Con­struc­tion and real es­tate in­dus­try ac­count for 8-14% of the to­tal PM pol­lu­tion load: Su­nita Narain

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Nam­rata Kohli let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Su­nita Narain is di­rec­tor gen­eral of the In­di­a­based re­search in­sti­tute, the Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment (CSE). A pro­po­nent of the green con­cept of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, Narain feels that the lack of en­force­ment of con­struc­tion rules such as erec­tion of wind and dust bar­ri­ers on con­struc­tion sites, dis­posal of de­mo­li­tion waste leads to fugi­tive dust in Delhi NCR. A sig­nif­i­cant start would be made if sim­ply the ex­ist­ing laws were en­forced, she claims, among other in­sights. Edited ex­cerpts:

How much does the con­struc­tion and real es­tate in­dus­try ac­count for en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion in In­dia?

The IIT Kan­pur re­port es­ti­mates the con­tri­bu­tion of con­struc­tion and real es­tate to range from 8-14% of the to­tal PM pol­lu­tion load. This is asig­nif­i­cant share of the to­tal pol­lu­tion load, and t here­fore i t needs t o be ad­dressed ur­gently. A sig­nif­i­cant start would sim­ply be made if the ex­ist­ing laws and con­di­tions ap­pli­ca­ble to con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties were to be en­forced. For ex­am­ple, the re­quire­ment for the erec­tion of wind and dust bar­ri­ers on con­struc­tion sites, along with fab­ric based anti-dis­per­sion mea­sures is cur­rently se­lec­tively im­ple­mented in Delhi and NCR. In smaller res­i­den­tial re­de­vel­op­ment projects, the use of these is hardly ever ver­i­fied. Fur­ther, site man­age­ment rules re­quire a de­vel­oper to en­sure that each en­try/exit of a con­struc­tion ve­hi­cle is ac­com­pa­nied by the wash­ing of its wheels, and that the fugi­tive dust on the site is sup­pressed via fre­quent wa­ter sprin­kling, along with the cov­er­ing of loose con­struc­tion ma­te­rial. The dis­posal of de­mo­li­tion waste from old build­ings is also an is­sue that con­trib­utes sig­nif­i­cantly to air pol­lu­tion.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions and key stakeholders in the con­struc­tion and real es­tate in­dus­try can take proac­tive mea­sure by sim­ply en­sur­ing that all their em­ploy­ees and con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties are planned and im­ple­mented with min­i­mal emis­sions, within the am­bit of the nec­es­sary and ap­pli­ca­ble rules.

What is the pri­mary rea­son or root cause for pol­lu­tion amongst stub­ble burn­ing, ve­hic­u­lar pol­lu­tion, garbage burn­ing and con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties?

Stub­ble burn­ing, like the emis­sions from the use of fire­works, is a sea­sonal phe­nom­e­non that af­fects the air qual­ity of the Delhi-NCR re­gion dur­ing the win­ter months. The 2015 IIT Kan­pur re­port on air pol­lu­tion in Delhi es­ti­mated that biomass con­trib­utes to a lit­tle more than one fourth of the to­tal PM (par­tic­u­late mat­ter) load in win­ter. In con­trast, the other three sources of ve­hic­u­lar pol­lu­tion, garbage burn­ing and con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, along with in­dus­trial emis­sions are round-the-year sources of air pol­lu­tion, that con­tinue to de­te­ri­o­rate the air qual­ity on a daily ba­sis. All these sources com­bine in the win­ter months, when nat­u­ral weather pat­terns fur­ther con­trib­ute to the build-up of pol­lu­tants in the air.

As pol­lu­tion re­turns to the cap­i­tal city, how liv­able do you think the cap­i­tal city will re­main in the years to come, as the city liv­abil­ity in­dex is di­rectly af­fected by air pol­lu­tion?

The Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion (NCR) has been fac­ing high lev­els of air pol­lu­tion since the mid­dle of the cur­rent decade. Af­ter the first gen­er­a­tion of ac­tion in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s to counter ris­ing air pol­lu­tion saw the in­tro­duc­tion of CNG based pub­lic trans­port, cleaner in­dus­trial fuel and the re­lo­ca­tion of dirty in­dus­tries out­side the NCT of Delhi, the in­terim phase saw a rapid in­crease in both in­dus­trial emis­sions and emis­sions from ve­hi­cles. The rate of ur­ban­iza- tion in non Delhi parts of the NCRre­gion­hasal­so­gone­uprapidly, adding to the rapid loss of green cover and the state of con­ges­tion in the NCR re­gion.

Air pol­lu­tion will there­fore con­tinue to af­fect the liv­abil­ity of ur­ban ar­eas in the NCR re­gion, till these fac­tors are ad­dressed suit­ably and rapidly. Al­though some of t hese are be­ing ad­dressed by in­di­vid­ual stakeholders and some de­ci­sion mak­ers in the re­gion, much more will need to be done in a com­pre­hen­sive man­ner.

How bad is this year com­pared to last year when we had to wear masks, the schools got closed and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties had to be cut down to the min­i­mal?

