In­dia is churn­ing out con­struc­tion and de­mo­li­tion de­bris at an in­cred­i­ble pace. With land­fills over­flow­ing and build­ing ma­te­rial be­com­ing scarce, the coun­try needs a pol­icy to re­cy­cle the waste


In­dia gen­er­ates con­struc­tion and de­mo­li­tion waste at an in­cred­i­ble pace, with­out a pol­icy to han­dle it

IN­DIA NEEDS a land­fill the size of West Ben­gal to dump 21,630 mil­lion tonnes of con­struc­tion and de­mo­li­tion (c&d) waste it will gen­er­ate from re­pair and de­mo­li­tion of old build­ings and from new ones between 2005 and 2030. And still more land if the waste from in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects, such as roads and dams, is taken into ac­count, ac­cord­ing to an as­sess­ment by non­profit Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment (cse) in Delhi.

cse’s find­ings ring alarm bells at a time when ur­ban ar­eas across the coun­try are wit­ness­ing a real es­tate boom, and the new gov­ern­ment plans to cre­ate 100 smart cities as part of its devel­op­ment agenda.

Un­for­tu­nately, there is no up-to-date of­fi­cial data on the mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem.On Fe­bru­ary 6,re­ply­ing to a ques­tion raised in the Ra­jya Sabha, the Min­istry of Ur­ban Devel­op­ment (moud) said there are no cur­rent es­ti­mates on the amount of c&d waste gen­er­ated in the coun­try.

Worse, the hand­ful of gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates avail­able for c&d waste are at vari­ance with each other and fail to cap­ture the real pic­ture. Con­sider this.In 2000,an es­ti­mate by moud showed that In­dia gen­er­ated 10-12 mil­lion tonnes of c&d waste a year. A decade later, a re­port by the Union Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Forests (moef ) gave the same es­ti­mate (see ‘Di­verg­ing es­ti­mates’ on p37). This is when, ac­cord­ing to the McKin­sey and Com­pany, a global man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm, the area un­der real es­tate grew by 6-7 per cent a year between 2001 and 2010. At this rate, shows cse cal­cu­la­tion, the coun­try would have gen­er­ated 531 mil­lion tonnes of c&d waste in 2013.

The Comptroller Au­di­tor Gen­eral of In­dia recog­nises this dis­crep­ancy in its 2008 re­port. Gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates

on c&d waste are with­out a sci­en­tific base. No es­ti­mates or even guessti­mates ex­ist for con­struc­tion and de­mo­li­tion waste, it notes.

One can think of only one rea­son for this in­con­gru­ous gov­ern­ment data: most of the c&d waste gen­er­ated in the coun­try is un­ac­counted for.

With land­fills over­flow­ing with garbage and in the ab­sence of pol­icy to reg­u­late c&d waste dis­posal, de­vel­op­ers, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment agen­cies, dump the waste in low-ly­ing or water­shed ar­eas, road­sides and even on va­cant plots and fields. In fact, dis­ap­pear­ance of ur­ban wa­ter bod­ies and wet­lands in ur­ban ar­eas can be at­trib­uted to il­le­gal dump­ing of c&d waste.In most cases, real es­tate de­vel­op­ers de­lib­er­ately do this to re­claim ecosen­si­tive ar­eas for real es­tate. In Mum­bai, builders dump c&d waste in the coastal man­groves and creeks. In Delhi, the Ya­muna flood­plain is the favourite dump­ing ground. Re­cently,the Delhi Metro Rail Cor­po­ra­tion faced the fury of the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal for choking the Ya­muna flood­plains with c&d waste.

The sit­u­a­tion is equally wor­ri­some in neigh­bour­ing Gur­gaon which saw a pri­vate real es­tate boom in the 2000s that is con­tin­u­ing to this day. De­vel­op­ers reg­u­larly dump de­bris on va­cant plots, wa­ter bod­ies (com­monly known

asjo­hars) and low-ly­ing ar­eas of the eco-sen­si­tive Aravalli hills.Frus­trated by the in­ac­tion of the mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­ity, Malba Hatao Group, a Gur­gaon-based, ci­ti­zen-driven ini­tia­tive fight­ing for a com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy on de­bris and re­cy­cling of c&d waste, ap­proached the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal in Oc­to­ber 2013. A rap from the tri­bunal has elicited ac­tion from Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of Gur­gaon (mcg).“The mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­ity has no­ti­fied four vil­lages for dump­ing c&d waste,”says Ruchika Sethi, mem­ber of the group. Sethi, who is steer­ing the case in the tri­bunal and hold­ing con­sul­ta­tions with the cor­po­ra­tion, says, “The au­thor­i­ties were plan­ning to is­sue no­ti­fi­ca­tion to pe­nalise builders who fail to trans­fer their c&d waste to the dump­ing ar­eas. They de­layed it be­cause of the 2014 gen­eral elec­tions.”

