The year 2015 stands out as a landmark year when the world got together to agree upon a universal agenda for growth i.e. the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is essential for our country to align our national priorities with these goals and targets and track national progress with the triple bottom line of environment, social and economics. TARAgram Yatra 2015 aimed to look at the SDGs in the national context and identified the investments and investor partnerships required to ensure a sustainable development. One of the thematic areas of TARAgram Yatra 2015: Resource Efficiency for an Urbanising India deliberated on the possible pathways to achieve a transition towards resource efficient and sustainable urbanisation.
As a part of the TARAgram Yatra 2015, more than 20 participants from various backgrounds such as architects, researchers, academicians, practitioners, building material scientists, financial consultants took part in the field visit to see new resource streams and technologies in Delhi. These sites showcased the prevalent resource efficient practices in the construction sector. The discussions among the Yatris revolved around the investments with respect to tangible resources (land, water, energy, building materials) and intangible resources (policy, institutions, capacities/skills) required in order to adopt a resource efficient urban environment. Throughout the day long Yatra participants traversed the far-flung and unexplored parts of Delhi, to observe resource efficient construction practices demonstrated at Burari, Bawana and Ghitorni. The first phase of the journey explored prevalent solutions to resource constraints through reuse of waste materials as secondary raw materials in the construction sector. Secondary raw material waste from another industry or an alternate building material can also be used instead of a critical resource. One such secondary raw material is Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste. Delhi has been a pioneer in the processing and recycling of C&D waste. North Delhi Municipal Corporation is the first ULB to install and operate a construction and demolition waste recycling unit in collaboration with IL&FS Environment Infrastructure and Services Ltd’s strive towards resource efficiency. This waste is converted to Ready Mix Concrete (RMC), pavement blocks, kerbstones and concrete bricks.
The participants got a chance to see other low carbon and resource efficient technologies such as fly ash brick and micro-concrete roofing tiles at TARA Machines and Tech Services Pvt. Ltd, Ghitorni. Apart from the operational aspects of the technologies, the Yatris were quite interested in knowing about their economic and commercial viability and user acceptance of these products. It was observed that while technologies for producing resource efficient building materials from different waste streams are available, the question on how these technologies can be adapted in different geographies, cities, and how these can be scaled out remains unattended. The second phase of the Yatra focussed on the use of such resource efficient building materials products in construction. The mass housing project in Bawana Industrial Area is one of the largest projects the participants had ever seen. It is also one of the few affordable housing projects that utilised cost-effective and alternate materials. Products like precast planks and joists, perforated clay bricks and fly ash bricks were used for the construction of these houses. It was interesting to note that they achieved 20% cost savings due to reduced material consumption.
As the Yatra demonstrated few approaches to achieve resource efficiency, there is a need to understand how to accelerate the adoption of such practices. Several stakeholders laid emphasis on the need for codes and standards of alternate products and their inclusion in the Schedule of Rates. Initiatives like preferential procurement and eco-labelling will contribute in the recognition of such products and practices among the government and other stakeholders. But without awareness, and capacity building on such approaches, technologies and products the transition to a resource efficient urbanising India would be difficult to achieve.
The views expressed in the article are those of the author’s and not necessarily those of Development Alternatives.