Mumbai's debris: All piled up, nowhere to dump it

  • Vaishnavi Vasudevan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 23, 2014 19:53 IST

If you put together the construction and demolition waste generated in Mumbai in a month, it could help make a 20-ft wide road stretching 36 kilometres – the distance between Nariman Point and Kandivli. But in reality, what happens to all the debris generated in the city, which can potentially be recycled?

Construction and demolition debris constitutes 20% of the total waste generated in the city. It can be seen dumped on footpaths, roads, boundaries of highways, creeks and mangroves in the city and the outskirts.

The richest civic body in the country aspires to change Mumbai into Shanghai. But despite the fact that 2,000 metric tonnes (MT) of construction debris is generated daily, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) does not have single system in place for its effective disposal. There is neither a designated disposal site for the debris nor a processing plant to recycle the waste. As a result, the 200 truckloads of waste generated per day go in search of empty, unused land on which to unload.

Cconstruction waste has been a major factor for the city’s solid waste management crisis. BMC does not pick up debris from construction sites, instead putting the onus on private builders to dispose of it. With no support rom the civic body, builders outsource the job.

“We appoint a contractor to dispose of the waste from the [construction] site. They coordinate with the BMC for permissions and accordingly dump the waste at a chosen location,” said Anand Gupta, chairman of Builders Association of India.

But this proper disposal of debris doesn’t always take place. “There have been reports of illegal dumping of debris on mangroves and creeks, but it is a clear case of connivance between the contractors and civic officials,” said Gupta.

For its part, the BMC only collects debris strewn on the roads or in housing societies.. Heaps of construction waste either remain unattended for several months on open space plots or are sent to the Deonar dumping ground, which already receives nearly 5,000 MT of waste in excess of its daily capacity.

All this waste could be put to better use. If recycled, the waste can be converted into ready mix concrete, pavement blocks, kerb stones and concrete bricks. In 2002, the local development authority in Navi Mumbai, in partnership with NGO Yuva, set up a debris recycling plant, which successfully converted debris into various building materials.

The BMC have for long made claims of setting up a similar plant. “We cannot give a definite time frame for setting up the plant, but it will happen soon. Currently, debris are being used for filling low-lying areas in the city,” said a senior civic official, requesting anonymity.

So, with the lack of a system for disposal of debris, what is the way forward for Mumbai?

“The real estate industry must now start utilising precast slabs manufactured in factories,” said Sunil Mantri, president of the National Real Estate Development Council. “Most of the construction activity in India is manual, thus generating a huge quantity of waste in the process. Precast slab can help in reducing waste generated at construction sites. Moreover, the BMC has been lacking micro-level management which is the need of the hour.”

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