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Towards upscaling the application of low-carbon and energy-efficient technology in the construction sector in South Asia - cases of India, Nepal and Pakistan

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D. Varsha
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The Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) is a network of 22 governments in the Asia-Pacific region that promote research, the participation of developing countries in research, and strengthens the links between policy-makers and scientists. As part of their ‘APN Global Change Perspectives’ series of policy briefs, APN have published this concise look at three case studies - India, Nepal, and Pakistan - concerning efforts to upscale the application of low-carbon and energy-efficient technology in the construction sector.

In India, the brief notes that the construction sector has a very high ecological and carbon footprint, which is set to increase further. Small cities and towns have been the primary focus of growth, and housing requirements must continue to be considered in efforts to reduce impacts from construction. Low carbon and resource-efficient technologies exist and could substantially reduce the ecological footprint of the sector. This will require a policy mix drawn from a green mandate, and implemented with cooperation across governmental departments. The use of fly ash, a by-product of thermal power plants, in the production of bricks and cement in India is presented as an positive example of resource use, while a lack of bamboo production is cited as a regulatory failure, with numerous barriers to production and little in the way of support. This section ends with national and local level recommendations.

The second case study is Nepal, a country that is expected to require an additional one million urban houses between 2011 and 2021. Upscaling low carbon and energy-efficient construction technology for housing has emerged as an important policy and implementation agenda in Nepal, and the authors note that it is essential to enable the policy environment to promote and strengthen supply lines for sustainable materials, and to stimulate the demand for sustainable housing as an economical, environmentally sound solution. Recommendations include the use of subsidies for designs using low carbon construction materials, a voluntary green building certification system, promoting awareness of alternative building materials, and stringent building regulations.

Finally, Pakistan is the focus of the third case study, where disaster-resilience is a consideration as well as low carbon and energy-efficient alternatives. The construction industry in Pakistan has grown considerably in the last decade, yet despite floods in 2010 that destroyed over 2 million homes, disaster-resilience has been given very little consideration. This is something that requires urgent promoting across all sectors, public and private. A number of other recommendations are also made, including: the need for the Pakistan government to break the monopoly of cement industries in the market, and open the way for alternatives; education programmes to promote awareness of alternative materials; partnerships with donor institutions, agencies, and banks to ensure funding for entrepreneurs; incentivisation of bamboo production, and the need to overcome social barriers associated with the use of bamboo; and governmental encouragement of research and implementation of greener technologies.