But dump­ing ur­ban waste in vil­lages may lead to protests by the res­i­dents and re­sult in a Thiru­vanan­tha­pu­ram-like sit­u­a­tion (see ‘Stench in my back­yard, Down

ToEarth, Septem­ber 15,2012).The mu­nic­i­pal body plans to set up a plant to re­cy­cle the waste in the Aravalli hills. This may do more harm than good to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Ini­tia­tives in In­dia

In some cities, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have tried to fix the prob­lem. The Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of Chandi­garh (mcc) is pos­si­bly the first ur­ban lo­cal body in the coun­try to have launched a scheme for c&d waste man­age­ment. Un­der the decade-old scheme, res­i­dents can dial mcc’s helpline num­ber for c&d waste re­moval and the

de­bris gets col­lected within 48 hours. “We have iden­ti­fied four to five sites across the city where the malba (c&d waste) is dumped. We also use the in­ert waste to cover up the garbage in our land­fills,” says Vivek Pratap Singh, com­mis­sioner of mcc. How­ever, he ad­mits that most of the c&d waste does not reach the des­ig­nated dump­ing sites. De­vel­op­ers use the waste to re­claim low-ly­ing ar­eas around Chandi­garh.

The Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of Greater Mum­bai (mcgm) framed the Con­struc­tion & De­mo­li­tion and De­silt­ing Waste (Man­age­ment and Dis­posal) Rules in 2006 af­ter re­al­is­ing that more than one-third of the waste it was col­lect­ing was the c&d waste gen­er­ated by its ever ex­pand­ing real es­tate and in­fra­struc­ture sec­tors. Poor im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rules means il­le­gal dump­ing of c&d waste con­tin­ues un­abated. Builders have even started charg­ing cus­tomers for dis­pos­ing of de­bris. “My con­trac­tor sends some­one to col­lect malba,” says Kamini Baghchi of And­heri who is get­ting her house re­paired. “He charges ex­tra for that.” Proac­tive mea­sures by th­ese cities have failed be­cause there is no pol­icy at the na­tional or state level to tackle the waste.

c&d waste finds only a brief men­tion in Sched­ule III of the Mu­nic­i­pal Solid Waste (Man­age­ment and Han­dling) Rules, 2000. moud’s Man­ual on Mu­nic­i­pal Solid Waste (Man­age­ment and Han­dling) Rules, 2000, of­fers a ba­sic guide­line on han­dling c&d waste. Th­ese guide­lines are not bind­ing on de­vel­op­ers or gov­ern­ment devel­op­ment agen­cies.

In 2009,moef con­sti­tuted a Work­ing Sub-Group on Con­struc­tion & De­mo­li­tion Waste to evolve a mech­a­nism for man­age­ment of solid waste. The sub-group made sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions, which in­clude de­vel­op­ing in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nisms for waste col­lec­tion, reusing and re­pro­cess­ing the waste; seg­re­ga­tion of c&d waste at source; im­pos­ing charges on waste gen­er­a­tors; for­mu­lat­ing stan­dards for c&d waste and amend­ing the Mu­nic­i­pal Solid Waste Rules. moef’s pro­posed amend­ments in the rules in 2013 did not in­clude the Work­ing Sub-Group’s rec­om­men­da­tions. In­stead, it is now draft­ing sep­a­rate rules for man­ag­ing c&d waste, Con­struc­tion and De­mo­li­tion Waste (Man­age­ment and Han­dling) Rules 2014. Sev­eral coun­tries have found ways to man­age the c&d waste: they re­cy­cle the waste and re­use it in con­struc­tion. Sin­ga­pore, which gen­er­ates 260 kg of c&d waste per per­son—In­dia’s per capita c&d waste is 420 kg—re­cy­cles 98 per cent of it (see ‘Lessons from abroad ’on p39).

