The concept of green airports is not just a hyped new fad. It is a must-have. Realising this, the stakeholders have made sustainability their focal point, even as India is engaged in building new airports and reinvigorating old ones.
Air transport plays a significant role in the globalised world flying millions of passengers and delivering tonnes of cargo every day. With robust economic growth, the Indian aviation sector has become one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, expanding by more than 20 pc annually.
The consequent benefits in terms of better infrastructure, attracting more investments, improvement in connectivity, boosting of tourism and creation of employment, are enormous. Yet, the total number of domestic passenger tickets sold today is just 65 million for a population of 1.2 billion. This includes frequent flyers. Less than three pc Indians can afford air travel, of whom 80 pc are from the four metros. So, there is huge potential for the civil aviation sector in India.
According to International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) 2014 report, India is amongst the top five fastest growing markets that would witness a whopping 266 million additional passengers per year, to see a total of 367 million passengers by 2034. All operational airports handled a total of 223.6 million passengers (168.9 million domestic and 54.7 million international) during 2015–16 (Apr-Mar). The total number of aircraft movements amounted to 1.79 million and air freight handling reached 2.53 million tonne during 2015–16.
But, there is a flip side to this infrastructure expansion. The negative impact is on environment and nature. Air, water and noise pollution, landscape deterioration and biodiversity damage are associated with infrastructural development.
Architecture for sustainability
This is where India scores as it has realised the need to regulate and reduce the environmental damage and bring down carbon footprint in the aviation sector. Towards this end, India has put in place robust policies.
For instance, the civil aviation regulation, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has been tasked to keep track and collaborate with environmental authorities on environmental issues, such as those related to aircraft noise, emissions from the aircraft engine as per the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations.
The EU-India Civil Aviation Cooperation Programme intends to increase the cooperation on current environmental challenges being faced by the civil aviation industry.
Launched in 2009, the Airport Carbon Accreditation is an independent standard developed in Europe for airports to rank them on their performance of greenhouse gas emission reduction over the necessary time frame. Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru airports have received level-III accreditation under the Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme 2013–2014.
Some of the innovative initiatives undertaken by certain airports in India, which are not only unique in India but have set the global standard, are worth examining.
Scripting solar successes Cochin International Airport:
A pioneer in this is the Cochin International Airport (CIAL) located in the port city of Kochi in the southern state of Kerala, often referred to as ‘God’s own Country’.
Built under the public private partnership (PPP), CIAL became a global brand when it installed a solar photovoltaic plant in August 2015. The plant generates about 6 MW (megawatts) of electricity every day. This is sufficient for daily operations of the airport and makes the airport carbon neutral. Steps have been initiated to increase the solar capacity from the present 13 MW to 29 MW.
Reckoned as the world’s first solar-powered airport, CIAL intends to maintain its legacy by generating the required 14.5MW energy via solar panels.
Connecting millions of Indian workers in the Middle East, CIAL handles over 1,100 aircraft movements per week and recorded a footfall of 7.7 million last year.
Other airports doing their green bit
While CIAL has become a global role model, domestic airports are racing to tap solar energy. Operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the Vadodara airport (also known as Civil Aerodrome) in Gujarat (Western India), was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October, 2016. Constructed at a cost of INR 1.6 billion (USD 25 million), the airport spread over 18,120 sq m is equipped with an energy-saving cooling mechanism, rainwater harvesting setup and also a super sensitive fire safety alarm.
About 16,000 solar panels spread over 24 acres, at a cost of INR 300 million (USD 4.6 million) at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport of Hyderabad in 2015 has effectively helped it to reduce carbon footprint.
Taking cue from CIAL, other airports have embarked on generating power from solar panels. Solar power plants are being commissioned in the Kolkata and Jaipur airports.
The GMR Group-led consortium, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), is behind the building and management of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA). It has adopted several sustainable strategies to turn the busiest airport into a greenfield.
