I want to express my gratitude to the Airports Authority of India, the Civil Aviation Ministry and most especially the Prime Minister of India for the attention and support they’ve given to our humble appeal to rescue the New airport terminal at Leh and transform it from a carbon intensive airport to a Carbon Neutral Airport.
I’m very impressed at the swiftness and responsiveness of the PMO in sending a team lead by its Deputy Secretary Sh Mangesh Ghildiyal to take stock of the airport and the overall status of carbon neutrality in UT Ladakh.
My appeal for a review of the Leh airport is not new, in fact for the last three years I have been appealing to various levels of AAI through some six meetings at the local level. However, the response was slow and the speed of work on the wrong design was very fast and efficient, so I had to take to social media and appeal to the honourable Prime Minister to take timely measures before it’s too late.
At the same time, it’s important to note that I don’t have anyone to blame for the existing design of the airport because this airport was conceived and designed at a time when carbon neutrality was not a huge issue. However ever since our honourable Prime Minister declared Ladakh to be a carbon neutral region and more recently India to be carbon neutral country by 2070 at COP 26, it has become incumbent upon all of us to do everything possible to realize this noble vision. In this endeavour our institute Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL) wanted to contribute our small part to make this airport an example for the world.
THE PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT DESIGN
In the current concept, the Leh airport seems to be designed for some other climate/location other than Ladakh. There is heavy emphasis on air conditioning… to the tune of a using a 700 KW system to be powered by diesel generators. On the other hand, heating in winter is all based on diesel boilers to the tune of 3.5 MW while ignoring the solar heat the building will be capturing from the glazed south façade which will be to the tune of 1 MW and over a day roughly 4 MWh of solar heat energy could enter the building free of cost. Since this free clean energy is not considered, the southern glazing has been given an inverse tilt and the glass proposed to be used is of low solar absorption, as would be the done for hotter climates. In all this, insulation, which is the most cost effective way of saving resources, emission and pollution is very insufficient in the walls, some roofs and completely non-existent in the floors.
CHANGES HIAL PROPOSES
Broadly speaking we have proposed eliminating diesel boilers and DG sets (except one stand by), to replace with passive solar heating/cooling through:
- Enhancement of insulation in walls, roof and flooring,
- Using the roughly 4 MWh solar gain from the south façade of the airport,
- Using the Geo-thermal heat gain from the 100 Cu M of ground water pumped daily,
- Using efficient Heat Pumps instead of diesel boilers,
- Using waste heat recovery from the standby diesel generator (in conjunction with heat pumps), in times of simultaneous cloudy weather and grid failure.
In the end I must say that I’m most impressed and touched by the promptness of action on behalf of the PMO. Similarly, the heads Of the AAI – Airports Authority of India have been very cooperative and have given us all their support in sharing data and design details and it is thanks to them that we are able to propose a new concept which will make the Leh airport completely carbon neutral and will save the exchequer foreign reserves to the tune of 10 crores per year and of course carbon emissions to the tune of 10 tons per day.
If executed well, this airport could become a glorious example for the whole country and the world.