In the win­ter of 2018-19 (up till 22nd Oc­to­ber), the air qual­ity is in the “Poor” & “Very Poor” cat­e­gory of the AQI (air qual­ity in­dex). The pri­mary pol­lu­tant in the Delhi-NCR re­gion is PM, and tak­ing into ac­count PM con­cen­tra­tions across the re­gion, the air qual­ity has fluc­tu­ated be­tween poor and­very­poor. This is prima fa­cie an im­prove­ment over the air qual­ity at the same­time­ofthe year in 2017-18. How­ever, it is still far from sat­is­fac­tory, and en­force­ment of ex­ist­ing air qual­ity im­prove­ment­plans an­dreg­u­la­tions is needed. It must be noted that the pol­lu­tion peaks last year, when lev­els touched “Se­vere” and “Se­vere+ or Emer­gency” were in the be­gin­ning and end of Novem­ber, cor­re­spond­ing with poor weather phe­nom­ena, the peakof crop residue burn­ing and the use of fire­works around Di­wali, which added to the ex­ist­ing load of pol­lu­tion from­round-the year sources. We are still at the end of Oc­to­ber this year, andthep­re­pared­ness of the reg­u­la­tory and ex­ec­u­tive agen­cies is be­ing as­sessed.

Mon­soon rain had im­proved the air qual­ity in the last two months and we even wit­nessed three days of ‘good’ cat­e­gory. Do you think the mon­soon is the only “sav­ing grace” for Del­hi­ites when we get to breathe the fresh air?

The months of Au­gust and Septem­ber saw Delhi NCR sev­eral days when the air qual­ity was at the ‘sat­is­fac­tory’ stage and even a few days where the air qual­ity was at ‘good’ lev­els.

While the im­prove­ments can def­i­nitely be cor­re­lated to pe­ri­ods of high rain­fall, it must also be noted that since 2017-18, sev­eral mea­sures have been taken to ad­dress the sources of air pol­lu­tion. These in­clude the Ap­proved Fu­els No­ti­fi­ca­tion in the NCTofDelhi, the no­ti­fi­ca­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the first ever SOX (Sul­phur ox­ides) and NOX (Ni­tro­gen Ox­ides) stan­dards for over 34 cat­e­gories of in­dus­tries, the ban on the use and trade of petroleum coke and fur­nace oil in the states of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Ra­jasthan as well as on the im­port of pet coke into In­dia and the avail­abil­ity of (Bharat Stage IV) BS VI fuel in Delhi. In ad­di­tion to this, the WPE-EPE (Western Pe­riph­eral Ex­press­wayEastern Pe­riph­eral Ex­press­way) is be­ing made fully op­er­a­tional, which will pro­vide al­ter­na­tives to com­mer­cial traf­fic to cir­cum­vent Delhi. An RFID (Ra­dio Fre­quency Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion) based ECC (En­vi­ron­ment Com­pen­sa­tion Charge) col­lec­tion sys­tem has been op­er­a­tionalised, which will ap­ply pol­luter pays to all com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles en­ter­ing Delhi. There is also a coloured holo­gram based sticker sys­tem that is be­ing im­ple­mented for all 3 and 4 wheel­ers in the Del­hiNCR re­gion that will en­able iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of ve­hi­cle fuel type and age at a glance, thereby al­low­ing for eas­ier im­ple­men­ta­tion of ve­hic­u­lar re­stric­tions to re­duce emis­sions.

These are all pol­icy mea­sures that have been in­tro­duced in the last one year. The proper im­ple­men­ta­tion of these, along with im­ple­men­ta­tion of the GRAP (Graded Re­sponse Ac­tion Plan) and CAP ( Com­pre­hen­sive Ac­tion Plan) for the Delhi-NCR re­gion will in the medium to long term en­sure the re­duc­tion of emis­sion load from­var­i­ous sources of air pol­lu­tion, and en­sure im­prove­ment in the air qual­ity.

The Supreme Court­em­pow­ered EPCA is tasked with tak­ing vari­ ous mea­sures to tackle air pol­lu­tion in the Delhi­Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion. In Novem­ber, the EPCA man­dated to en­force Graded Re­sponse Ac­tion Plan (GRAP) had en­forced sev­eral mea­sures, in­clud­ing clo­sure of the Badarpur ther­mal power plant, ban on brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crush­ers, and con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties. How do you rate the graded re­sponse ac­tion plan and what are your sug­ges­tions?

The GRAP has been im­ple­mented in Delhi and NCR in the win­ter of 2017-18. It has been in ef­fect through the year, and has been in­ten­si­fied again for the incoming win­ter, with the ‘very poor’ cat­e­gory of ac­tions be­ing put into ef­fect for the pe­riod Oc­to­ber 15 2018 to March 15 2019.

