A greener airport

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There are five key elements to Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL)’s sustainability drive: water, energy, environment, waste and ecological management. Hari Marar, BIAL managing director and CEO, talks us through the airport’s efforts to manage its environmental impact.

Water management
Our airport is located in an area where the water table, over the years, has fallen substantially. To ensure that the water supply remains uninterrupted, BIAL has put in place measures that have not only made Bengaluru Airport water neutral, but that have also improved the water table in the region.

The first of these is rainwater harvesting. The rainwater discharge from the airport buildings is stored in large underground tanks of about 1.7 million liters capacity, then treated and reused. Excess water from the tanks is then allowed to flow into stormwater drains and recharge the aquifer as well as flowing into adjacent lakes. Going forward, all storm water and water discharge, including grey and black water, will be treated on-site. The revival of lakes in the vicinity of the airport is a huge benefit for the communities in the surrounding areas, who depend on these water bodies for agriculture.

The ongoing development of rainwater harvesting ponds – accounting for nearly 70 acres within the Bengaluru Airport campus – will create large water bodies that will support BIAL’s sustainability initiatives through harvesting over 750 million liters of rainwater per annum. This will translate to 1.6 million liters of usable water every day.

We have also engaged the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to study the current scenario and suggest sustainable methods for restoration of water bodies. To further improve water resources, BIAL is in the process of revamping the existing lakes and developing new sources.

With 315 ground water recharge pits located in the airport’s storm water drains, BIAL has adopted the development of unlined drains across the campus to increase recharge. A large volume of rainwater is used to recharge the aquifer. The well-designed storm water drain flows into the adjacent lake. Approximately 500 million liters of rainwater have been used to recharge the ground and lake, thus increasing the water table in the locality.

Six abandoned wells have been rehabilitated, cleaned and repaired. Due to the recharge system that is now in place, these wells now hold substantial amounts of water, even during the summer months.

Energy management
Our vision is to make BLR Airport 100% powered through renewable energy in 2020. This initiative will result in a significant reduction of carbon emissions. To achieve this, Bengaluru Airport is generating its own power through solar energy and has installed LEDs to reduce the dependence on non-renewable energy.

We have increased our consumption of solar power to over 50 million units through on-site and off-site solar power purchase agreements (PPA) that now meet 67% of the airport’s annual energy requirements. The airport also makes optimal use of natural light with minimum reliance on artificial illumination. BIAL’s other energy efficient initiatives include the installation of solar street lighting; solar-powered security cabins; and a solar water heating system for the cafeterias.

Our streetlights, perimeter lighting and airfield lights have been converted into LED lighting. This will further reduce the airport’s dependence on non-renewable energy. The existing 400 high pressure sodium vapor lamps (HPSV) on the airside have been converted into energy-efficient LEDs to provide enhanced safety for pilots and greater visibility for ground staff and reduce energy consumption. The new airside installation will help save 1.15 million units of electricity annually, reducing the airport’s dependence on non-renewable sources of energy. This will also result in an overall reduction in carbon emission. Meanwhile, BIAL is also working to convert the existing terminal and all landside lights into LEDs.

Environment management
Our pro-environment strategy enables us to operate and develop the airport in a manner that effectively controls and contains environmental impact and complies with environmental requirements.

In a bid to achieve increased recyclables and zero landfill by 2021, BIAL has eliminated single-use plastic from the campus. Lounges, F&B outlets and the Day Hotel have put in place stringent measures to reduce their dependency on plastic. Plastic straws, coffee stirrers, spoons, forks and polythene bags have been banned from the airport. Plans are afoot to further reduce our dependence on plastics.

Our #PlasticBeku (which means we want your plastic in the Kannada language) campaign collects plastic from the city and raises awareness of the adverse impact of plastic waste on the environment. The plastic collected through this initiative will be used to pave roads and car parking facilities on the airport campus. In the first phase, 50km (30 miles) of the roads will be surfaced using 50 tonnes of waste plastic.

Several anti-pollution drives have been conducted. These include a focus on landscaping, afforestation drives, installation of an oil-water separator on the airside and a hazardous waste center designed to prevent contamination. BIAL has also backed e-charging stations, emission control mechanisms and driver-awareness campaigns.

Waste management
Our aim is to use the waste generated each day as a source of energy. Under its Waste Management Policy, BIAL has come up with two initiatives — a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and Solid Waste Management (SWM). The wastewater generated by the terminal and other buildings within the airport is treated at the two million-liter capacity STP, using the extended aeration system. This treated water is then reused for the gardens and the air-conditioning systems. As part of its Phase 2 development, BIAL is constructing an additional STP. This facility will support Terminal 2.

The airport generates over 20 tonnes of waste each day. In order to reduce the carbon footprint from the disposal of this waste, BIAL plans to develop its own Solid Waste Management facility which will convert bio-energy to generate electricity and organic compost. This will ensure zero landfill disposal from the airport.

Ecological management
Our airport has its own wildlife department, with qualified professionals working around the clock to manage bird and animal activity in its operational areas. We have adopted a sustainable approach to wildlife management, which we believe is unique among airports, divided into two categories – active management and passive management.

BIAL has focused on landscaping since the airport was built 11 years ago. As Bengaluru is known as the Garden City of India, we have tried to reflect this image at the airport by creating world-class gardens and green spaces. From just 40 acres of landscape garden in 2008, we have gradually increased the green space –  there are now more than 100 acres of gardens at the airport.

Automated irrigation systems have been installed to provide uniform water distribution to the gardens, and the team has its own plant nursery to ensure a continuous supply of plants.

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