While KMC is yet to contemplate a blanket ban on constructions unless the city’s air quality worsens drastically, it has signalled tough steps against errant builders who do not take any measure to check pollution at construction and demolition sites in the city. Construction dust contributes to 12% of pollutants in Kolkata’s air.
KMC had in 2019 engaged experts from IIT-Kharagpur and IIEST to suggest ways of minimizing air pollution caused by constructions, especially in winter. Going by their recommendations, the municipal commissioner had issued a circular, making certain portions of KMC buildings rules mandatory for developers and promoters. Buildings department officials in the borough were assigned to look after constructions in their jurisdictions, and were told to especially keep an eye on dumping of construction materials on roads without proper cover.
According to the circular, all construction and demolition sites are required to be covered by geotextile fabric that will act as dust barrier and prevent minute particles from spreading into the air. While the minute suspended particulate matters disperse in summer with the rising hot air and gets washed down in monsoon, it hangs low in winter, making the air we breathe in toxic. The sites are also required to be watered to ensure the soil does not turn dry and dusty. Water needs to be added in good quantity when excavation or any other earthmoving activity takes place to keep the soil moist throughtout.
The KMC also wants builders to follow environmental management practices while disposing of construction debris. “Debris disposal is often not given due importance. It is a major source of pollution and proper methods need to be followed,” the official said.
Though unrelated to air pollution, the SOP also urges builders to ensure sound pollution is not created. “During construction, including cutting of marbles, ambient noise level should not exceed more than 65 decibel,” a civic building department official said.
Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India’s Bengal chapter president Sushil Mohta said the on-site environment management guidelines had been shared with member companies and most of them adhered to them. “There is greater awareness on pollution among people. We need to manage dust also for the well-being of the workforce at the site,” he said.