Is Chennai ready to recycle construction debris?

The Chennai Corporation plans to tackle the stubborn problem of irresponsibly dumped construction debris through designated dumping yards

Updated - November 27, 2021 06:54 pm IST

Published - August 16, 2013 02:55 am IST - Chennai

The Corporation's paltry fine of Rs. 2000 for illegal dumping of construction debris on roads does not act as a deterrant for building contractorsPhoto: M. Karunakaran

The Corporation's paltry fine of Rs. 2000 for illegal dumping of construction debris on roads does not act as a deterrant for building contractorsPhoto: M. Karunakaran

Some 30 per cent of the waste collected and dumped in Chennai is categorised as inert, a major part of it being construction debris.

As the real estate boom persists despite a slowing economy, recycling construction debris would be a crucial aspect of a scientific waste management system of Chennai.

The Chennai Corporation seems to be alive to this issue. “Work on identification of space for the dumping yard is under way. There will be at least one dumping yard in each of the 15 zones in the city,” said an official of Chennai Corporation.

After demarcation of the dumping space, the civic body will ask residents to dump debris only in the designated areas. Residents in need of construction debris could also collect the materials from such dumping yards.

Every week, the city generates more than 8000 tonnes of construction and demolition debris, which includes nonhazardous materials such as soil, brick, plaster, concrete, masonry material, plastic, electrical wiring and metals generated from construction, remodelling repair and demolition of structures.

“Every morning, we find construction and demolition debris dumped on the road or waterways. When some dump at night, we are unable to trace the culprits,” said Ali Khan Basheer, councillor of ward 63.

“Demolition contractors are able to sell the debris only when there is demand. Such debris is not in demand throughout the year. So, these contractors dump it stealthily in the neighbourhood on account of the high transportation costs. A large amount of construction and demolition debris is being dumped in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur now,” a Corporation official said.

The debris from some of these demolitions often finds its way to the city’s water bodies. Cooum, Adyar, Buckingham Canal and Pallikaranai marshland are popular sites where construction debris is dumped illegally. Police on night patrol identify such vehicles but the drivers usually are let off after a warning, say Corporation officials. Some of the debris is just left on roads and carriageways of streets. “The Corporation imposes a fine of Rs. 2000, but this does not prove to be much of a deterrent,” a Corporation official said.

While big demolitions are often handled in a structured way by demolition contractors, and at least half of the demolished material is recycled, the smaller, unauthorised demolitions are a big problem. “The Corporation should identify low-lying areas in each zone for refilling with such materials. There are no buyers for demolition debris generated from small repairs. Such material is being dumped illegally,” said N. Mathavan, a civil engineer.

What happens to all the debris?

Every day, old buildings are demolished, but where does all the construction debris go?

Every week, 8000 tonnes of construction and demolition debris is generated in the city

Non hazardous material such as brick, plaster, concrete, masonry material, plastic and electrical wiring

Also, metals generated from construction, remodelling repair and demolition of structures


Demolition contractors assess buildings

Pay building owners and take ownership of the demolition process

Demolish building and make the land reusable

Use debris generated and dump the rest at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi

Only 50 per cent of debris is reused (an estimate). Often debris, especially from demolition of smaller buildings, is illegally dumped along streets and water bodies


Current procedure, which makes use of only the two main dumping yards in the city, results in

Lesser segregation and thereby,

Lesser recycling reuse

Higher transportation costs

Corporation proposes to open one dumping yard in each of the 15 zones in the city. This would result in:

Segregation of waste, which would help in reuse

Better accessibility to debris for reuse

Cutting down on transportation costs

My Chennai My Right, an inititative by The Hindu

Send us pictures of extreme instances of garbage affecting normal life in Chennai.

We would also like to hear about what you are doing to manage waste

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