India has experienced unprecedented growth in urbanization in recent decades. More than 30% of India’s population is already living in urban areas and an estimate of the UN State of the World Population report says that more than 40 per cent of the population will be living in urban areas by 2030. By 2050, India, along with China, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the United States, will lead the world’s urban population surge by 2050.
The immediate outcome of urbanization is demand for basic infrastructure related to housing. However, there is simultaneous demand for other infrastructure facilities particularly roads, commercial establishments, and public services. With a current contribution of 8 per cent to India’s GDP, the construction sector is the second largest in terms of employment generation after agriculture and is projected to grow at a rate of 7%–8% over the next 10 years and likely to become the world’s third largest by the middle of the next decade. It is estimated that almost 70% of buildings supposed to exist by 2030 are yet to be built.
Meeting this demand for infrastructure will rely heavily on availability of raw materials like sand (for concrete and mortar), soil (mostly for clay bricks), stone (for aggregates), and limestone (for cement). The key challenge will be to make materials available in a manner that takes into consideration exhaustible nature of these resources as well as address the ecological impacts associated with their extraction and processing. It is critical to understand the resource flows and introduce interventions that can reduce environmental stress and associated conflicts.
Resource efficiency holds the key which helps in conserving resources and recycling raw materials to meet India’s future demand of resources, while at the same time reduce costs, and strengthen the competitiveness of industries. As one of the largest consumer of resources in the country today, the construction sector needs to urgently emphasize and integrate resource efficiency in its processes and inputs.