The Supreme Court has stayed all construction activities in the states of Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh and the Union Territory of Chandigarh for not having a solid waste management (SWM) policy under the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. However, the court lifted the stay imposed on Maharashtra and Uttarakhand, after the two states submitted rules for SWM policies. For some members of the builders' fraternity, the judgement still remains clouded with ambiguity and they believe it will have a colossal impact on the real-estate industry, particularly ongoing projects.
The Supreme Court order
To quote the Supreme Court judgement,'It is unfortunate that some states and Union Territories have not yet framed any Policy under the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.' It further states:'In case the states have the interest of the people in mind and cleanliness and sanitation, they should frame a Policy in terms of the Solid Waste Management Rules so that the states remain clean. The attitude of the states/Union Territories in not yet framing a Policy even after two years is pathetic, to say the least.'The apex court has instructed the matter to be listed on October 9.
The industry view
'There will be no impact of this judgement in Maharashtra as the state has already clarified that a policy exists on SWM,'points out Rohit Gera, Managing Director, Gera Developments.'However, I think the Court taking such a strong stand indicates the level of frustration for the states not responding to its direction.'
Meanwhile, Getamber Anand, Chairman, CREDAI National, says,'SWM is still a work in progress and while appropriate action could be taken by concerned state authorities, the decision to stop construction activities may not be a definitive solution to resolve the matter.'
'We had a couple of days when the ban was in effect, owing to which daily wage earners at construction sites lost their wages, stakeholders, including those who supply material to sites lost a quantum of business, and home seekers faced the uncertainty of a delay in possession of their under-construction homes,'says Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, President, National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO), and Founder & Managing Director, Hiranandani Group.'Restarting work after coming to a halt is always a challenge; getting back to previous levels of work and speedy completion on a day-to-day basis takes time.'And Amar Haware, Executive Director and CFO, Haware Properties, adds,'With the imposition of strict penalties for delays, ongoing projects would suffer. It would have been better if the Supreme Court imposed this ban on new projects and allowed ongoing projects to continue.'
A rigid framework
For every large project at the state and local level, rules need to be followed after the procurement of environment clearance. Vermicomposting, vermiculture pitch and organic waste composters are some methods used by builders and developers while complying with waste management norms.
'States certainly need to frame policies as well as identify clear-cut locations, follow dumping rules and use the latest quality equipment for segregation,'reasons Gera. 'When it comes to businesses like us, introduction and recycling of construction materials need to get much greater focus.'
Indeed, SWM is a challenge for a rapidly urbanising India.
As municipal corporations face a shortage of landfills, those that exist are running out of space. The solution, then, is not just identifying another landfill site. Hiranandani believes there is a need to look beyond dumping grounds and come up with alternatives for proper and safe disposal of solid waste.'There is a need to look beyond policy frameworks; as a nation, we citizens should learn to segregate, recycle, reuse and replenish.'Common garbage treatment centres should be created in urban and semi-urban areas so that residents of single buildings also have an alternative in terms of 'self-help' to deal with the solid waste they generate.
Vermigold Ecotech, a waste management solutions firm, offers solutions for on-site waste management, where the waste gets disposed off at source and does not reach the municipal landfill.'We have several clients across India, including Rizvi Builders, G-Corp, Tejukaya Realty, Alpine, Eros Group, etc,'says Jaideep Saptarshi, Executive Director, Vermigold Ecotech.'Some of our forward-looking clients install our systems six to seven months before occupancy, as Mahindra Lifespaces did for its Windchimes project in Bengaluru as a risk management exercise with respect to regulatory approvals.'
When asked whether the stay has increased demand for the company's solutions, he replies,'Yes, there has been increased interest from developers owing to the ban and RERA, as developers are responsible for the system installed for a period of five years. Compared to our customers in other industries, we find there is great confusion among developers to select the right system.'Because of the newly emerging regulations and limited bandwidth, many developers make the wrong choices with respect to technology and capacity selection - the result is that the systems procured lie idle at client locations. Vermigold works with the Central Government to provide on-ground feedback of effective implementation by stakeholders, so that further changes are made at a policy level for the benefit of all.
Sampurn(e)arth Environment Solutions, another waste management solutions firm, works toward breaking the non-cyclic process of waste management.
It offers end-to-end decentralised waste management solutions for housing societies, corporate houses, townships, school and college campuses, etc. Rushabh Kamdar, Senior Business Development Manager, Sampurn(e)arth Environment Solutions says,'For projects and townships, we have waste-to-energy systems such as biogas plants, where food waste can be converted to electricity.'When asked whether these solutions are already put to use at construction sites, he replies, 'Not at under-construction sites. Once the project is completed, systems are installed as it is mandatory for OC clearance.'
The major concern is that if waste is not in segregated form, it gets difficult to process it.
Ramky Enviro Engineers has successfully established itself as one of the leading providers of comprehensive environment management services through waste management and recycling. M Goutham Reddy, Managing Director and CEO, Ramky Enviro Engineers, believes the move by the Supreme Court should be seen as a warning to urban local bodies (ULB) on the level of seriousness to be taken in managing solid waste. This is a positive signal, he believes, and will lead to significant increase in business in the near future.
At a construction site, there is a variety of waste, including demolition waste including bricks, mortar, wood, steel and dust, among others. Even in a new construction site, parts of excavation materials and solid waste dumped earlier needs to be carted and scientifically disposed off.
'Many of these wastes can find useful alternatives again in the construction industry,'he adds.'Technologies to handle these wastes are already in use, including in India.'
All considered, with the ban acting as a warning signal to the states and Union Territory concerned, it is up to them to take the Court's order seriously and work toward creating a comprehensive SWM policy to get construction back on track.