Sonam Wangchuk applauds PMO’s promptness in intervening to explore Carbon Neutral possibility with new terminal of KBR Airport Leh



Leh: Founding-Director Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL) & Innovator Sonam Wangchuk expressed gratitude to the Airports Authority of India, the Civil Aviation Ministry and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the attention and support they’ve given to his appeal to rescue the new airport terminal at Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport Leh and transform it from a carbon intensive airport to a Carbon Neutral Airport.
About two weeks ago Magsaysay Awardee Sonam Wangchuk took to Twitter and Facebook about the wrong design of the new terminal and appealed to the Prime Minister for his intervention for a mid-course correction of the terminal being built.
“I’m very impressed at the swiftness and responsiveness of the PMO in sending a team led by its Deputy Secretary 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 Prime Minister to take timely measures before it’s too late,” Wangchuk said while addressing at a press conference here on Wednesday.
He said that he didn’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 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,” he said adding that in this endeavour the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL) wanted to contribute its small part to make this airport an example for the world.
Sonam Wangchuk thinks that in the current concept, the Leh airport new terminal seems to be designed for some other climate/location other than Ladakh as 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 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,” Wangchuk observed.
He has 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.
He thanked the heads of Airports Authority of India for being cooperative and supportive for sharing data and design details which enabled him 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,” he hoped while thanking the PMO and other concerned authorities for the promptness of action.