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Those who dump construction debris should be jailed

June 24, 2008

construction materialSome years ago we lived in a building surrounded by bungalows with large gardens. One day the bungalow next door started some refurbishing work. Loads of construction debris emerged out of the house and was dumped outside on the streets, not in the large empty space inside the compound of that house. Worse, the debris wasn’t dumped on the road in front of their bungalow, but right in front of our building! It was an eyesore, not to mention the inconvinience it caused.

So did we complain to the rich neighbours? Well, I went to the chairman of the society and suggested it but he said it was out of the question as they didn’t want to create unpleasantness with such influential people. And he asked me why I was bothered, when no one else in the building was.

A single individual can’t do anything. It’s only when people get together that some results can be seen. The municipality doesn’t act although there are fines to be imposed and penalties to be levied, well not unless a lot of people get together. Reading about a recent incident in Mumbai made me happy. A group of citizens got together and conducted a “debris satyagraha.” What they did was

…collect stones, cement slabs, pieces of pipes and rubble left on the roads, dumped it on handcarts. They put the debris on handcarts and dumped it in front of the local ‘E’ ward municipal office…They protested against the civic body’s apathy towards clearing debris from their area even after repeated complaints.

That got the BMC’s (Mumbai Municipal Corporation) attention.

Low penalties are a cause of incessant dumping
I wanted to find out the exact penalty for dumping of construction waste but found no information on the MCGM (The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) site although I did find information on fines for littering and defecating – on a page which listed the cleanliness and sanitation byelaws. Fines range from Rs 100 to Rs 500/- depending on the nature of the offence. Only non-segregation of hazardous waste drew high fines up to Rs 10,000, and non-segregation bio-medical waste had a penalty of upto Rs 20,000/-. It was strange that there was nothing here about construction waste, which I think shows the low priority it has. Even stranger because it’s the rich builders who do it (and can afford to pay high fines) and that construction waste is usually dumped in large amounts and is hazardous.

I did find a newspaper report (Mumbai) which says that dumper operators who dispose of debris in the wrong place have to pay a fine of Rs 20,000/- That’s too little for a private business. Rs 50,000 ($1250) would be more of a deterrent.

Other cities in India
I tried the Delhi Municipal corporation site, the Bangalore municipal corporation site and the Kolkata Municipal corporation site but was unable to any kind of information on any type of fines and penalties. The Chennai corporation site wouldn’t open. However I did find a newspaper report about Chennai which said that non-segregation of hazardous waste in Chennai would entail a fine of Rs. 500. A bit low if one compares it to Mumbai’s Rs 10,000. I tried to look for online newspaper reports about other cities but couldn’t find anything.

Fines and penalties in elsewhere in the world
It was easier to find what people paid all in other parts of the world for dumping construction waste because such cases usually went to court and were written about, resulting in criminal convictions. The person convicted got a criminal record!! While the exact amount of fine depends on the town, there are places in the In the U.K where a firm which dumps waste can be fined £1,500 and also ordered to pay costs. But this is nothing, because illegal dumping of waste (called Fly-tipping in the UK) “can attract a maximum penalty of” a £50,000 fine and five years in prison!!

In the US too fines and penalties vary according to the town, but there is this one case in New Orleans (a city particularly vulnerable to flooding) where a fine of up to $5,000 is levied on anyone who dumps construction debris as it can affect the city’s drainage system. This is 2003 news and fines have probably gone up.

In Baltimore, a judge accused of dumping building materials along his waterfront property had to pay $10,000 fine and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation. And he was considered to be let off lightly as he escaped a criminal conviction.

For us in India a combination of stiff penalties and enforcement will help us keep our cities clean. But even more important, municipal corporations have to lead by example. The way things are today, the municipal corporations themselves dump. Two examples from Mumbai. One incident where the corporation continously dumped debris outside a building at Shivaji Park for months. And another where it dumped construction debris at Juhu beach! The corporation should come down hard on its own people who dump debris, and I suggest jail terms. Not harsh considering that they are “custodians” of sanitation and cleanliness.

If the law can put people into jail for a month for drunk driving then they can certainly jail people for at least a month (preferably a year) for endangering the lives of people and ruining the environment by dumping construction waste. The fear of jail without bail always works. Jail is the only answer to this menace.

