Is concrete environment friendly?

Whatever the benefits, it is a more serious problem than plastic
Representational Image
Representational ImageFIle/GK

Believe it or not. After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on Earth. The claim of mankind in cementing relation with its environment has failed miserably, yet he thinks concrete is the foundation of modern development. It provides a structure for healthcare, education, energy and industry in the event of natural disasters.

It is true, we enjoy having a roof over our heads and mud off our feet when we talk about concrete. Concrete is part and parcel of our lives. Everywhere we go, we use concrete. In our homes, in our schools, in our offices, on the pavements, on the roads, and in hospitals. Even when we flush the toilet we are using concrete. It is for this reason that we often measure modern development in terms of concrete.

Our built environment has been greatly influenced by it, but as they say, everything comes at a cost, and this comes at a huge environmental price.

Cement is the key ingredient in concrete. In a study it was found “cement which we use on a global scale over 4 billion tons every year, its production alone generates around 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year—about 8% of the global total.

Making cement requires the use of long rotating kilns the length of two football pitches, which are heated to around 1,500°C. The chemical process which turns the raw material of limestone and clay into cement also releases high levels of CO2. The environmental impact of concrete, however, goes further than the large amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere through cement production.

Such widespread use of concrete is also exhausting our diminishing supplies of useable sand. Moreover, concrete consumes almost 10% of the world’s industrial water supplies.

It is estimated that concrete contributes 4-8% of the world’s carbon dioxide, making it a more serious problem than plastic.

Even though concrete may be considered a measure of development for many, a significant percentage of the population does not subscribe to this absurd concept of development.

All of us know concrete means more hazards than blessings yet we are so obsessed with concrete that we can’t even think of parting ways with it.

I had a friend from France visiting Kashmir a few years back. Our trip took us through the woods and meadows. My friend was mesmerised by the natural beauty of Kashmir. In my aesthetic perception, we visited Budgam’s most famous tourist destination, the place was less inclined to be viewed as a cornerstone of development than it is today. Also, the place was unable to contend with the lofty claims of hoteliers and authorities, who believe serenity and luxury are doppelgangers.

The road connectivity was remote in addition there were no places nearby where one could indulge in sumptuous food, relax, or stay in luxurious dwellings immersed in the serene forest environment. Seeing my friend’s inconvenience, I interrupted her, explaining that in a few years, the place would be developed. Precisely, I meant pouring greater volumes of concrete.

Astonished, she replied, ‘Why would I come here when we already have so much concrete in France that weighs more than the size of this place.’ My mental faculties were jolted into action by this statement, as if I’d just woken up from an oblivion.

The development of our surroundings and our homes is especially associated with a proliferation of concrete. It refers to cementing everything around us, whether it is our surroundings or our homes.

For instance, Kashmiri farmer used to grow vegetables, grains, and work hard so that not only his family, but also society as a whole could benefit. Hence, his hard work paid off and he could easily provide for his family. Further, the farmer and his family enjoyed good health. Today, on the other hand, we see villagers flocking to hospitals and doctors’ clinics.

Increasingly, farmers are selling their land to build concrete buildings or extravagant homes. It is astonishing that the land which produced his bread and butter is being sacrificed for the sake of development.

In light of how fast Kashmiri farmers are selling their land, it is no wonder they will soon abandon this occupation.

There are many reasons for it, primary and few being exorbitant returns for their lands they receive. Second, they don’t want to work hard. Third, Kashmiri farmer finds it contemptible to carry on this practice further. A farmer’s son would travel miles to earn peanuts in a city, but prefers not to work in his fields where he can easily earn handsome and live a comfortable life.

A farmer’s dream once was to have green grass under a blue sky, but as priorities change over time, so have farmers’ dreams. Now he wants to build huge concrete building in his fields. He craves concrete so much that as soon as he receives hefty amount by selling his property, he decorates each corner of his home with concrete. He would not hesitate to remove every trace of dirt from his patio and replace it with concrete. In place of his cattle and poultry, he would prefer to buy a car. Even if he does not sell his land, he would not be seen working in his fields anymore. Due to the fact that he has found viable options for continuing his ancestral occupation. It is now the norm for Kashmiri farmers to outsource fields to migrant workers from Bihar and UP.

A fast pace of farmers selling their lands is alarming not only from the standpoint of losing agricultural land, but also from the perspective of the environment. The act of converting their lands into concrete in the name of development is actually leading us to our own destruction.

We are witnessing huge buildings spring up in the middle of paddy fields, mercilessly killing our agricultural lands with no one to stop them. We know where we are heading with this concrete. Converting our green lands to grey lands, we are losing our natural habitat.

As an example of the obsession with concrete, I think of the story of the selfish giant who ate all the fruit of the tree, yet complained it was an obstacle to his growth since he could not build a structure or cement the floor.

Precisely, despite being a friend of man, concrete is not a true friend. The most dreadful impact of concrete is that it destroys natural infrastructure on which humanity rests. As a legacy, our children will have nothing but dust and cement if we don’t watch our actions.

A blue roof covers the heads of all people regardless of color, creed, or caste yet concrete is the preferred material. Despite the fact that mud covers all of man’s flaws, he wants to eradicate it for the sake of progress.

Shrink not the land, but limit the greed, for the real development lies in the protection of our natural habitat.

The author is Bureau Chief of Jammu based English daily newspaper.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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