What efforts is the Indian construction industry making to reduce its carbon footprint?
India is among the few developing nations to have come up with a slew of initiatives to mitigate carbon emission and has vowed to become a net-zero emitter by 2070. Reducing the carbon footprint may be the fastest method of reaching net-zero carbon emission. Construction authorities should set a focus on sustainable development that includes re-use of site-won resources also re-vegetated, and integrated into the natural environment.
With large growth projected in the buildings sector, emissions are set to rise if there is no effort to decarbonise buildings. The construction sector in India accounts for around 22% of total yearly CO2 emissions from the Indian economy. The products/industrial processes of four energy-intensive building materials account for approx. 80% of construction-related emissions. These are Steel, Cement, Bricks, and Lime.
Using innovative building processes can assist India in planning energy-efficient infrastructure while also reducing its carbon footprints. At the 26th Conference of Parties (CoP26), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a five-fold strategy — termed as the panchamrita — to achieve this feat.
- India will get its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatt (GW) by 2030
- India will meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030
- India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tons from now onwards till 2030
- By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by less than 45%
- By the year 2070, India will achieve the target of Net Zero.
What sustainable practices should India’s construction sector imbibe to reduce its carbon emission more effectively?
One of the most effective ways to reduce construction-related emissions, is to use prefabricated components for construction, and recyclable/reusable building materials. Gabion, geosynthetics, modified bitumen with plastic bricks made of fly ash are some green building materials. Geosynthetic materials in infrastructure development enable the use of local material with low overall transportation costs, eventually reducing the carbon footprint.
When Maccaferri invented Gabion (typically used to form flexible, permeable and monolithic structures) it dramatically changed civil engineering’s landscape. Gabion is widely used in highways, hilly terrains, railways, and in mining.
Sustainable construction practices in construction techniques and materials will reduce wastage, consume less energy, and address the inefficiencies at building sites. On the other hand, the conventional ways of construction release particulate material in the air, discharge excessive heat into the atmosphere, and cause wastage and pollution of water.
How has the climbing rate of Cement, Steel and Bitumen affected construction companies?
With the rising cost of labour charges and raw materials, there has been an adverse impact on the overall construction industry because it spikes up the overall construction cost. The increase in these basic raw material costs is difficult to bear and in fact, property prices and construction costs are now bound to go up because of this factor alone.
The cost of Cement, Steel and Bitumen constitutes a predominant share in the total cost of construction. With growing material costs, the sector has been forced to raise prices, as building materials account for around two-thirds of overall construction costs. Also, under-construction projects are encountering additional pressure as input costs rise, resulting in higher cost escalation. This is likely to have an influence on project timeliness, especially if these worries remain. Infrastructure and road projects are in various stages of construction, thus the impact of a project in its early stages would undoubtedly be higher than usual.
What is your take on using alternatives to steel and cement, a move which has been advocated by the Minister for Road Transport and Highways to bring down the cost of Infrastructure project?
The Minister had recently announced that all attempts should be made to use alternatives to steel and cement in road construction, and that construction prices should be reduced, and road quality should be improved. Moreover, integrating new systems and technologies need complete communication, coordination, and collaboration. So, embracing new age alternatives requires a coordinated system.
Cement, the glue that holds the components of concrete together, accounts for 8% of worldwide CO2 emissions, the primary greenhouse gas causing climate change. As a result, both academics and business are looking at ways to limit emissions or discover substitute materials. Also, steel manufacturing begins with the interaction of iron ore and a reducing agent, coking coal, in blast furnaces, yielding molten iron that is eventually transformed to steel. The interaction of iron ore with carbon is the primary source of CO2 emissions in steel manufacturing, accounting for 70–80% of total CO2 emissions.
Therefore, using alternative materials to steel and cement should be a focus area for the construction industry since the pace of climate change is accelerating and we are already behind. At Maccaferri, we are focused on developing sustainable solutions in geotechnical and environmental construction markets.
What solutions do you think can help the infrastructure construction sector to meet its financial challenges?
The need of the hour is to align India’s economic growth with the country’s infrastructure capacity. Better infrastructure, both in number and quality, will contribute to increased physical capital and human productivity, and thereby to the nation’s progress.
To achieve quick growth, India requires considerable and timely investments in high-quality infrastructure. Well-developed infrastructure stimulates economic activity, frees up budgetary space by expanding the government’s revenue base, and ensures that government investment is directed toward productive sectors.
Infrastructure companies require a healthy bond market, prompt resolution of infrastructure disputes, optimal risk sharing through enhanced and balanced PPP contracts, and contract integrity and enforcement. India must ensure that infrastructure-related sectors have easy access to high-quality inputs at competitive pricing.
In addition to the current provisions for public investments, efforts must be taken to channel opportunities for private engagement in the sector. Although no combination of measures will ensure absolute rates of success for PPPs in all areas of infrastructure development, a well-thought-out set of reforms, if carefully executed, can build the groundwork for future growth and augmentation in the sector. And before the suggested reforms run out of steam, a deliberate effort must be made to continually expand on them through rigorous periodic evaluations and careful procedures of execution.
What infra development opportunities and growth prospects do you see emerging in the short-term and how will Gati Shakti boost the infra sector?
The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India launched PM Gati Shakti (National Master Plan for Multi-Modal Connectivity) essentially as a digital platform to bring 16 ministries, including Railways and Roadways, for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects. The scheme will play a vital role in enhancing infrastructure efficiency while also driving economic growth and creating demand for construction equipment and commercial vehicles.
The initiative aims to promote sustainable development through development of roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways, and logistical infrastructure. The government plans to expand the National Highway network by 25,000 kms in 2022-23. The grand vision is to create an environment wherein the logistics sector will be bolstered by superior infrastructure and streamlined through digitisation. In the years ahead, these essential factors will propel India closer to attaining the long-term goal of becoming a Atmanirbhar India and a centre of economic activities. Infrastructure development would boost economic activity, increase the government’s income base, free up additional fiscal flexibility, and ensure high-quality spending in productive areas.