Year 2019 is a different year in the sense that it was the last year of the old government and first year of the new government. As expected nothing much policy statement came from the outgoing government while the new government tried to compensate for the lost by making several policy initiatives. Some of the policy initiatives of the government having impact on the construction sector are listed below.
Phasing out burnt bricks
In future, burnt bricks you may get to see only in museums and heritage buildings. Though the government has denied that it has any plans to ban the production and use of burnt bricks in construction, some government departments have stopped using burnt bricks in the construction. For example, CPWD has issued instructions for use of fly ash bricks/ blocks made from Construction & Demolition (C&D) waste/Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) blocks in masonry works for non-structural members mandatorily in place of clay bricks for the works in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Surat for buildings of height less than 15 meters. It has also been instructed that for buildings having height of more than 15 meters, Autoclaved Aerated Concrete blocks can be used.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had issued directions under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to the District Magistrates/ District Collectors of 22 districts of Delhi-NCR to, inter alia, ensure shifting of brick kilns to Zig Zag technology. Directions under Section 18(1)(b) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 had also been issued to all State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) and Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) for prevention and control of air pollution in different type of brick kilns. Further, as per the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, brick kilns in the National Capital Region (NCR) are to be closed down whenever the Air Quality Index is in the ‘Severe’ category.
The India Cooling Action Plan
In March, the government came out with a plan, India Cooling Action Plan, to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all, including Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Low Income Groups (LIGs), while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society. The ICAP has a long term vision to address the cooling requirement across sectors and list out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand.
The India Cooling Action seeks to (i) reduce cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25% by 2037-38, (ii) reduce refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by 2037-38, (iii) Reduce cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by 2037-38, (iv) recognize “cooling and related areas” as a thrust area of research under national S&T Programme, (v) training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by 2022-23, synergizing with Skill India Mission. These actions will have significant climate benefits.
However, the Plan encountered some criticism saying that the entire exercise was done without much home work. Though the significance of the issue and the government’s intent cannot be doubted, it should also be borne in mind that unless we set our goals based on concrete data and analysis it may turn out to be a futile exercise.
Meanwhile, the ICAP has been appreciated internationally as an important policy initiative which has the potential to provide socio-economic and environmental benefits related to reduced refrigerant use, climate change mitigation and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many countries are now involved in development of cooling action plans keeping in view the significant environmental benefits and the fulfilment of Sustainable Development Goals.
New Code on Occupational Safety
The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha in July to amend the laws regulating the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions of the persons employed in an establishment. The Code enhances the ambit of provisions of safety, health, welfare and working conditions from existing about 9 major sectors to all establishments having 10 or more employees. The proposed Code enhances the coverage of workers manifold as it would be applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more workers, where any industry, trade, business, manufacture or occupation is carried on, including, IT establishments or establishments of service sector. The definition of inter-state migrant worker has also been proposed to be modified to include those migrant workers who are being employed directly by the employer from other States without contractor or agent.
However, it may take some more time for the Bill to become an Act as the Standing Committee is presently vetting the Bill.
Bureau of Water Efficiency
“National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency (NBWUE)”, under the Scheme “Implementation of National Water Mission” was planned during the XII Plan but not much happened thereafter except expressing the intent on few occasions.
However, this time the newly created Jal Shakti Ministry is making serious attempt at BWE and has started drawing up the broad framework of the proposed bureau. Main objective of the BWE would be to improve water-use efficiency in irrigation and industrial activities. The government may also consider introducing a mechanism for water-efficiency labelling in municipal and household sector.
Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy, 2019 in July inviting comments and suggestions from stakeholders including public/private organizations, experts and concerned citizens on the draft policy. The proposed policy envisions a future with environmentally sustainable and equitable economic growth, resource security, healthy environment (air, water and land), and restored ecosystems with rich ecology and biodiversity.
With a current contribution of 8 per cent to India’s GDP and being the second largest in terms of employment generation after agriculture, the construction sector has a key challenge to make materials available in a manner that takes into consideration exhaustible nature of these resources as well as address the ecological impacts associated with their extraction and processing. Resource efficiency holds the key which helps in conserving resources and recycling raw materials to meet India’s future demand of resources, while at the same time reduce costs, and strengthen the competitiveness of industries. As one of the largest consumer of resources in the country today, the construction sector needs to urgently emphasize and integrate resource efficiency in its processes and inputs.
BEE’s Initiative in nZEB
Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is approaching existing building owners to convert their buildings to ‘Nearly Zero Energy Buildings.’ Environmental Design Solutions (EDS) has been appointed to carry out the feasibility study for 100 existing buildings providing a roadmap to achieve the nZEB goal. Feasibility study for these 100 buildings will be done free of cost. The selection criteria for buildings for nZEB will be:
- Minimum built up area: 5000 sq. mts.
- Minimum connected load >100kW or contract demand > 120 kVA or as notified by State/UT
The program will mainly cover educational institutions, healthcare, shopping complex, hospitality, airports & railway/metro stations. The feasibility study by EDS will cover assessment of existing building energy consumption, energy mapping of building energy systems, identifying energy savings potential and cost benefit analysis
Following the study, EDS will share a complete analysis report listing down Energy Conservation Measures (ECM’s) with the building owners for further action. The building owners/client shall not be bound to carry out implementation of ECM’s suggested, before all practical and financial implications are considered.