In India construction is the second largest profession, next only to agriculture. Construction being one of the important activities in the country our requirement of building material is also huge and in coming days it is going to be even larger. Meanwhile, construction also creates large amount of construction and demolition waste, though there is no accurate statistics available about such waste generation.
Its also true that our method of handling waste is crude and primitive and in fact, there is no management of waste as we only dump it wherever possible. Such method of disposal of demolition waste is harmful to environment and consequently to our health and is also wasteful as lot of materials which are reusable wasted. Best practices elsewhere show that 80-90% of C&D waste can be reused after processing in a variety of applications including landscaping, earth works and civil engineering applications.
In India, contractors play an important role in waste management. Contractual arrangements require that demolition wastes have to be disposed off by the contractor at his cost. Other than new construction, renovation or repair of buildings, demolition of an existing building/structure is the main cause of waste generation from the construction industry. For contractor its only the transportation problem, its disposal is not problem at all. Its easily disposed off in the nearest possible vacant land which will reduce his transportation cost. Due to poor surveillance by the local bodies (ULB) one can see many such unauthorised dumping yards. Thus, a contractor’s solution is not necessarily everyone’s. For us C&D waste management means “getting rid” of the waste.
However, construction waste recycling doesn’t require any rocket science and it is based on simple technology. Processing technology is not complicated, comprising mainly of crushing, screening and washing to recover coarse and fine recycled aggregates, which can then be used directly or converted into pre-cast products. Independent testing has confirmed that the quality of products made from recycled aggregates can meet relevant standards and cost of such products can also be competitive with that of conventional products provided transportation distances are not prohibitive. BIS and the Indian Roads Congress have also come up with standards prescribing limits up to which recycled aggregates can be safely used in different applications.
Its also true that the biggest challenges in managing C&D waste are at the ULB level. In addition to land, financial resources and personnel constraints, ULB capacities to develop the management and business model are limited. In the absence of adequate state level facilitation, ULBs continue to dedicate their limited resources towards MSW, which is seen as a higher priority by the public.
In these contexts, without a coordinated effort, implementation at the necessary scale will still remain a challenge for all its stakeholders. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs along with its specialised agencies and/or empanelled consultants should handhold the ULBs for C&D waste management. If necessary, an ad hoc expert task force should be created for developing a standard methodology for inventorisation and characterisation of C&D waste. In parallel, facilitation by state level agencies and departments (such as Urban Development) needs to be accelerated to ensure wide implementation throughout each state, and not just in a few pioneer cities. Special emphasis should be placed on the needs of smaller towns where the generation may not be enough to justify a large central processing facility.
Meanwhile, efforts should also be made by the ULBs and the government to engage with the construction industry representatives like BAI and CREDAI to make the mission successful. Engaging with the industry is essential as they are generators of waste and also the potential users of recycled products.
The government should also make necessary efforts to promote utilisation of recycled products through a variety of channels including public procurement, development of standards and certification, green rating, quality assurance, GST rebates, and so on. Recycled products are perceived as inferior in quality and there are concerns about their economic viability. Therefore, there is need on the part of the government to create proper awareness of the uses and the durability of the recycled products. This multi-faceted facilitation strategy, in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, needs to be sustained over the medium term, till the time a viable market for recycled products develops, allowing the private sector to profitably pursue recycling on its own.
Thus, our C&D Waste management system should aim at becoming a responsible stakeholder in urbanisation rather than remaining as a litter relocation exercise. Otherwise, tomorrow we all will be drowned in C&D Waste.