In any given country, the construction industry is always the most significant and dominant industry. In Pakistan alone, the construction sector adds up to 380 billion PKR approximately in GDP annually (Invest Pakistan). Not only does the construction sector consume the maximum number of natural resources worldwide, but is also the biggest contributor to solid waste. Construction waste, comprising mostly of harmful ingredients, hurts the environment such as deterioration of land at landfills, air pollution, a rise in dust and particulate debris, and a decline in quality of life.
The Magnitude of Construction Waste in Pakistan
In Pakistan, total solid waste production nationwide amounts to 20 million tonnes per year, according to United Nations. Out of the total solid waste, around 30% constitutes construction and demolition waste (Iqbal & Baig, 2016). Consequently, construction waste production in Pakistan stands around 6 million tonnes per year approximately.
Due to the environmental drawbacks of landfilling and associated costs, the practice of dumping construction waste is becoming obsolete. To combat climate change and the rise in construction waste, the focus of construction waste management in developed countries is shifting towards the 3R’s of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle primarily.
In Pakistan, there is a dire need for changing the lens with which we handle our construction waste. Instead of crude dumping into landfills, compatible avenues of reusing and recycling should be incorporated into an all-inclusive construction and demolition waste management policy that can be implemented nationwide.
The Intersection Between Construction and Educational Sectors of Pakistan
The lack of ample resources in Pakistan’s education system is not limited to one locality or two but is widespread in almost all provinces. One of the most active discourses in the country revolves around the question of how to improve the education system in Pakistan. Tameer Se Taleem initiative aims to introduce a unique solution for resolving the said educational dilemma to a certain extent;
There are approximately 49,103 schools present in the province of Sindh. Around 85% of schools do not even possess the basic facilities necessary to run a proper school system, from furniture to standing walls to toilets and electricity, and sadly, even clean drinking water (Rumaisa Khalil Uddin, 2021). Research shows that around 37000+ schools in Sindh only possess one of the aforementioned facilities.
On the other hand, in the fiscal year 2021 – 2022, Sindh’s total substantial development budget ranged around Rs. 8 billion for nineteen mega-development schemes (Azfar-ul-Ashfaque, 2021). The statistics compel us to ponder upon the impact that the redirection of leftover construction material in these projects can have on schools in underserved areas.
In Balochistan, according to UNICEF statistics, 60-70% of eligible children are out of school with the prime cause being the long distances between residential areas and surrounding schools. Research indicates that in Balochistan one would find a primary school every 30 kilometres and the prospect of finding a high school is as extensive as 360 kilometres (Ali Jan Maqsood, 2020).
There is a dire need of building schools in Balochistan to minimize the distance disincentive for the school-going children, especially schools for girls. Given Balochistan is one of the prime resources for raw materials in Pakistan with a budding economic and development hub of Gwadar at its outskirts, development and educational schemes in Balochistan should be developed simultaneously. In Gwadar specifically, large-scale construction is underway with 36 housing projects and multiple other infrastructural projects. The impact of construction leftover material for Balochistan from these projects is bound to be substantial if only a national policy is there to guide the hand.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)
In KP, the dilemma of basic facilities shortage is as real as in other provinces with around 6000+ primary schools lacking proper electricity, and 2000+ schools lacking proper boundary walls (Asad Zia, 2018). Hot and humid weather conditions coupled with a lack of a strong building structure bares the students to harsh conditions.
Moreover, around 1800 schools in KP are yet to receive “reconstruction” aid after the wreaking havoc of the 2005 earthquakes (Mohammad Ashfaq, 2019). The lack of funds, building materials, and not to mention, political will has hugely impacted their reconstruction.
With numerous construction and dam projects related to energy, tourism, industry, and agriculture underway in KP, there is a huge gap in building resources that can be filled in by the reuse of excess construction material or waste produced as a result.
According to 2020 research, there are around 4200 schools in Punjab that suffer from a shortage of basic facilities. Out of around 52,000 schools, there is no proper electricity supply to 1200 schools whereas 3% of them lack building resources like proper boundaries or fences. 1% suffer from a shortage of clean drinking water and essential sanitation facilities (Dialogue Pakistan, 2020).
On the other hand, the development budget for FY 2020-2021 remained at Rs337bn and increased to Rs560bn in FY 2021-2022 (Punjab Government). This indicates a rise in construction and development in the province. In South Punjab particularly, $3.2bn worth of 122 schemes were introduced, out of which $1bn was allocated to 44 new development schemes proposed by the Punjab government, adding to an existing $750mn worth of construction projects (Global Construction Review, 2022).
The Punjab government enlists a multitude of construction and developmental projects in Punjab encompassing roads and bridges, construction of bunds and canals under irrigation projects, construction of energy-efficient buildings and solar smart cities among other energy projects, and construction of numerous flyovers, underpasses and housing projects under urban development and transport projects.
Application of Tameer Se Taleem’s concept via a comprehensive construction waste management plan can help embed leftover construction material from these projects into the rehabilitation of underserved communities.
Tameer Se Taleem
Given the two dilemmas, IMARAT Group has coined a novel initiative of Tameer Se Taleem (TST) that proffers the solution of reusing leftover construction material and resultant waste produced in construction projects in Pakistan to fill in the gap of building resources in underprivileged schools of Pakistan.
As the initiative unfolds, the TST concept will encompass a number of relevant future avenues that cater to public parks, shelter homes, orphanages, street art/renovation, etc. The Group is also advocating for a construction waste management policy via a Change.org Petition that;
- Necessitates all construction companies to provide building, structural, or facilitative support to underserved communities in the vicinity of their construction sites.
- Formalizes the reuse of excess construction material and waste present at the construction sites of different construction projects across the country.
- Introduce a sustainable construction waste management mechanism for monitoring construction waste disposal and landfills.
- Sets up donation centres for the collection of excess construction material and reusable waste from the construction industry.
- Sets up recycling workshops near underserved communities to convert the donated materials into useful products and provide employment opportunities for the populace.
- Partners with key stakeholders, NGOs, IGOs, and private entities to promote this initiative across Pakistan and the world.
The Role of Government
Based upon the TST model, it is high time that the government initiates the process of formulating and implementing a construction policy and advocates for its adaption across federal and provincial governments. The policy concept is particularly effective for filling in construction demands in backward areas in interior Sindh, Balochistan, and northern areas.
In this regard, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives must pay special heed to put forward a policy draft, in collaboration with international bodies like United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to disseminate the message of this initiative across the world, as its applicability encompasses vast impact on underserved areas in the Global South.
From donating furniture from leftover wood or steel to building tube wells or water plants to repainting peeling walls, mending the windows, or renovating deteriorating school buildings, the due change for underprivileged children is considerable. It is a dainty chair for a kid sitting on a cold floor, a sturdy roof against a weeping sky, or perhaps a brighter room with a kid struggling to read the sprawl of words on a shabby blackboard.
To sign the abovementioned petition, watch this video and share our petition!