A big contribution in this direction comes from India. The Cochin Airport became the first ‘green airport’ in the world, for which it was awarded the Champions of Earth award 2018, the United Nation’s highest environmental honour.
One of the prominent challenges of the 21st century is how to make aviation sustainability a reality in the face of the industry’s high global footprints. In this modern world, transportation by air has become a necessary evil as more and more people and industries rely on it, creating a dilemma between the economy and the environment.
The aviation sector, if it were a country, would be one of the top 10 carbon-polluting nations in the world. To put that in perspective, the top 10 countries together emit more than two-thirds of all carbon emitted each year. It is also one of the highest and fastest growing sources of individual emissions. A single international trip taken by one person emits more carbon than someone living in Paraguay for a year.
Ground operations, mainly performed at the airport form a major aspect of the sector. Airports act as the interface between landside access to airspace and airside access to the ground.
The airport fully operates on solar power, which meets all its electricity requirements. This is no small feat as the Cochin airport stands to be one of the most important airports for not just India but the rest of the world.
It is the largest airport in the state of Kerala and the seventh largest in India in terms of passenger traffic. It has one of the longest runways, measuring up to 3.4 km, equipped to handle the largest of aircraft. It is also the first ever airport in India to be developed under Public-Private Partnership.
Installing the first solar photovoltaic power station plant on the rooftop of the Arrival Terminal Block way back in 2013 turned out to be a trendsetter. Since then, it has not looked back, adding several more solar power units to maximise energy production and produce enough for all its needs.
A total of INR 7 crore was spent on solar power units, which might already have been recovered from the massive saving of INR 7-8 lakh per month on electricity bills.
The most recent news on the Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) confirmed that it has become a power surplus, having achieved power neutrality way back in 2015. This means, CIAL now has a negative carbon footprint.
Rather than adding to the global carbon emission, it is making a significant contribution to off-setting emissions done elsewhere. It is also now the second-largest energy producer in the Indian state of Kerala after the State Electricity Board (KSEB).
CIAL has a culture of cost-effectiveness. The entire construction of Cochin airport can be considered a marvel gave the low cost of mere INR 303 crore at which it was constructed. This sense of cost consciousness is probably what motivated the sustainability drive.
Becoming energy positive might be the most important of its achievements but it by no means is the only one. The airport is also engaged in scalable agro-photovoltaic activities, putting to efficient utilisation the vacant spaces between the solar panels within the CIAL solar plant, which has by far produced close to 90 metric tons of pesticide-free vegetables.
This is largely in line with the Indian government’s general push in the direction of organic and zero-budget natural farming. The solar project pioneered by managing director Vattavayalil Joseph Kurian has motivated CIAL to take up several more solar and hydropower projects in the rest of the state.
Since the success of the Cochin International Airport, the government of India has every airport in the country produce at least 2 MW of solar energy.
Despite having a large population leading to a low per capita GDP when compared to the global powers, India has engaged itself proactively in global environmental initiatives, being on track with its international commitments, and coming up with several great initiatives of its own, the International Solar Alliance being one of its major initiatives.
Cochin Airport logs INR 37.68 crore profit
Giving indications of a prosperous future, Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) has made a strong comeback from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector.
After having incurred a loss of INR 87.21 crore during the FY 2020-21, the company has registered a profit (before tax) of INR 37.68 crore for the FY 2021-22.
The board of directors met at Thiruvananthapuram with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan as the chair and also decided to hold the Annual General Meeting of shareholders on September 26, 2022.
“The company has come back from a situation where it incurred a loss of Rs 87.21 crore in the FY 2020-21 against a turnover of Rs 252.71 crore,” the company statement said.
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CIAL, which used to handle around 10 million passengers annually, had to witness a huge drop both in passenger traffic and revenue during the pandemic era.
“With the eventualities of the pandemic starting to wane, the management implemented new operational strategies and financial restructuring to improve connectivity and general performance. Subsequently, the number of passengers increased from 24.7 lakh during FY 2020-21 to 47.59 lakh in FY 2021-22,” it said.
The company said it made a turnover of INR 418.69 crore for FY 2021-22; registering an operating profit of INR 217.34 crore. The profit before tax is INR 37.68 and the net profit is INR 26.13 crore.
“In addition to that, CIAL Duty-Free and Retail Service Limited (CDRSL), a wholly owned subsidiary of CIAL have also increased its turnover from INR 52.32 crore in FY 2020-21 to INR 150.59 crore in FY 2021-22,” it said.
The company said it is eying a total revenue target of INR 675 crore for the current fiscal and the target worked out for CDRSL for the current financial year is INR 270 crore.
The Ministers, as well as Directors of the company, P Rajeeve and K Rajan, Chief Secretary V P Joy, Directors E K Bharat Bhushan, Aruna Sundararajan, M A Yusuff Ali, N V George, E M Babu, CIAL Managing Director S Suhas and Company Secretary Saji K George, participated in the board of directors meeting.
“The management’s efforts to enhance connectivity have begun to bear fruit. Many airlines, including Akasa Air, the country’s newest airline, have started services from CIAL. Several domestic airlines have also started considering CIAL as a de facto hub to start their international services. The company is targeting projects including the start of operations of a business jet terminal in the ongoing financial year.”Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL)
Despite the crisis, CIAL has successfully implemented many infrastructure development projects. 4.5 MW Arippara hydropower plant, and 12 MWp Payyanur Solar power plant were commissioned during this period.
CIAL also started construction of the business jet terminal and completed ‘Operation Pravah’, the integrated flood mitigation project. The company resumed the construction of the International cargo terminal.