The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an abrupt stoppage of work at construction sites all over India. Cost overruns and project delay are the obvious worries, not to mention home seekers staring at a long delay in getting their homes. Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, president NAREDCO, is of the opinion that that the losses arising out of the lockdown in the construction sector can be minimised if the pending work could be completed. He suggests that, given the situation, the option of allowing construction sites to return to activity, obviously with safety measures being strictly implemented, is one that needs to be considered by the authorities.
“The human resource is largely still at construction sites, and instead of keeping them in a ‘lockdown’ situation, giving them some activity will also keep them occupied – as also help avoid major economic losses as a result of stoppage of work at sites,” said Dr Hiranandani. Even in a situation where there is no work happening at the sites, all precautionary measures such as usage of masks, regular hand washing, ensuring minimum space between persons on lines of ‘social distancing’ norms etc, are being followed. “It will be a positive step if work which is urgent to prevent damage is allowed in the initial stage, and if things work out well, we can consider allowing normal construction work too,” he added.
The real estate and construction industry in India supports over 250 allied industries. Accordingly, if the work at real estate sites is allowed to resume with due safety precautions being followed, the economic impact will also be positive.
Given that monsoon will set in a couple of months, there is urgent need of completion and maintenance of facilities at real estate projects, like rain water harvesting pits and storm water drains. Excavations started for basements as also foundation piling needs to be completed and covered, else the rainwater will collect in the same, and there will be bigger challenges as the monsoon progresses. “It is in keeping with these ground realities that allowing the site labour to complete these tasks will ensure urban habitat does not collapse in the aftermath of the monsoon,” he reasoned.
As India grapples with the lockdown in an attempt to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from going out of control, there is a realization that a total closing down of activities will cripple the nation.
Just as emergency services remain functional, there are segments of the economy where ensuring safety through precautions means economic activity can continue. Given a situation where safety protocols and procedures are followed, as also the urgent need to complete pending work to avoid larger damage, there is every reason to consider allowing site labour to complete on-going tasks.