As buildings rise in Gurugram, Aravallis gets buried under debris | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

As buildings rise in Gurugram, Aravallis gets buried under debris

May 15, 2023 11:51 PM IST

Despite being a hub of construction activity, Gurugram has just one construction debris processing plant, in Basai

Gurugram With Gurugram lacking a formal mechanism to dump and treat construction and demolition (C&D) waste scientifically, truck loads of debris are being dumped in the Aravallis in and around city posing a threat to the ecologically sensitive forested region, said residents and environmentalists.

A tractor driver illegally dumps construction and demolition (C&D) waste on a vacant land near an electricity substation in Sector-52, in Gurugram on Saturday. (Parveen Kumar/HT Photo)
A tractor driver illegally dumps construction and demolition (C&D) waste on a vacant land near an electricity substation in Sector-52, in Gurugram on Saturday. (Parveen Kumar/HT Photo)

An investigation by Hindustan Times found that several private contractors are operating a fleet of illegal tractor trolleys and pick-up trucks in the city, and they, allegedly in connivance with municipal officials, pick up debris from construction sites and dump it indiscriminately at spots across the city, including the Aravallis.

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HT visited at least 20 such spots and they include places in the Aravallis, Sector 29, Golf Course Extension Road, Sohna Road, Sector 57, Gurugram-Faridabad Road and Dwarka Expressway.

Despite being a hub of construction activity, Gurugram has just one construction debris processing plant, in Basai. The plant has a processing capacity of 1,800 tonnes per day, but it is currently operating at only 300 tonnes per day, which is nowhere near enough to tackle the estimated 800 tonnes of construction waste generated by the city daily.

According to the NGT order of 2015, dumping of any kind of waste, including C&D waste, is banned. Anyone found doing so is liable to pay an environmental compensation fine up to 50,000.

Residents said these dumps are a major source of dust pollution. They alleged that despite repeated complaints, the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram has not taken any action. They also claimed that the illegal operators are thriving because the civic body has failed to evolve a formal mechanism to deal with the problem.

MCG officials denied these claims and said their teams are regularly patrolling and removing debris and other waste from these places and have fined at least 30 people 25,000 each between January and April 30 this year.

Indiscriminate dumping

HT went on a spot check and saw huge heaps of debris along Dwarka Expressway, Golf Course Extension Road, in Sector 61, 57, Aravallis, and Sector 29 .

Nilesh Tandon, president of Fresco Apartments’ residents’ welfare association (RWA) in Sector 50, said metres away from their society, construction waste in dumped on the road by the private contractors. “Construction waste is picked up by private contractors dumped along expressways and also near residential areas. They charge between 800-1,100 per load but never dump at designated sites,” he said.

Joginder Singh, former RWA president of Sector 57, said they have written to civic agencies several times but nothing has been done. “We have paid from our pockets to remove the waste but it is again dumped in another areas along one of the main roads. The situation is getting worse day by day,” he said.

Poor processing capacity

One of the main reason for debris heaps mushrooming everywhere is the city’s ppor waste handling capacity, said green experts. Gurugram set up a debris processing plant with a total installed capacity of 1,800 tonnes per day in Basai in December 2019. But, the plant is currently operating at a capacity of just 300 tonnes a day. This is because the plant is mandated to pick up C&D waste only within 15km radius of the plant, said officials of the plant concessionaire IL&FS.

In July 2021, MCG finalised five sites for dumping C&D waste in Sector 56, Kadipur, Transport Nagar, Wazirabad and Pwala Khasrupur.

While IL&FS operated the plant, another agency was hired for door-to-door collection of debris from households and subsequently, dump it at the five designated points. IL&FS was responsible for collecting and transporting debris from the these points to the Basai plant.

The agency also set up a helpline for residents to call and request debris lifting. Once a call/request is received on the helpline, an assessor visits the site to estimate the amount of debris to be lifted. Based on the estimate, the assessor calculates a fee which the resident has to pay to the civic body. Once the fee is paid, the agency will send its trucks to transport the debris to the primary five sites identified for dumping debris.

Officials of IL&FS said they are following all norms as stated in their contract with MCG. They said they cannot be responsible for anyone dumping in the Aravallis or any other area as their mandate is to pick debris waste from within a 15km of the plant.

IL&FS has now submitted a proposal to the MCG seeking rights to lift C&D waste from beyond the 15km radius.

