Anti-dust norms to be strictly enforced at construction sites: SC

Sharing article appearing in ET Realty

The Supreme Court on Wednesday brought the recession-hit construction industry in the National Capital Region (NCR) under the pollution scanner by directing central and state pollution control boards to strictly enforce anti-dust norms at construction sites with immediate effect.

The NCR, spread as far as Jind and Karnal districts of Haryana and Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, accounts for a substantial share in the real estate activities of the country’s Rs 2.48 lakh crore construction industry, the second largest contributor to the GDP after agriculture,

Amicus curiae Harish Salve, advocate Aparajita Singh and environmental activist Sunita Narain, along with senior advocate K K Venugopal who had appeared for three toddlers who moved the court for curbing pollution, had accused the construction industry of not following anti-pollution norms and causing dust pollution.

They quoted independent sources to allege that the construction industry was a major source of pollution, responsible for around 4% of particulate emissions, more water pollution incidents than any other industry, and thousands of noise complaints every year.

A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi said, “It was argued by counsel for parties that one of the major contributors to the current pollution levels is the construction activities going on in the National Capital Region.”

The counsel had argued that the Centre and states concerned – Delhi, UP, Haryana and Rajasthan – must be directed to take steps to ensure that those engaged in construction activities followed Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) norms to prevent further rise in pollution levels.

The bench said, “We see no reason to decline a direction to that effect. CPCB norms regarding prevention of pollution by putting curtains and other devices at construction sites must be strictly enforced by enforcement agencies concerned. We direct accordingly.”

According to Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC), India’s construction industry employs a workforce of nearly 32 million and its market size is worth about Rs 2.48 lakh crore. It is the second largest contributor to the GDP after the agricultural sector.

Construction sector is viewed as a service industry. It generates substantial employment and provides growth impetus to other manufacturing sectors like cement, bitumen, iron and steel, chemicals, bricks, paints, tiles, etc. whose combined value is Rs 1.92 lakh crore annually. The construction equipment market is valued at Rs 1.05 lakh crore,” CIDC said.

Independent sources cited by the counsel claimed that construction activities contributed to air pollution through land clearing, operation of diesel engines, demolition, burning and working with toxic materials.

All construction sites generate high levels of dust (typically from concrete, cement, wood, stone, silica) and this could carry for large distances over a long period of time. Construction dust is classified as PM10-particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, invisible to the naked eye, the counsel had said.

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