Chandan Singh, from Hermu in Jharkhand, works at a construction site on Golf Course road. He handles cement with his bare hands and says he finds it hard to breath due to the dust. “All my life I have worked at construction sites. As these sites are spreading, it is sometimes difficult to sleep and people here cough for months,” he says.
In the absence of measures to control pollution from construction sites, thousands of labourers like Chandan have to survive in hazardous conditions every day.
According to the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) guidelines, civic authorities should take measures to ensure toxins from construction machinery and vehicles, and construction dust are not released in the air. Similarly, the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) ordered that for construction activity beyond 2 lakh sqft, clearance has to be taken from the government on 70 environmental safety parameters notified by MoEF.
As per construction norms, sites should be covered with a tarpaulin sheet to prevent spread of dust. But on ground, these norms are nowhere to be seen.
“Only by implementing norms can the pollution levels be reduced. Though several factors are responsible for air pollution, dust from construction sites in the region is a major contributor,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), CSE.
Environmentalists say as workers are unaware of the norms, the developers get away with violations. “The pollution at construction sites affects the labourers much more. But the measures to curb air pollution are not followed by the developers. People in the city suffer from many respiratory diseases but none of the civic agencies keep watch on rampant construction work,” said Vivek Kamboj, an activist.
Officials at pollution department admit that workers handle cement with bare hands and do not have face masks or protective head gear. But they said implementation of guidelines is a problem. “We deal strictly with them but implementation is a huge issue because of large-scale construction projects and little awareness,” said Bhupender Singh, district pollution officer.
Site managers say they never had any inspection for environment norms. “Norms like washing the site and the vehicles are not practical. On one hand we are asked not to waste water and on other they want us to clean everything,” a site manager at Golf Course Road said.
To reduce the amount of dust produced at a construction site, some developers are now looking at new-age technology. One such model, called Mivan technology which originated from Malaysia, is being used for a housing project in Sector 70.
This shuttering technology uses an aluminium framework with RCC (Reinforced Cement concrete) instead of brick walls. “As the traditional red brick is not used, it generates less dust and lowers pollution levels,” said Parveen Jain, managing director of Tulip, which is using this technology.
This process combines cement, concrete with aluminium bars to utilize the compressive strength of concrete and tensile strength of aluminium simultaneously.
Reinforced concrete is a fluid material which can be economically molded into shapes and does not emit dust, the developer said.
This is Part 4 of our ongoing series ‘Save our Lungs’, which looks at how to combat pollution in Delhi.