One of the biggest crimes we are committing on our future generation is by letting the Construction and Demolition waste to really go waste. Of course, there is no conclusive data as to how much C&D waste is generated in our country every year. According to the Building Material Promotion Council (BMPTC), India generates an estimated 150 million tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste every year. But unofficial estimates put the number at three-five times more. Having said that even more depressing factor is the low recycling of these wastes – India’s official recycling capacity of construction and demolition (C&D) waste is a meagre 6,500 tonne per day (TPD) — just around 1%, according to a new analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). In other words, every year millions of tons of C&D debris go waste in our country while many countries around the world have developed technology for re-using the same.
Waste Management Rules, 2016 of the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has provisions that promote recycling of materials from solid wastes, which supports resource efficiency. By 2017, 53 cities were expected to set up recycling facilities to recover material from the waste; only 13 cities have done it till date.
It should be noted that the sorry state of affairs exists notwithstanding the removal of legal hurdles to using recycled C&D material in construction. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has allowed the use of concrete made from recycled material and processed C&D waste. The Construction and Demolition Waste Rules and Regulations, 2016 have mandated reuse of recycled material.
Nearly all cities are facing the crippling challenge of finding adequate land for collection and recycling of the C&D waste. In Indian cities, collection and recycling of waste is also constrained by outdated zoning requirements and ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment among citizens. There is additional pressure of real-estate value capture that prevents land from being earmarked for waste disposal. ULBs fear loss of revenue. In fact, last year Karnataka government had announced construction of affordable houses in a location which was earlier used for land filling! Several cities have begun to consider land from no-development zones or ecologically sensitive areas. For instance, Gurugram’s proposal to build its recycling facility in the Aravalli Hills and Kolkata’s proposal to build it in a wetland were blocked by the respective state environment authorities for violating rules for environmentally sensitive areas. Pune has identified land that belonged to the state government outside the city limit.
The draft National Resource Efficiency Policy which is said to be an overarching policy for efficient use of resources across all sectors, with minimal adverse impacts on environment is still in draft stage and has not made much headway till now. The government has released the Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy, 2019 for public consultation inviting comments and suggestions of stakeholders. According to the government comments from several entities including, inter alia, government authorities, industry associations, etc. have been received which are being evaluated. Indeed, the Coronavirus outbreak has delayed the finalisation of draft but one should remember that every single day delay in taking action will lead to additional exploitation of our natural resources which are limited in supply. But even if the policy is implemented ground reality may not change much unless the enforcement of the law is done in right earnest.