Dealing with construction and demolition waste in Chennai

Chennai grapples with illegal dumping of construction waste despite there being designated spots and a fine in place against violators.

“Though we are enrolled by conservancy contractors to sweep dust and garbage off the streets, we end up clearing construction and demolition (C&D) waste that has been disposed of illegally in a few places which should be cleared by a separate private agency,” says Manjula*, a conservancy worker in south Chennai. 

As per the Solid Waste Management (SWM) by-laws, clearing of construction and demolition waste does not fall under the purview of the routine SWM operations managed by the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC).

Despite there being fines ranging from Rs 2000 to Rs 5000 for illegal dumping of construction and demolition waste, this practise is rampant across the city.

As a result, the civic body has been forced to contend with a huge volume of construction and demolition waste due to the widespread violation of SWM rules.

Read more: Lessons from residents’ efforts to remove bins in Valmiki Nagar in Chennai

Disposal of construction and demolition waste in Chennai

According to the SWM rules in place, the generators of construction and demolition waste must draw up a plan for disposal prior to the commencement of the work. They must then make arrangements for the disposal of construction and demolition waste at the sites designated for this purpose by the local body or make arrangements with the authorised contractors for its collection and disposal.

A private contractor has been chosen by the civic body to handle construction and demolition waste in seven of the city’s 15 zones. The remaining zones are being catered to by the civic body.

As per the data from Greater Chennai Corporation, the collection and transportation of construction and demolition waste has been outsourced in Zones 4,5,6,8,9,10 and 13. In these zones, the private agency Premier Precision Private Limited is processing the collected construction and demolition waste at Perungudi and Kodungaiyur.

Greater Chennai Corporation is to pay a procession fee of Rs. 650 per metric tonne and the concessionaire is to pay land user charges of Rs. 1 per sq.m per month. The concession period is 20 years as per the data available on the GCC website. 

In Zones 1,2,3,7,11,12,14 and 15 the collection and disposal of construction and demolition waste is handled by the GCC.

A target of 450 metric tonnes per day has been fixed for the Zones managed by the private contractor. The Zones under the purview of GCC do not have fixed targets for collection when it comes to construction and demolition waste.

Once collected and transported to the processing facilities, the construction and demolition waste is washed and cleaned processed and segregated with the help of a conveyor. The materials are segregated as 20mm, 12mm, 6mm and M-sand.

Fine aggregates from construction and demolition waste are reused for plastering purposes. Coarse aggregates are reused in concrete work. The bricks and steel rods from construction and demolition waste are sold.

Issues with management of construction and demolition waste in Chennai

Jayanthi Premchandar, a solid waste management enthusiast from Valmiki Nagar in Thiruvanmiyur, says, “A resident who had renovated their washroom with new tiles and a closet has to take their C&D waste to Velachery for disposal in the allotted area for Zone 13. It involves a huge transportation cost which has to be borne by the resident. As a result, many choose to illegally dump construction and demolition waste in roadside bins.”

Raghukumar C, a civic activist from Perambur, says, “The clearance of construction and demolition waste in Zone 6 is being handled by a private contractor for nearly a year. Over the recent past, all our streets are ridden with debris and we have been lodging complaints with the local officials. Local officials informed me that the contractor has reduced the number of open trucks, bob carts, JCBs and even their workforce which were used in this zone over the last few weeks.”

“We are given to understand that they were using the open ground allotted by the GCC to dump the debris and that they do not have enough space to dump the debris being collected in the zone. This is a serious issue which requires the immediate intervention of the higher officials,” he adds. 

The improperly disposed of construction and demolition waste only adds to the woes of the conservancy workers across the city.

“The public is to blame for illegally dumping construction waste. Once this happens, other people follow suit by simply dumping waste like mattresses, pillows, and garbage along with this. Others use the spot for defecating and urinating in the open. We are ultimately left to deal with this situation,” says Manjula*.

Meera Ravikumar of Swachh Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, says, “Uncleared construction debris is a permanent inconvenience in the Adyar area due to high commercial activity in this part of the city. Construction and demolition debris is blocking the footpaths and roadsides, putting pedestrians and motorists at risk.”

chennai construction and demolition waste
Construction waste from households is dumped by the roadside instead of in designated spots. Pic: Meera Ravikumar

“Stormwater drain construction debris is yet to be cleared from many streets even after the completion of the project several months ago. Civic activists and RWA members must constantly follow up with the authorities to clear the space for public use. Many residents end up dumping the debris in public spaces during night times and this must be curbed,” adds Meera.

Uncleared construction and demolition waste also leads to run offs that accumulate in the silt catch pits during rains and clogs the drain, resulting in flooding of the area.

A realtor from south Chennai says that whenever they take up any project, they arrange for proper disposal of construction and demolition waste to their other sites where they may need it for filling excavated earth or sell the waste to local shops. 

Read more: What happens to your dry waste in Chennai?

Action by officials on construction and demolition waste in Chennai

An official of the civic body claims that they have identified hotspots of illegal dumping of construction and demolition waste and are monitoring the area through the installation of CCTV cameras to prevent illegal dumping.

“Areas marked as hotspots of illegal construction and demolition waste dumping are regularly monitored and hefty fines are levied to prevent such illegal dumping by residents as well as builders. All the builders are warned of such illegal dumping and are fined very heavily if they violate the rules,” says the official who did not wish to be named.

Those who want to dispose of construction and demolition waste which is of very low quantity can contact their respective assistant engineers or file a complaint in Namma Chennai App or dial 1913 so proper clearance can be arranged.

“As long as they keep it inside their compound and inform, it will be cleared free of cost by the GCC or the private disposal contractors. If it is dumped outside in a public place, GCC will clear it only after collection of fine amounts based on the quantity dumped,” says the official.

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