At a time when Indian cities are struggling to control their air pollution levels, a new report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found that most of them lack institutional preparedness to carry out systematic and scientific management of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, one of the key sources of pollution in urban areas.
Titled Construction and Demolition Waste: Closing the Loop for Sustainability, the report was released on Monday (11 December) by CSE at a national conference.
Releasing the report, CSE Director General Sunita Narain said, “C&D waste management is a potential game changer. A decade back, the concern with C&D waste was not about air pollution, but about saving waterbodies from the dumping of this waste in them.
By 2018-19, the issue of C&D waste became hot and this time, it was about dust in the air which was contributing to pollution. The realisation struck that there lies a huge opportunity in changing things for the better in this sector.”
Quoting data from the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency, the CSE report says India’s construction industry is expected to reach US $1.4 trillion by 2025 and contribute about 13 per cent to the national economy. India will be adding billions of square metres of space to create affordable housing units, commercial spaces, cold storage, industrial corridors, smart cities, roads, and highways, among other things.
Rajneesh Sareen, director, sustainable buildings and habitat programme, CSE Says, “This will not only generate enormous amounts of waste but also increase the demand for natural and virgin building materials that require mining.”
He points to the report, which says that as per the draft National Resource Efficiency Policy of 2019, India has already increased its material consumption six times from 1.18 billion tonnes in 1970 to seven billion tonnes in 2015.
India’s resource extraction rate stands at 1,580 tonnes per acre as compared to the world average of 450 tonnes per acre; its material productivity is low. While India imports many critical raw materials such as sand, it has a much lower recycling rate at 20-25 per cent compared to developed countries of Europe (70 per cent).
Adds Mitashi Singh, programme manager, sustainable buildings and habitat programme, CSE: “Besides the impacts that mining and resource extraction already exert, mismanagement of C&D waste — often dumped unscientifically in ecologically sensitive areas such as wetlands or low-lying areas — causes serious environmental damage."
"To add to this, the construction process in itself is a major dust and particles generator that leads to local pollution and exposure. This is a major concern as air pollution has emerged as a key public health issue in Indian cities. Some of the more disturbing serious health effects include lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.”
The CSE report, says Sareen, “comprises a performance matrix assessment of 14 cities from seven states based on six parametres and 26 sub-parametres. It also includes construction dust control guidelines”.
The report lays down a clear set of recommendations:
-Adopt an ecosystem approach (instead of the fragmented approach that is currently being practiced).
-Expedite the framing and notification of bye-laws – many cities have notified only penalties and fines, which is not enough.
-Ensure generation of credible data on the quantity of C&D waste being produced.
-Ensure effective and accessible collection and treatment infrastructure.
-Promote efficient construction management practices to minimise waste and dust generation.
-Streamline the financials – adapt dynamic user charges, create a funding stream for legacy waste and link budgets to air pollution mitigation measures.
Speaking at the conference, Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, CSE said, “C&D waste management and construction dust mitigation are integral to all clean air action plans of the 134 non-attainment cities (NACs) under the Environment Ministry’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)."
"Various other government programmes such as Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, as well as multi-sector plans currently being implemented in cities, have also incorporated urban solid waste management – including C&D waste management – as a key focus area."
"CSE’s report has come at an opportune moment. It helps assess the adequacy of current action, identifies the gaps, captures the learning from different cities, and works out the solutions needed.”
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