Kochi: Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) has been selected for the Champion of Earth Prize-2018, the highest environmental honour instituted by United Nations. CIAL has been honoured for successfully executing the revolutionary idea of using solar energy, which has made it the first airport in the world to be fully powered by this sustainable power.
A communiqué signed by Erik Solheim, United Nations’ Global chief of Environment and Executive Director, UNEP, sent to V J Kurian, Managing Director, CIAL stated that, “this is the United Nation’s highest environmental accolade and reflects your leadership in the use of sustainable energy.” The communiqué further adds, “Previous Champion laureates range from world leaders to inspiring scientists - all visionaries who drive the world closer to its aspiration of environmental sustainability and a life of dignity for all. As the world’s first fully solar powered airport, you set an ambitious example that we hope many others will follow.”
The award will be presented at a gala ceremony on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York on September 26, 2018.
Earlier, a UN team led by Erik Solheim had visited Kochi Airport to learn about its solar initiatives and held discussions with authorities including Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister,who is also the Chairman of the company. During his visit, Solheim had revealed to the media that United Nations was intending to endorse Kochi airport officially as the world’s first airport fully powered by solar energy.
UN established Champion of Earth Award in 2005 to recognise outstanding environmental leaders from the public and private sectors, and from civil society. There are four categories; wherein CIAL was chosen for ‘Action and Inspiration’ which recognises individuals or organizations that have taken bold environmental action and, in doing so, inspired others to follow in their footsteps.
The awardees of 2017 included Michelle Bachelet, President of Republic of Chile; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre; World’s largest bike sharing app Mobike and Chinese afforestation community Saihanba.
CIAL, the company which owns and operates the country’s first airport built under Public-Private-Partnership mode, became power neutral on August 18, 2015 with the commissioning of its 12 MWp solar power plant. It scaled up the installed capacity to 30 MWp by April 2018. V J Kurian, who pioneered the idea, said that the UN recognition would take CIAL’s green ideas to a global audience. “We showed the world that big infrastructure projects like Airports can be put into operation fully using alternative energy sources. By September 2018, the solar capacity at CIAL will be increased to 40 MWp, with a power potential of 60 million units per annum and resulting in a cost saving of approximately Rs.40 crore per annum to the airpot. This will also avoid CO2 emissions by more than 9 lakh metric tons over the next 25 years, which is equivalent to planting 90 lakh trees or not driving 2400 million miles ,” Kurian added.
In order to ensure optimum land utilization, CIAL has successfully implemented organic farming of vegetables in area between solar panels. The airport stands at fourth position in the country in terms of international traffic and seventh in total traffic and handled ten million passengers in 2017-18.