Concrete – you can call it the stuff that has made human beings capable of building civilizations. If you trace back the human history, you might see that concrete is one of those durable items that can be called the most premium invention of man. Take the Colosseum for example – from the Roman times till now, the concrete has remained almost intact. There have been other major discoveries and inventions that forwarded humankind as well. Plastic was one of the major developments that made it easier for inventors to invent massive stuff at cheap prices. However, nowadays, more and more people are becoming aware of the menace that plastic is. Plastic is one of the top pollutants that need to be tackled in today’s world.
But then, why are we talking about concrete? That has no relationship with plastic or even have the same menacing factor to it, right?
Well, almost right. Concrete does not pose any problem when you just look at it from the surface. We don’t see it killing marine life, nor do we see it tied around trees and causing forest fires. But the hidden menace that concrete and the concrete industry holds is something that might make you roll your eyes!
The cement industry is the third-largest carbon dioxide emitter on this planet, pumping out at least 2.8 billion tonnes of CO2. Clinker, an essential process in cement production, is accountable for half of this CO2 emission. It makes you think as if you are living in a carbon-emitting factory! Even if you consider the plastic generation, well, the cement industry pumps out about 8 billion tonnes of plastic every 2 years. That’s the amount of plastic that we produced over 60 years! Concrete production also takes a lot of water and is accountable for using up 1/10th of the industrial waters. This creates a massive strain in places that do not have access to too much water. Plus, it increases the warmth in many places by absorbing the heat of the sun and trapping it.
The problem with concrete intensifies when you bring pollution into the equation. It is a major air polluter and it causes silicosis and other such respiratory diseases. Dust from mixers has been reported to contribute 10% to the pollution of Delhi – a place where the air safety limit has consistently remained below the safe limit. So, it seems like concrete is actually destroying our natural habitats in a massive way, something we had never imagined.
But then, the solidity characteristic of this substance has always been attractive to people. In the past, human beings had only caves and thatched huts to keep them safe. Any storm could have easily destroyed these huts. But now, with concrete, and steel rods supporting these concrete panels, we could protect ourselves from the strong elements of nature. Concrete became a shield and a power that we could impose on nature – if nature tried to shock us with her destruction.
However, anything in excess can turn out to be devastating. Think about the floods caused by Hurricane Katrina and Harvey. The places that had concrete roads could not absorb the rainwater leading the intensification of the floods. The storm drains were unable to counter this problem. This resulted in the storm which could have been prevented if there were floodplains to soak up the rainwater.
So, it’s time that we take a deep look into concrete and understand how the cement industry is impacting our lives.