(Photos are taken by me and are stock pictures, both copyrighted. The link of the debris satyagraha was sent to me by Vivek Khadpekar)

Related Reading: Public service campaigns didn’t work on drunk drivers but jail terms did!

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2008 9:47 am

    And not to mention how aesthetically unpleasing this could be. For example some tourist areas. When I was in Lima (Peru) few months back there was a huge campaign about dumping debris into the sea.

  2. June 24, 2008 9:47 am

    I am all for penalizing people for sumping their construction stuff. About an year ago, I was walking down a neighbourhood street in the dusk, a iron rod pierced my foot (from top). At dusk, I didn’t see the rust-coloured rods that camouflaged with the sand. I was lucky to escape with 6 stiches, it could have been worse. But a scar on my foot will always remind me of the pain.

    Since that day, I find construction rods around the road, I stop to put them aside. Other day I saw a woman doing the same, I thanked her and recounted my story to her. It is a serious issue, even inside colonies people dump construction debris. Even while construction is going on, they are not careful.

  3. June 24, 2008 9:48 am

    Testing if I can include a picture from my site on your blog.

  4. vivek mittal permalink
    June 24, 2008 10:02 am

    All the major urban centres in India are witnessing huge construction boom nowadays… it was not the same say 10 yrs back..so the situation seems to be more grave today and may even worsen in time to come..if laws are not made more strict

    Once in Delhi when metro route was to pass underground from old Delhi area, not too far from Jama masjid….the construction company started dumping excavated earth there itself…and it became very troublesome for the residents….but the company didn’t bother to remove dumps and continued excavation with gigantic machines…..Once fed up, the local residents complained to the MCD and even police…and even had few nasty exchanges with the incharge engineers…..and finally the contractor company were given notice by DMRC..who were probably pressurized by MCD….afterwards they bacame very regular in dumping the earth to the right place

  5. June 24, 2008 10:43 am

    When we got freedom, once the policeman told a cyclist how to drive and wanted to penalise. To which the cyclist told him,” we are now free, what law? we are free to drive as we want!”

    The mind set has not changed even now… we in India don’t know about our duties and lack in civic sense. And even though wherever the law exist somehow the implimentation is very poor!

    and as you mentioned earlier, most of the time we don’t want to make relations sour with our neighbours or the influential people!

  6. June 24, 2008 10:45 am

    Why leave it at construction waste?
    Civic sense is something that even some people who are well off lack!
    People throw chocolate,kurkure wrapper on the road…insensible folks..
    Why can’t people keep their city /town as clean as they keep their house?

  7. June 24, 2008 10:49 am

    The new Tyre I bought for my bike got punctured 3 times because of the construction waste dumped outside my place when I was in Kerala.
    each time i found an extra long nail on my bike tyre. :(

    Influential people can do anything, last month in kerala a Chief police officer had his water tank filled with the help of fire force when there was a water shortage in Trivandrum.
    Out of the topic, but outrageous !

  8. June 24, 2008 11:02 am

    So true. Bangalore, with its construction boom, is filled with mounds of rubble. Such an mess.

  9. Aditi permalink
    June 24, 2008 11:08 am

    Nice post, Nita ^_^

  10. Sakhi permalink
    June 24, 2008 2:13 pm

    @ xylene
    congrates on new bike… get a solid tyres for the bike, no need for air so no puncture ;)

    @ gautam
    in ahmedabad also it is debris everywhere :(

    @Nikhil
    I think India would be a better place if these politicians breed is wiped off! what say?

    @ Nita
    I was itching to write something so replied to your readers :)

  11. June 24, 2008 2:27 pm

    @sakhi,
    no, I did not get a new bike, just a new tyre. :)

  12. June 24, 2008 3:52 pm

    @Nikhil
    I agree hazaar percent with you.
    Politicians are spoiling Kerala. The state is mostly ruled by jobless-unemployable guys who come as DYFI and 30+ “students” (may be they are doing Phds), who come as KSU,SFI,ABVP (all student unions of various colors)

    SIgh! Uproot the menace. I hate democracy if this is it!

  13. June 24, 2008 3:52 pm

    oops I meant @Nita. :D

  14. June 24, 2008 5:13 pm

    Priyank, the whole world is battling with this problem I guess! Those who have a strong legal system will succeed, others not. And I don’t think you can upload a pic in the comment form on free wordpress.

    Poonam, I am horrified to hear your story but then it is a natural outcome of the debris that lines our roads. You should have made a written complaint to the owners of the debris. At least they would have known what happened.