TheGRAPby­de­sig­nis­are­ac­tive ac­tion plan. It is de­signed as an emer­gency ac­tion plan that is in­tended to be en­forced along­side a longer term, proac­tive plan, which ad­dresses the var­i­ous sources of pol­lu­tion in a sys­temic man­ner, with def­i­nite time­lines and medium/long ter­mgoals. The­hon’ble Supreme Court has in 2018 ap­proved the “Com­pre­hen­sive Ac­tion Plan” (CAP) for this pur­pose, and has di­rected the MoEF & CC (The Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and For­est, Cli­mate Change) to no­tify the same. While this plan has been put into place, it is im­por­tant to note that sev­eral en­force­ment chal­lenges were faced while im­ple­ment­ing the GRAP in the win­ter of 2017-18. The chal­lenge of im­ple­ment­ing a multi- sec­toral air pol­lu­tion ac­tion plan in Delhi-NCR that suc­cess­fully meets its own ob­jec­tives re­quires co­or­di­na­tion and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the State Gov­ern­ments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Ra­jasthan, in ad­di­tion to the lo­cal ur­ban gov­ern­ments of ur­ban ar­eas within these states as well as the var­i­ous Min­istries of the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment.

In or­der to im­prove the air qual­ity with the suf­fi­cient ur­gency needed, GRAP must be im­ple­mented along with CAP si­mul­ta­ne­ously, with the earnest par­tic­i­pa­tion of all the key stakeholders.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port for the month of July 2018, by Ko­tak Se­cu­ri­ties Ltd, “All-In­dia real es­tate sales across ma­jor cities clocked 22.2 mil­lion sq.ft in July 2018 against launches of 7.9 mil­lion sq.ft.

We high­light that launches in July 2018 were sig­nif­i­cantly lower than monthly av­er­age of 14.5 mil­lion sq.ft seen in the past 12 months. Con­se­quently, in­ven­tory across In­dia dropped 10% to about 1 bil­lion sq.ft from 1.1 bil­lion sq.ft in July 2017, re­flec­tive of the de­creas­ing launch ac­tiv­ity.”

Though there is a de­crease in the lev­els of in­ven­tory across In­dia, it is still very high and it will take months for devel­op­ers to clear it at the cur­rent sales vol­ume. The sit­u­a­tion is worse in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion (NCR) and Mum­bai Met­ro­pol­i­tan Re­gion (MMR). As per the Ko­tak re­port, “Across all met­ros, launches re­mained the low­est in Delhi NCR with only 1 mil­lion sq. ft re­leased in July 2018 in pe­riph­eral re­gions of Ghazi­abad and Greater Noida. Net un­sold res­i­den­tial in­ven­tory in NCR stood at 243 mil­lion sq.ft as of July 2018 and is equiv­a­lent to 63 months of sales (based on av­er­age sales of trail­ing 12 months).

Sim­i­larly, out­stand­ing in­ven­tory in MMRre­main­s­the­high­est across met­ros at 290 mil­lion sq.ft as of July 2018 (equiv­a­lent to 54 months of sales).”

As far as prop­erty prices are con­cerned, it ei­ther re­mained stag­nant or in­creased marginally.

“Across In­dia, av­er­age prices saw a slight in­crease in July 2018

While res­i­den­tial real es­tate is strug­gling, com­mer­cial real es­tate is wit­ness­ing healthy de­mand, es­pe­cially in the of­fice space seg­ment. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent of­fice leas­ing re­port by Cush­man & Wakefield In­dia, “Com­mer­cial of­fice mar­ket is wit­ness­ing a ro­bust streak, buoyed by strength­en­ing busi­ness con­fi­dence, and optimistic prospects in the fastest-grow­ing econ­omy in the world. Of­fice leas­ing reg­is­tered strong gains of 15% at 33 mil­lion sq.ft across the top 8 cities of In­dia, dur­ing Jan­uary-Septem­ber, as com­pared to the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod last year.”

There is ad­e­quate sup­ply in the of­fice seg­ment as well, which is keep­ing rent in con­trol. “NCR re­gion, com­pris­ing Gu­ru­gram and Noida, cur­rently has the high­est va­cancy at about 29 mil­lion sq.ft, which is likely to keep rentals in check, as fu­ture sup­ply is ex­pected to keep pace with in­cre­men­tal de­mand,” stated the Ko­tak re­port.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions and key stakeholders in the con­struc­tion and real es­tate in­dus­try can take proac­tive mea­sure by sim­ply en­sur­ing that all their em­ploy­ees and con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties are planned and im­ple­mented with min­i­mal emis­sions, within the am­bit of the nec­es­sary and ap­pli­ca­ble rules.

THE OUT­LOOK

The ques­tion is whether sta­ble and con­tin­u­ous de­mand in the com­mer­cial sec­tor can have a pos­i­tive bear­ing on de­mand in the res­i­den­tial seg­ment.

“Since 2013-14, it was free fall in the res­i­den­tial seg­ment, but things have started set­tling down since the be­gin­ning of 2018,” said Samantak Das, chief econ­o­mist and head of re­search, JLL In­dia.

Be­cause of var­i­ous is­sues, buy­ers’ con­fi­dence is still very low in the res­i­den­tial seg­ment and it will take at least two years to get back that con­fi­dence, be­fore we can ex­pect any sub­stan­tial de­mand, added Das.

Prices in res­i­den­tial real es­tate mar­ket are not ex­pected to in­crease in the near fu­ture and buy­ers have am­ple time to do the duedili­gence to choose asuit­able prop­erty.

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