Off lately, Delhiites have been seeing horrifying images of smoggy Delhi, and hearing about the probable causative factors from where this gloomy situation has arisen. It includes burning crackers in the festive season, vehicular pollution, stubble burning in Delhi’s nearby agriculturist states and landfill waste site uncontrollable burning.
But amongst these factors, there also lies a heavyweight in spreading air pollution, particularly particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5 and PM 10), which is the construction sector in collusion with dust and pollutants emanated out of it. The construction industry causes a wide variety of ripples those affect the environment and cause irreversible degradation to it.
Contribution of construction activity to pollute the ambient air and cause air pollution comes out of land clearing operations, operating machinery on diesel fossil, burning activities associated with construction, demolition activity and working with high toxicity materials. Construction activity produces highest levels of dust particularly from cement, wood, silica, stone crushers, concrete etc. which often gets carried away to large distances and remains suspended in the ambient air. Construction dust is categorized in PM 10 type (diameter of dust particle is less than 10 microns, hence visible to naked eye) which damages by penetrating deeply into the lung matter and cause problems like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and other respiratory illness. Moreover Diesel particulate matter (DPM) in the form of soot, silicates and sulphates that is produced by heavy machinery that equips construction activity causes respiratory and even severe mental conditions in rare cases. Apart from this, a major contribution to air pollution by construction activity is commanded by spread of aerosols, paints, oils, thinners, glues etc.
Water pollution derives a major negative externality from the construction sector mainly from debris, dirt, paints, oil spilling etc. Moreover land clearing related to construction sector enables more soil erosion thus makes a case for a large discharge of harmful chemicals and toxins in nearby water bodies, which if in a residential locality can cause more bioaccumulation. Such discharge makes water more turbid and thus destroys the aquatic ecosystem thus disbalancing the ecology. Moreover such pollutants seep down to the groundwater and thus pollutes it by destroying its potability.
Noise Pollution is caused by construction activity because of usage of heavy equipment, machinery and vehicles. Moreover aggregation of a large number of people at one place and loud shout and radio noises causes irritation, annoyance and is distracting. Hearing loss, sleep disturbance, stress peaking, high blood pressure are few common but severe effects emanating out of construction activity induced noise pollution.
Being a developing nation which is growing at a rapidly fast rate of over 7% annually, we cannot afford to permanently stop the construction activity because it is both the need and necessity of our nation, but at most we can do is adopt global best practices which are sustainable and causes minimal disruption in the environment. Controlling dust rise by spraying water over dusty surfaces can minimise its suspension in the air. Using non-toxic paints and oil materials for such activities and avoid draining the spill and using smart disposing techniques. Covering up piled up cement dusty materials and also all the nearby drain network could minimise run flow to surface water and groundwater. Minimising burning on-site materials and using low-sulphur diesel in heavy equipment can make a positive effect on the ambient air. Moreover reducing noise pollution by using careful handling equipment, quiet power tools and low impact technology in generators can bring about a positive change so that we can carry on our construction activities in our urban centres for our prosperity and development, and concurrently taking care about the environment and resources that we live in and depend upon, thereby creating a strong case for green growth and sustainable development.