    Vivek M, as you said with the hectic construction activity on in metros of India today this problem is going to get worse. The only people who can make builders responsible are citizens groups because we know our municipal corporations are too busy doing other things!

    Sakhi, the apathy combined with a fear of getting into trouble is what makes the situation the way it is! And btw, thanks for your responses to readers! :) I try to do when I can, but often it gets late in the day.

    Nikhil, I think it’s sheer laziness. People simply don’t want to have any responsbility to anythng besides their own house, and the law lets them get away with it. Even if one person has a better idea it’s no use as there are more people who have the opposite ideas.

    Xylene, not at all off-topic! Influential people get away with everything in our country, including littering, dumping hazardous waste, construction material, drunk driving, and murdering people!! Just today there was something in the paper about some dumper emptying toxic chemicals into a river in the middle of the night but villagers caught the driver.

    Gautam, a mess it is and I don’t know how we all manage to live with it!

    Aditi, thanks.

    Nikhil, I think you meant Xylene. :)

  15. June 24, 2008 5:26 pm

    ciciv sense ?? :O thats a word oout of the dictionary for most of the indians..
    all they want is a well decorated house inside no matter what lies in the areas surrounding it .
    these things should have been stopped a long back when started..
    penalties should be high…and yeah the construction should be stayed for a week :P

  16. June 24, 2008 5:26 pm

    hmm…in Chennai,you will find bricks,sand and everything needed for the construction on the road…unless it is a main road,no one will complain…it works this way i guess,today your neighbours adjust,tomorrow you will,but guess with flats everywhere it isn’t possible..

  17. June 24, 2008 5:31 pm

    @Nita
    yes, I meant @Xylene. That would be oops repeated.
    God save this world.

  18. June 24, 2008 6:26 pm

    The watermark is better now….u could remove bold and italicize instead.

  19. June 24, 2008 6:28 pm

    btw nita do see my latest post :) I have tried to write something serious :)

  20. June 24, 2008 7:34 pm

    In the US, on the way from Philly to Atlantic City, I saw signs that said “$500 fine for littering”, and after some intermediate levels, there was a sign that said “$50,000 for littering”!!
    I kid you not, I really saw this. The US is a different planet!

  21. June 24, 2008 9:20 pm

    The roads of Chennai are dug up by several agencies who not only dump it on the road but do not fill it up properly. Earlier, it used to be just the Metrowater guys who dug up the roads to lay drinking water pipelines and sewage lines, but now they have been joined by the Electricity Board, BSNL and private telecom operators. Once, a private telephone company dug up the road leading to my home to lay cables and did not fill it up properly. It rained and since the road was slightly waterlogged, I tried to walk on what I thought was one side of the road that remained free of water. Only when I stepped on it did I realise that I was trying to walk on quicksand! It sucked me in and I had to make an effort to get out of it. I decided never to buy anything from that notorious private telephone company.

  22. Jayalakshmi permalink
    June 25, 2008 12:27 pm

    The general perception is , edcuation will make people better. But, when we see the middle class in the cities having the “trash dumping” attitude , we have to doubt that theory!.

    If you are the unfortunate one to have a house in a new colony, your new house is forever assaulted by other people construcing around you. Or remodelling their houses/ adding floors . Your access to road, clean atmosphere and quiet sorrounding is a thing of past.

    For the last 3 years few people around my house are raising their floors.. and raising our B.P. too. When will this all end?

    This is a serious problem , and what can we do?

  23. June 25, 2008 3:12 pm

    nita – :-) nice post
    fining is a solution? i dont think so
    instead if bmc has an organised debris collection it would be a lot better – especially if they charge by the bag
    cause many people who do little renovation don’t find it economical to order a complete dumper as dumper costs have mounted the best thing they do is tell the contractors to manage the debris – and what do the contractors do – dump it
    at the nearest place – i think fining is good so is providing alternatives to people

  24. June 25, 2008 5:09 pm

    Arvind, yeah, that’s another punishment required for builders. Construction to be stayed for a week at least!!

    Vishesh, in fact I think it’s the opposite. with so much debris lying around it seems that people are getting used to it!!

    Reema, thanks. Yep, I will be experimenting with different types of watermarks.

    Rambodoc, I can believe it! They take these things very seriously indeed.

