The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA), Shamshabad, Hyderabad, a Greenfield project that turned operational in March 2008, is celebrating 10 years of “sustainability, energy efficiency, carbon neutrality, water conservation and environment friendly waste management”. Sprawling across an area of 5,495 acres of land, the property consists of airport area, office buildings, residential townships, training centers, MROs, workshops, bus terminals, eateries, parking zones, STPs, rainwater harvesting areas, waste management & recycling areas and many more. Going from Silver, the GMR officials have been working strategically to reach up to Gold LEED certification by implementing technologies and processes to achieve quality result. Clean India Journal presents a bird’s eye view of the entire facility.
It was in 2008, a few days before the launch of the airport, that the Clean India editorial team visited the site, as it was getting set to receive the first flight on the runway. A lot of activity, construction around the area… 10 years now, it is still buzzing with activities and upgradation besides the construction of the next terminal.
India’s sixth largest and fourth busiest airport and still growing, upkeep and maintenance of all the facilities is a matter of “proper planning, implementation and monitoring”.
GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL) is a joint venture company promoted by the GMR Group (63%) in partnership with the Airports Authority of India (13%), Government of Telangana (13%) and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (11%). GHIAL was incorporated to design, finance, build, operate and maintain a world class Greenfield airport.. The Airport was opened to passengers in 2008, apart from passengers, it also deals 495 metric tonnes of cargo a day, and has the capacity for three lakh tonnes annually. On average, the airport sees almost 500 truck movements a day. The 11-yearold passenger terminal is already grappling with the growing passenger load; a second terminal is under construction.
GMR FMS has developed a workable, viable model that takes responsibility for cleaning, maintenance, waste management and other activities and also adopts every possible measure to reduce its carbon footprint.
“To a passenger, an airport operator is not actually visible. The operation entity has no direct connection with the passengers or the flights, yet the onus still lies on the airport staff to deliver services,” according to the officials at GMR.
India’s first carbon-neutral airport in its passenger category
“All our work boils down to one simple philosophy — Sustainable development. Not only because of legal implication, but because we genuinely believe that we should leave a better world for generations to come.”
By finding ways and means to cut down on its power consumption and relying on renewable energy (solar), RGIA has managed to consistently offset its carbon emissions. For starters, the passenger terminal building itself is designed as a green building, allowing illumination by natural light during the day, and diminishing the need for artificial illumination. It has received the ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ (LEED) certification for its unique design, from the United States Green Building Council rated ‘Silver’. At present, RGIA is in the process of upgrading to the ‘gold’ category.
Two 5MW on-site solar power plants provide 15-20 % of the airport’s energy needs,and reduces dependence on grid electricity. Some of the airlines operating from the airport use solar power for their ground support equipment. For example, some use solarpowered electric buses to ferry passengers to and from the aircraft. These buses have the added advantage of being quieter, which also helps control noise and air pollution. The State Road Transport Corporation too has deployed 40 such buses to shuttle passengers between the airport and the city, curbing the need for fumeemitting private transport, further cutting down on carbon emissions.
A sheltered bus station built for commuters is overflowing, as passengers waiting for their respective buses are provided with subsidised meals. For better maintenance of the bus station, better facilities like new block of washrooms, drinking water facility, waiting area, etc., are in progress.
RGIA received a “Certificate of Merit” in National Energy Conservation Awards 2011 from the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), Govt. of India and “Excellent Energy Efficiency unit” in National Energy Management Award 2014 from Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) for its achievements.
Another of RGIA’s green initiatives is rainwater harvesting. During the monsoons, the airport’s extensive grounds act as a catchment area for rainwater, which is collected in drains and stored in reservoirs. This also allows for the recharging of groundwater. Three storage tanks, with a total capacity of seven lakh cubic metres collect this water, and reduce the demand on municipal water supply.
A green belt covering 683 acres has been developed in addition to the natural vegetation. These green areas act as carbon sinks, absorbing over 265 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
What is most commendable is that despite passenger and air traffic increasing year after year, RGIA has managed to consistently remain carbonneutral.
Environment-friendly aircraft management
For the last four years, RGIA has really focussed on how aircraft manoeuvres can be modified to reduce carbon emissions. For example, before and after landing, aircraft now taxi with one engine shut off. This helps airlines cut costs on expensive air fuel as well. The RGIA Air Traffic Control authority has also devised a continuous descent approach for arriving aircraft, in which 30% less fuel is burnt. Pilots are being encouraged to push back from the departure gate without switching on engines. “There is always a tussle between flying out fast and being environmentfriendly. You can do both, if you start just one minute early. Mind-sets are changing.”