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Construction and Demolition Waste Management: Way forward for saving natural resources

There is a significant growth in population density in the urban and industrial towns. Even when new urban clusters are being created day by day, the population migrating and shifting to these newly created cities are also increasing.  Indeed every new cities that emerge start experiencing the pains of population overload soon it is created. 

The impact of this phenomenon of modern times is an ever-increasing per capita demand for urban infrastructure.  In fact, demand for urban services, infrastructure, housing, and many other aspects essential for the survival and development of urban ecosystems are going up. The sudden increase in urban development although provides economic opportunities, its effects on the environment and public health cannot be underestimated.  

A number of studies and reports from international agencies calls for governments and urban planners to develop appropriate strategies to mitigate ill effects emanating from enhanced activities in the urban infrastructure sector and urban expansion. For instance, increasing pollution and increased urban waste generation emerge from various human and economic activities that are going to be a major challenge for urban planners and governments.

Sustainable urban planning

The push of infrastructural development, for example, has accelerated the need for sustainable urban planning and management. The growing pace at which highways, roads, bridges, flyovers, factories, shopping complexes, malls that are constructed in cities calls for an urgent review and monitoring of their waste management practices and implementation. How many of these projects follow guidelines as per the relevant rules on waste management?  

  • Construction and demolition (C&D) waste in the form of bricks, concrete, stones, had core subsoil, topsoil, glass gypsum, ceramics and plastics etc. is one such aspect which is required to be addressed ethically.  
  • The increase in air pollution is a live example, how the presence of particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10) due to construction and debris has increased exponentially. The annual estimate of C&D waste generation in Indian cities is 165-175 million tones as prepared for the period 2005-2013 jointly by Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council and Centre for Fly Ash Research and Management. The practice of fly-tipping i.e. dumping this waste on vacant sites, normally on the sides of the highway, below flyovers, besides lakes and rivers or other low lying areas is illegal. This further blocks many of the social amenities viz. drains, contamination in natural resources, pollution, etc. and affects public health.  

   

  • Gradually this deadly waste has become a challenging task for the governments to manage. The government of India with its departments is looking forward to managing and channeling this waste at the policy level. The framework still lack in implementation. 

Construction waste: Reuse and Recycle

Reuse and recycling of construction waste and many other kinds of municipal waste for using as inputs in the infrastructure sector have a significant scope. There is a possibility of converting waste into construction materials such as:

  • Recycled aggregate concrete 
  • Manufactured sand

European Union case is an interesting model to be emulated in this context. A study by EU says about the goals set by EU members to recycle its construction and demolition waste up to ninety percent. This may also provide the birth of vibrant recycling industry, the creation of jobs and new economic opportunities.  Its time for us to recognize economic opportunities and job creation possibilities in recycling and waste management sectors. 

Indian approach: policies and practices 

Policies in India have been towards encouraging building and infrastructure sector to adopt recycling and the best practices in this regard. The Indian government has already incorporated provisions in this regard to encourage Green Building practices by providing FSI and other tax benefits for the projects. The ‘recycled aggregate’’ in the building provides credit points under various parameters while applying for Green Building rating system viz. LEED, GRIHA and IGBC.      

Recognizing the urgent importance Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) came up with a notification on Construction and Demolition waste 2016 for C&D waste specifically. 

Observations and Suggestions: 

  • Governments through the existing Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) can play an active role in assisting the builders to manage their C&D waste. 
  • There is a lack of information about the impacts on the natural environment and public health. 
  • Information dissemination and sensitization from time to time may bring awareness and help them manage their waste sustainably. Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also given instructions for reuse and recycling of this mounting waste. The Government projects initially had been instructed to utilize the 10-20% of such recycled products in their construction use. To increase the popularity of the use of C &D waste as raw material, the government can provide additional value addition and quality standard code or maybe a reduction in taxes for purchasing these RA products. 

To conclude, reuse and recycling of  C& D waste can help conserve available natural resources. Its effective management can create an environment-friendly development framework. For example, river sand is primarily used for building and construction purposes, the increase in its demand and increased sand mining, by several times in the last two decades, is a cause of concern. It imposes adverse environmental impact.  Construction and Demolition waste management technologies and solutions offer an alternative solution for addressing sand mining. The manufactured sand from C&D waste or the use of waste plastic in structural concrete can become a possible and sustainable alternative to sand for instance. 

Developing economies have to pursue their economic goals in order to address their developmental challenges, creating more jobs, employment and be more competitive.  Infrastructure, construction, and building homes are all part of their development programmes. The good news is that the developing world can achieve its development goals in a sustainable manner. Green building technologies and practices will help them in that. Recycle, ruse and better waste management technologies and further focussing on researches and innovations into these areas can help developing nations to have green and environmentally friendly development and urban ecosystems.  

Bhavesh Jha

Bhavesh Jha is CEO, Root Logix, New Delhi, India.

Root Logix, with its multidisciplinary team of experts, provide Green Building Certification and advisory services catering to LEED Green Homes, GRIHA, IGBC, Energy Modeling & Simulation Study, Audit (Energy, Environment, Water, Sustainability etc.), ECBC Compliance Report, Daylighting Analysis, Fundamental and Enhanced Third Party Commissioning Services, Environment Impact Assessment, Social Impact Assessment, Qualitative Risk Analysis and various other services pan India. For more information, please contact us at bd@root-logix.com 

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