Alternative Building Materials (ABM)
The construction industry has undergone radical change over the past two decades. In Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the Kashmir valley, huge houses and shopping malls are being built. Not only in towns and villages, we see huge mansions appearing in villages and remote areas of Kashmir. Each family competes with its parents and neighbors for a huge concrete house. Farmland is sold to make huge mansions and commercial complexes. This is a matter of serious concern as ownership of agricultural land is drastically decreasing. Unofficially, the agricultural land held in the Kashmir valley is less than ½ acre (4 kanals), which was almost an acre 15 years ago. Rice cultivation has declined considerably. To create huge concrete structures, we need more building materials like bricks, sand, cement, gravel and quarry stones. This impacts our rivers, streams, mountains, karewas and farmlands. Building material prices are also increasing beyond our imagination. A sand truck is sold @ Rs 13000 to 16000 on average, while the same was only available for Rs 6000 to 8000 about 2 to 3 years ago. Most of the streams and rivers contain a lot of sand and other riverbed material because a large amount of RBM is excavated for the construction of highways and roads, which again destroys these natural resources. Can we afford to build huge concrete structures with traditional building materials like sand, bricks, cement, gravel, clay etc. in Kashmir after 10-15 years? Not at all. Now we have to look for alternative building materials. Our Government must create a separate unit for it, particularly within the Department of Public Works (PWD). Such cells should be set up in municipalities and other local bodies.
ABMs are increasingly being used to replace conventional and traditional building materials like clay bricks, sand, etc. In parts of Africa, earth-based materials are modified with plant residues or animal dung to improve the durability and architectural aesthetics of houses. Depending on locally available resources and the level of affordability of residents, industrialized ATMs such as cement and lime are also being put into use in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.