    Raj, sorry to hear about your experience. Once I saved a man from falling into a similar hole (it was a huge hole and the road covered with water) and it was in front of our balcony so I shouted out. He was going to walk straight into it. It was mtnl who had dug up the road and forgotten to fill it!

    Jayalakshmi, I don’t think education has anything to do with it. The richer people are (and more educated) the worse they behave. Our law lacks teeth. We can form citizens groups and fight these people.

    Prax, thanks. no, I don’t think fining is the solution. I think jail is!! :)

  25. June 26, 2008 7:48 am

    Delhi is gearing up for the Commonwealth games, so you can imagine the scale of construction activities going on. The Metro people are doing it in an organised way and they don’t dump the debris here and there. The traffic problems occur despite their efforts. The individuals are however out of control. Most of them don’t bother about disposing off the debris properly. They end up damaging the roads apart from obstructing public places. Water logging, mosquito breeding and all those associated problems are a result of this mess.
    I guess there is a law about obstructing public place or something to this effect because the policewallah makes money whenever he sees debris on the road near a private construction site. Law alone won’t help, the law enforcer needs to be controlled too.

    Prerna, you have no idea how bad Mumbai is! We have friends in Delhi who tell us how beautiful Delhi is as compared to Mumbai!! :) In Mumbai there is less space as it’s an island. And construction goes on in small spaces and it’s horrible. – Nita.

  26. June 30, 2008 5:35 pm

    What about dumping of biological wastes (wasted plates and food material) by arrangers of marriage parties? Isn’t it worse than dumping debris? Can debris transmit foul smell and infectious diseases as easily as biological wastes? In past, we lived in a village and our house was behind a cinema theater in that village. Cinema theater owner used his theater for arranging marriage party of his family member. All the used paper plates and wasted food material used in that marriage party was dumped behind the theater. We bore the foul smelling for several days. Such kind of dumping must be also strictly banned.

  27. June 2, 2009 4:16 pm

    In Bangalore, there is this consciousness even among middle class society. They take care that that dumping of building debris on roads does not happen.

    I have seen this that people arrange to cart away load of debris and rubble – when they begin any additions and alterations to existing buildings.

    This I have seen even in narrow lanes and by lanes of Ulsoor and also Indiranagar. It is common practice.

    But in Chennai, in the street where I live at Srinivasapuram Main Road, Thiruvanmiyur the scene is still starkly different.

    Even at an architect assisted renovation of an existing building, dismantled debris was strewn all over pavements.

    Broken bidets, water closets, roofing tiles, white cement lumps, plaster, broken brick bats and more added color to the street scape for weeks, together.

    The corporation on its part has enacted legislation to levy fine.

    But, unless the architect who has given the construction / renovation scheme and is instrumental in executing the works, enforces norms on the contractor, this shoddiness will surely continue.

    Very few contractors may have the integrity to refuse to dump debris on roads. The client may protest to the contractor to dumping broken building materials inside their own site.

    And the onus is on the architect to stipulate norms and guidelines to the contractor – that he arranges to cart away debris as and when they gather.

    If even architects registered under the COA do not pay attention to this issue; then little much progress can happen.

    It could be relevant for activists to take up this issue with the Council of Architecture, the apex body for professional architects in India.

    http://www.coa.gov.in/
    ————————————–

    Topics to browse in the website may include

    Architects’ Professional Liability

    1.3 Duty of care: It means duty to exercise utmost skill and care. When an architect offers professional advice/architectural services, implicitly undertakes that he is possessed of the knowledge and skill for the purpose. Thus, an architect shall bring to his task a reasonable degree of knowledge and skill and must exercise a reasonable degree of care.

    4.0 Professional Negligence:

    4.1 Negligence: “Negligence” of an architect means failure to take reasonable degree of care in the course of his engagement for rendering professional services.

    4.2 Deficient Service:

    4.2.1 “Deficiency”, as defined under Section 2(1)(g) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service.

    4.2.2 An architect is required to observe and uphold the Council’s Conditions of Engagement and Scale of Charges while rendering architectural services in terms of Regulation 2 (1) (xii) of the Architects (Professional Conduct) Regulations, 1989. Thus, failure to provide any service/services that is/are necessary for discharge of his duties and functions for the project for which he has been engaged, amount to deficient service.

    4.3 Exceptions:

  28. saravana permalink
    December 11, 2010 2:34 pm

    i am asking that 2015 the slum area will be developed or in developing

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