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Kochi Airport’s Major Milestone Could Be The Answer To India’s Depleting Coal Capacity

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By Sharat Karekatt:

When it opened in 1999, Kochi Airport at Nedumbassery became a trendsetter by being the first ever Airport to be built under the Private-Public Partnership model in India. It doesn’t boast of a magnanimous building with glass and steel structures unlike other major airports around the country. With a simple traditional temple architecture, one is sure to feel at home here, at this airport.

Cochin-airport
Image source: WordPress

16 years later, raising the bar for other Airports, Kochi achieved a major environmental milestone last August by becoming the first airport in the world to be completely powered by Solar Energy. The project involved setting up of 46,000 solar power panels, laid out across 45 acres of land near the cargo area. It took six months to be set up and costs around 62 crore rupees. It is expected to produce a maximum of 12 mega watts of power under optimum conditions. This will provide around 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity per day significant enough to meet all the Airport’s electricity needs.

It all started when the airport manager realized that the Kerala State Electricity Board was charging them a bit on the high side. In 2013, they proposed a 100 KWp Solar plant on the roof of one of the buildings. Following its success, a 1 MWp plant was set up after that at the maintenance hangar.

When they identified that solar energy is indeed the more desirable way, they decided to scale it up on a giant scale.

For Kochi Airport, which is the fourth largest airport in India in terms of passengers, being ‘power neutral’ via solar energy is not just any technical achievement, it’s a revolutionary phenomenon, given India’s addiction to coal.

India’s Unhealthy Addiction To Coal

India is a country that is heavily reliant on coal for its electricity needs. A report indicates that India’s contribution amounted to 28%, or almost a third of global emissions growth in 2014 alone. When most of the world was decreasing its coal consumption, India’s coal consumption observed an 11% growth. Economic growth is related to consumption of resources, which is related to emission. India’s GDP growth over the past few years is also driving its emissions, and it has now become the third largest polluter in the world, only behind US and China.

India has a total of 140 coal-based power plants, which are mostly inefficient. The most important thing to consider is that India’s pollution targets lag behind the world standard, still it fails to meet the target. India still uses old technologies in the case of power generation. Added to that, poor maintenance just worsens the performance resulting in regular outages, causing problems in metros like Delhi, which faces an acute electricity problem. These power plants, moreover lack the basic technology to curtail pollution, and they frequently flout regulations.

Coal-based electricity entails heavy costs on the environment, resources and health. It causes significant emissions of harmful particulate matter, and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur. Coal-based power consumes large amounts of water; coal mining has a severe impact on land, air and water, that exacerbates the environmental footprint of coal-based power.

Apart from all this, resources in India are fast depleting. Though Coal is abundantly available in India, a recent study by ‘Greenpeace India’ suggests that the country’s present coal reserve will exhaust in just another 17 years if it continues to consume at the present rate. If a solution is not obtained within the next few years, our country will witness a massive power crisis. It’s high time that our country should concentrate more on energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy.

In contrast, solar power generates no waste or emissions. It is cleaner and the energy obtained from the sun is infinite. Secondly, it does not require excavation and processing as in the case of coal which again is invasive and detrimental to Earth’s health. The geographical location of India adds to its advantage as we receive sunshine almost all the year round. The potential is huge.

Powering The Future

Considering the present scenario, the move by Kochi Airport comes as a much-needed breather. Cutting down on its carbon footprint, the airport has led the way for the future. The plant is designed to last for the next 25 years and hopes to reduce 3,00,000 Metric Tonne of Carbon Dioxide emissions. According to officials, this is set to have the impact similar to planting thirty lakh trees.

In the wake of this milestone, the Modi government has promised an ambitious project that would make India the world’s largest destination for renewable energy. The government is planning to increase the country’s solar power capacity to 1,00,000 MW by 2022, much higher than the planned 22,000MW project. India is soon to have the world’s largest solar power station in Madhya Pradesh. Other airports around the country have also been asked to follow Kochi’s lead. In Kochi, the sun is shining on the dazzling array of thousands of reflective panels as it captures away the sunlight converting them into energy. A power revolution has begun.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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