Of late, there have been spo­radic ini­tia­tives in In­dia to re­cy­cle c&d waste into ag­gre­gates for mak­ing ready-mix­con­crete, pave­ment blocks and con­crete bricks. In 2009, the Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of Delhi, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with il&fs En­vi­ron­men­tal In­fra­struc­ture & Ser­vices Ltd (ieisl), set up a c&d waste re­cy­cling project in Bu­rari. “The re­cy­cling plant has a ca­pac­ity to re­cy­cle 500 tonnes of c&d waste a day, but it re­ceives 1,200-1,400 tonnes daily, ”says N B Mazumdar, tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor to ieisl.

A sim­i­lar ini­tia­tive was un­der­taken by Mum­bai-based non-profit Youth for Unity and Vol­un­tary Ac­tion (yuva) and the City and In­dus­trial Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion in

Con­struc­tion and de­mo­li­tion de­bris can be re­cy­cled into ag­gre­gates for mak­ing ready-mix con­crete, pave­ment blocks and bricks

1999 in Navi Mum­bai. Over 1,500 tonnes of c&d waste was re­cy­cled un­der the project dur­ing 2002-06. Th­ese ini­tia­tives have, how­ever, failed to take off.While the yuva project ended in 2009, ieisl plant finds no tak­ers for its blocks and pavers. Of­fi­cials in­volved with the pro­jects blame the fail­ure on the con­struc­tion prod­ucts stan­dards of the Bureau of In­dian Stan­dards (bis) that do not men­tion re­cy­cled c&d waste as a “suit­able build­ing ma­te­rial”.

IS:383-1970, the bis stan­dard for ag­gre­gates (sand and stone used for mak­ing con­crete), stip­u­lates that con­crete can be made only with “nat­u­rally ac­cessed ma­te­rial”. Con­struc­tion agen­cies cite this rule to avoid us­ing re­cy­cled waste. “The in­ter­pre­ta­tion is in­ac­cu­rate,” says Su­nil Soni, direc­tor gen­eral of bis, adding that bis per­mits the use of ag­gre­gates, other than nat­u­ral ag­gre­gates, in con­crete un­der the stan­dard IS:456-2000.

The text of IS:456-2000 code, how­ever, does not in­clude the word “re­cy­cled”, which dis­suades de­vel­op­ers from us­ing re­cy­cling c&d waste. In fact, though it al­lows us­ing “bro­ken brick­bats”, a ma­jor com­po­nent of c&d waste, builders play safe and pre­fer buy­ing fresh bricks and then break them to make brick­bats. Some ex­perts say there is an ur­gent need to set stan­dards for c&d waste. But Soni says fram­ing new stan­dards is a long process and will take time. Since bis does not pro­hibit us­ing any new ma­te­rial in the ab­sence of stan­dards, he sug­gests that au­thor­i­ties can take the ini­tia­tive and per­mit re­cy­cled ma­te­rial. “This is al­lowed un­der the Na­tional Build­ing Code, ”he says.

The Cen­tral Public Works Depart­ment (cpwd), for in­stance, can re­vise its sched­ule of rate (sor is a doc­u­ment that de­ter­mines the price of con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als used by gov­ern­ment agen­cies) to in­cor­po­rate re­cy­cled c&d waste in the list of build­ing ma­te­ri­als. Since cpwd’s sor serves as the base doc­u­ment for state sors, any change in the cpwd doc­u­ment will get read­ily in­cor­po­rated in state sors. cpwd, how­ever, has been scep­ti­cal about re­cy­cled c&d waste and does not al­low its use in con­struc­tion. Early this year, it in­formed Par­lia­ment that “c&d waste having no sal­vage value is dis­posed of at ap­proved dump­ing sites as per mu­nic­i­pal rules”. It has also not re­sponded to ap­peals by the En­vi­ron­ment Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Au­thor­ity for sug­gest­ing how to pro­mote the use of re­cy­cled c&d waste.

To elim­i­nate scep­ti­cism re­gard­ing the suit­abil­ity of c&d waste, bis has gone out of its way and con­sti­tuted a panel to for­mu­late a list of ag­gre­gates from other than nat­u­ral sources. “The panel aims at ad­dress­ing the dual prob­lems of waste dis­posal and short­age of con­struc­tion ma­te­rial,” says Jose Kurian, con­vener of the panel. Based on the trend world over, the panel is ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of re­cy­cled in­dus­trial wastes, in­clud­ing c&d waste. It has al­ready held two meet­ings within three months


De­vel­op­ers de­lib­er­ately dump build­ing de­bris in low-ly­ing or water­shed ar­eas to re­claim eco-sen­si­tive zones for real es­tate

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