DIAL in 2014 had set up India’s first solar power plant at the IGI Airport that becomes the first airport to be registered under Clean Development Mechanism of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It has expanded the current capacity of solar power generation at the airport from 2.14 MW to 7.84 MW thus making the airport dependent on green energy. DIAL has planned to step up the total solar power capacity to 20 MW by 2020.
Energy-efficient technologies have been installed in Terminal 3 of the airport. These include: energy-efficient chillers; energy saving through improved insulation in supply air and return air ducts; chilled-water pipe circuit; building envelope; solar water heating system; solar boundary light system and tempered cooling system.
I Prabhakara Rao, CEO, Delhi International P Limited, said, “At Delhi Airport we strongly believe that the collaborative approach is the key strategic element for combating climate change. As part of our extensive sustainability strategy, we have taken various efficiency measures at Delhi Airport, including green infrastructure such as LEEDNC Gold Certification, Solar Power Generation, successful registration on energy efficiency with UNFCCC, Clean Development Mechanism, Water and Waste Management initiatives.”
The solar power project has been executed at the airside of the IGIA. The greenfield area of the airside has been utilised without hindering and compromising the operations safety. The non-reflective PV solar panel are installed at the plant in a bid to reduce glare effect and ensure that the flight operations do not get hindered.
Chairman Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, while asserting AAI’s firm commitment to remain and grow green, said, “AAI’s emphasis is on being eco-friendly, investing in renewable energy, using sustainable methods, cutting down on wastage and reducing pollution. Only when all these aspects are looked at as one whole cohesive issue, can sustainable development be truly possible.”
Mohapatra is confident that with these initiatives the AAI is working to ensure that all these areas are given its due so that the airports in the nation can head towards a green future.
In May this year taking serious note of noise pollution from aircraft during its take-off and landing and also during its movements at airports, the National Physical Laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has decided to assist the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) and AAI for ‘noise mapping’ of all airports across the country and suggest suitable mitigation measures to minimise its impact.
The issue of noise pollution around airports surfaced when it was flagged by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in January this year after residents living in the vicinity of IGIA in the National Capital Region of Delhi filed petitions.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, a joint venture between the AAI and GVK Industries-led consortium, has adopted several environment-friendly and efficient measures to bring down greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, water uses, waste generation, and ambient air quality and noise levels.
The latest, and innovative, measure adopted by the Mumbai Airport involves introducing ammonia-feeding bacteria in 200 washrooms. This mixture is also being used to clean a surface area of 400,000 sq m, at the integrated terminal. The bacteria in the mixture work round the clock, unlike conventional methods of cleaning, which require regular touch-ups every time a urinal is used.
Down south, the Kempagowda International Airport in Bengaluru in the Silicon Valley of India already boasts of engaging in eco-friendly, sustainable and energy efficient building design. It is now optimising its efforts further – to reduce, reuse and recycle – to cut down waste and use a green supply chain. A solar project was commissioned on six rooftops in March, 2016. The airport plans to achieve 40 pc of their energy needs through this project by 2017 – to reduce power consumption and carbon footprint, and increase savings considerably.
Spread over an area of 53,000 sq ft, the Chandigarh International Airport has been constructed with green materials, such as fly-ash bricks, energy-efficient chillers, as well as double-insulated roofing systems with a motion sensor plumbing system to reduce water consumption. Daylight has played a major role by incorporating transparent facades, roof lights and long-span glass structures. This increases the maximum use of light during the day and has decreased the illumination levels and artificial light maintenance and costs. The terminal has kept a 200 kW (kilowatt) rooftop solar plant to fulfil the major power needs of the airport.
In addition, a STP with a capacity of 600 kilolitres per day has been installed to reuse the contaminated water by making it useful for flushing and gardening purposes.
India’s aviation industry is fast growing and is expected to become the third largest by 2020 from being the ninth largest player at present. Such a robust growth will pose a great challenge to the environment. So, India needs many more dedicated sustainable initiatives.