In the backdrop of increased unauthorised C&D waste dumping across the city, the MCG is likely to consider the company’s proposal favourably. Officials said the private company has proposed to collect waste at the rate of 450 per tonne beyond the 15km radius.

Aravallis the worst affected

Vaishali Rana, a city-based environmentalist, said that MCG and forest department are indifferent to the problem that C&D waste poses. “We have reported several times to both agencies about the illegal dumping of C&D waste in Aravallis. Many acres of Aravallis have gone under the debris but they still don’t want to take any action. The need of the hour is an Aravallis task force to monitor non-forest activity in the forests,” she said.

Ruchika Sethi Takkar, founder member of “Why Waste Your Waste”, a civil society movement for a zero waste city, said in view of the remarkable growth in real estate, there should have been an effective policy in place to manage C&D waste. “There is unabated dumping of malba waste around housing colonies, green belts, on the roadside, nalas ( drains) as well as in the Aravallis. The waste dumping is posing serious civic, public health and traffic related problems, besides adversely impacting the environment,” she said.

Manas Fuloria, CEO of Nagarro, a digital product engineering company, said, “Large parts of city centre in Sector 29 sport unsightly C&D waste dumps and alerting the authorities has not helped. C&D waste also lines large stretches of the Gurgaon-Faridabad Road that run parallel to the Aravallis. In none of these places could I see any systematic sorting and processing of waste,” he said.

PC Meena, MCG commissioner, on January 13 this year directed municipal officials to deploy security guards at the Aravali Biodiversity Park to keep a check on unauthorised dumping of C&D waste. The commissioner had also asked officials to seek the help of police, if required.

Follow NGT guidelines

Social activists cited National Green Tribunal rules and guidelines to underscore why the problem has to be dealt with immediately.

They said that a three-pronged approach is required to deal with the issue. First, generators of C&D waste must be incentivised to reduce the quantity of waste generated. Second, there should on-site segregation, recycling and reuse of the waste; and third, builders must be mandated to transfer \raw waste to government recycling units and only non-recyclable waste must be moved to designated dumping sites.

A silent killer

According to health experts, construction debris is one of the major sources of particulate matter 10 (PM10), which are microscopically fine particles of dust that enter human lungs and cause problems such as shortness of breath and asthma

Doctors said residents of several colonies around these illegal dumps are looking at a health disaster. When strong winds blow, they carry within them inhalable pollutants, including silica dust and other toxic compounds, which have serious repercussions on human health.

Dr Arunesh Kumar, senior consultant and head of pulmonology and respiratory medicine, Paras Health, Gurugram, said every brick and beam of a building tells a story of construction, but the dust they leave behind tell a tale of destruction -- of our health and environment.

“Construction and demolition waste dust is a hazardous by-product of building construction, renovation, and demolition activities that can cause severe health problems. The dust contains a mix of harmful substances, including silica, asbestos, lead, and other pollutants that can be inhaled into the lungs and cause respiratory illness,” he said.

Kumar said silica dust, for example, is a fine particle that is released during the cutting, grinding, or drilling of concrete, brick, and other construction materials. “When inhaled, it can cause lung cancer, silicosis, and other respiratory illnesses. Similarly, asbestos fibres, which were commonly used in building materials until the 1980s, can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer if inhaled. Moreover, construction and demolition waste dust also contribute to air pollution and global warming. When released into the air, the dust particles can travel long distances and cause respiratory problems to people in neighbouring cities. Additionally, it can lead to the formation of smog and contribute to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere,” he said.

Doctors have advised measures to control waste dust. This includes using protective gear like masks, wetting the dust down with water, covering construction sites, and using biologically safe building materials.

The MCG says

Commissioner Meena said more sites will be identified for dumping and processing the waste. “The MCG has two mobile C&D waste units, each of which can process around 200 tonnes of waste per day. We are also planning to increase the capacity of the Basai plant,” he said.

“I have directed the team concerned to prepare an inventory of the debris lying across the city and ensure that the same is picked up by IL&FS, and private vendors. I have also directed officers in-charge to keep a check on unauthorised dumping of C&D waste and penalise offenders for violations,” he said.

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    Leena Dhankhar has worked with Hindustan Times for five years. She has covered crime, traffic and excise. She now reports on civic issues and grievances of residents.

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