India's official recycling capacity of construction and demolition (C&D) waste is a meagre 6,500 tonne per day (TPD) – just around 1 per cent, according to a new analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The country’s total C&D waste is estimated to be 150 million tonne, according to the Building Material Promotion Council (BMPTC), India.
Considering India’s annual C&D waste, the study—titled “Another Brick off the Wall: Improving construction and demolition waste management in Indian cities”—laid down some of these unpleasant truths about the way India is managing its C&D waste.
The analysis, released at a national online round table, shows that as many as 53 cities were expected to set up recycling facilities to recover material from C&D waste by 2017, but only 13 cities have done that by 2020. "This is unacceptable when the demand for primary building material, including minerals, stone, sand, iron ore, aluminium, and timber, is growing at an unprecedented rate,” said CSE director general Sunita Narain at the event.
Narain said a significant proportion of construction waste can be recycled, reused and brought back to construction to substitute naturally sourced material. “This demands a circular economy that can turn C&D waste into a resource. It can help reduce energy intensity and environmental footprints of buildings and infrastructure,” she added.
Speaking on the challenges, Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE, said heaps of concrete, bricks and metal waste from construction are choking water bodies, green areas and public spaces in cities. “Toxic dust particles from the debris are polluting the air, at a time when cities have to reduce their particulate pollution by 20 to 30 per cent by 2024, under the ongoing National Clean Air Programme (NCAP),” added Roychowdhury.
CSE researchers pointed out that the appalling condition exists due to the removal of legal hurdles by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in using recycled C&D material in construction. The construction and demolition waste rules and regulations, 2016 have mandated reuse of recycled material.
Ranking points for C&D waste management for Swachh Survekshan 2021 have also been doubled to 100 points, divided equally between management infrastructure and waste processing efficiency. Cities should have a C&D waste collection system in place; notified charges for C&D services; and segregation of waste in five streams. Under waste processing efficiency criteria, ranking points will be awarded based on the percentage of collected waste that is processed and reused.
“Our new study has carried out a detailed analysis of the current C&D challenge as well as technical and regulatory barriers to implementation of the Rules. It has identified strategies needed to accelerate the implementation of the rules and market uptake of recycled material,” said Roychowdhury, who said that the analysis was supported by ground-reality checks in multiple cities.