Estimates suggest that the average generation of construction & demolition (C&D) waste in India works out to approximately 12 million tonnes per year. Experts are of the opinion that India will see the scale of construction activities not seen before in the coming decades due to fast paced urbanisation, infrastructure development and the housing requirements of growing population. In other words, the volume of C&D waste which will be generated in the coming decades will be much more than what we are seeing today. This also suggests the scale of problem which we are going to face in the coming years unless some suitable actions are not taken now.
It’s an opportunity too
But the proponents of the circular economy see massive opportunity to reuse the waste and avoid environment damage. Approximately 95% of C&D waste can be reused or recycled if processed scientifically. However, owing to current lack of infrastructure for processing C&D waste, most of the C&D waste are sent to landfills or get mixed with MSW, further adding to processing challenges of MSW. On the other hand, globally, C&D waste is beneficially recycled to the tune of 50% in EU. Some of the countries like UK (90%), US (70%) & France (48%) are leading C&D waste processing and recycling in the true spirit of circular economy. These figures suggest that India possess huge potential in recycling and reusing processed C&D waste as it can be a substitute to virgin construction materials which are in high demand in the country.
Though potential of recycling the C&D waste is huge, the task is easier said than done due to various challenges being posed at the ground level. Basically, Indians are not used to reuse the waste and they treat it as the name itself suggests. Private contractors remove this waste to privately owned lands, low-lying areas for a price, or more commonly, dump it in an unauthorized manner along roads or other public areas. C&D waste from individual households finds its way into nearby waste bins making the municipal waste heavy and degrading its quality for treatments such as composting or energy recovery. Further, in most of the urban local bodies (ULBs) where proper management of C&D waste is not established, it mixes with municipal solid waste which results in increased processing cost and reduced efficiency.
Poor regulatory compliance
Though regulatory framework for managing C&D waste is in place in India, its compliance is poor due to lack of monitoring. Therefore, there is a need for reinforcing regulatory compliance with strong deterrents. The Government should spruce up its supervision mechanism along with an economic incentive approach.
Further, the intent of the national level policy for achieving resource efficiency in the construction sector needs to be translated to a roadmap for action at the State and urban local bodies level. All construction projects – both buildings and infrastructure – should mandatorily prepare demolition plans and segregation plans for C&D waste management as the part of building plan approvals submitted to the municipality/ competent authority, as applicable. The government should set a precedent by announcing a threshold level mandatory proportion of C&D waste use in all government buildings and infrastructure projects.
The utilization of the C&D waste should be incentivized by the government through reduced GST and or other fiscal incentives. Building products and materials with secondary resources should be given tax rebates. The government should also define green building standards on C&D waste utilization, Lifespan of the building, demolition plan, energy usage, natural resource usage, usage of reusables. Eventually, this could be promoted on incentives and award system.
In case of building designs, longer Design Life of buildings with modular approach should be promoted. The government should aim at reduction in the overall waste generation by setting dismantling standards and SOPs. Transparency in FAR, demolition plan, data on construction material and declaration of life span of the building from the planning phase should be made mandatory from the project approval stage itself. Cities with population of above 10 lakh population should have at least one cluster based C&D Waste recycling plant.
At present, we are finding it difficult to adopt a suitable measure as there is insufficient data on the subject. Therefore, mobile-based data collection system on types of C&D waste being generated should be promoted.
Creation of a circular economy will be the basis for the survival of humans in this world. A circular economy not only contributes to the development of sustainable business models but also reduces emissions and increases efficient use of natural resources. Circular economy-based development approach is one of the key strategies being adopted for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Now the time has come to work on this approach without any further delay.