At a time when the level of air pollution continues to remain dangerously high in the city, the dumping of waste from construction and demolition sites is going unchecked across Gurgaon. The building and demolition sites throw up dust every day that contributes to rampant air pollution and the thick smog hanging over the city. With the authorities slow to act, the residents are left with little choice but to breathe the noxious air.
The smog is created by a deadly cocktail of dust and chemicals in the air throwing a blanket of haze around the city and choking residents. Though the haze is a perennial problem and doesn’t go away even during the summer months, it takes particularly alarming proportions in winter.
Smog, say experts, is caused by a fusion of dust particles and chemical pollutants that include NOx, SO2, CO2, CO and Benzene. All these make for a toxic blend that drives the city’s air quality beyond ‘permissible’ limits.
Not just the old residents, even a large number of people who moved to Gurgaon in search of a better life have been condemned to bear the brunt of the city’s worsening air quality.
On a visit to most of the prominent areas of the city, HT found all the construction and demolition waste dumped on vacant plots and on the sides of roads.
The areas in and around Gurgaon that continue to witness an unchecked pile-up of construction and demolition waste include Golf Course Road, Southern Peripheral Road and the Northern Peripheral Road (Dwarka Expressway), which is yet to be thrown open to the public. With the waste pile-up on the rise, a thick layer of dust has settled on most of these stretches. The arterial roads between sectors 58 and 115 are in an even more pitiable state owing to the dumping of construction waste. Even in sectors 29, 30, 44, 46 and 40, which have lately witnessed a realty boom, the air quality continues to remain a major cause for concern for residents.
Residents across the city spoke in one voice on the issue of rising air pollution and laid the blame squarely on the dumping of construction and demolition waste.
“This is one city in which the residents can literally feel the colossal levels of dust and debris in the air. Hence, health is a major concern for most of us,” Rohin Dhar, of Ansal Escencia in Sector 65, said.
Puneet Lamba, another Gurgaon resident, said, “We live very close to an area where large-scale construction activities are taking place. One can spot workers digging on these sites every day. Most of the construction projects currently underway in the area do not conform to environmental norms and the lives of more than 1,000 families living in the area are at grave risk.”
Tushit Malhotra, of Golf Course Extension Road, said, “It seems the government isn’t concerned about the health of citizens. We’ve to put the air purifier on when indoors and wear air masks and muzzles to protect our lungs when outdoors. We don’t let our children play outside as the air isn’t safe to breathe.”
“There’s been a haze over the city, brought on by dangerous levels of dust and debris in the air, over the past couple of weeks. We don’t go out in the mornings and evenings, unless necessary, fearing health hazards. Even in summer, there’s dust in the air. Unchecked construction activities are to blame for the worsening air quality in our city. We’re struggling to breathe fresh air. Many are suffering from asthma,” Vikas Gupta, of Vatika City on Sohna Road, said.
Doctors said the rising air pollution levels poses a grave risk to the health of infants. “Infants are the most vulnerable to air pollution. The increasing levels of the hazardous PM 2.5 and suspended air particles have emerged as major health worries for children and are resulting in such respiratory diseases as asthma and bronchitis among children and elders,” Himanshu Batra, consultant paediatrician at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon, said.
Experts said no studies have been conducted to assess the consequence of unabated construction activity generating hazardous pollutants at an alarming rate.
“A city such as Gurgaon, which witnesses large-scale development activity, should make the extra effort to prevent the mixing of harmful chemicals with the air. Also, not much effort has gone into studying the impact of air pollutants on the health of residents,” Dr Sewa Ram, associate professor of transport planning in the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, said.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and head of air pollution team, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “The city is gasping for breath and if action isn’t taken at the earliest, the worst may not be far.”
As per the guidelines laid down by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), all construction sites have to be covered by tarpaulin sheets to prevent the spread of dust and debris. However, these regulations have only remained on paper and are yet to be enforced on the ground.
Experts at the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) said builders associated with the setting up of residential complexes and commercial establishments in the city seldom follow the guidelines laid down by the Centre.
“We are taking steps to curb pollution. We have already asked the Haryana urban development authority (Huda) and the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) to remove construction waste piled up on roads and residential areas. We’ll also send notices to realtors associated with projects that are flouting norms,” Bhupender Singh, regional officer, HSPCB, said.
Speaking to HT, Yashpal Yadav, administration, Huda, Gurgaon, said they are drawing up an action plan to address pollution concerns. “We’re aware of the issue and are working on a plan. All state agencies have to work together to clear construction and demolition waste. We also need a proper dumping site for them,” Yadav said.