be steep. Quarries for traditional mineral seals may be distant. As such, geosynthetics like GCLs have significantly reduced project costs. This benefit has been realized at minds throughout Peru. So long as proper care is dedicated to the design, material selection, and installation processes, geosynthetics have been shown to provide cost – benefit advantages in Peru’s rich mining industry.
Augusto Alza also notes that transportation engineering projects are providing a good case for geosynthetics. While the Peruvian Ministry of Transportation has to a degree been resistant to large-scale use of geosynthetic materials, the growing body of projects that are approved for use have produced quantifiable benefits in cost and performance and are directly related to the number of kilometers of road that can be built with the same amount of money.
Finally, the environmental benefits of geosynthetic materials in infrastructure are being realized, project by project. It’s important, though, that for all of these good things to continue geosynthetics professionals must ensure that the materials are used in the correct way. In this, all stakeholders will see the cost-benefit advantages and the environmental advantages.
AN ACTIVE FUTURE
Augusto Alza believes that sustaining geosynthetics-promoting activities in Peru and improving engineering education curricula with geosynthetics are the best ways for the chapter and the field overall to continuing growing. In preparation, IGS Peru is already planning GeosPeru 2019, the 5th National Congress on Geosynthetics.
All of it, he notes, is related: the growth of the chapter, the growth of the industry, the growth of Peru’s infrastructure. It all depends upon maintaining an activity community. As the day by day challenges of infrastructure are faced, more of the solutions will involve geosynthetics.