'India’s civil aviation rise to come at climate price'

India’s civil aviation strides will come at huge climate price, say experts

Representative image: iStock image

Within five to seven years, India is set to become the third busiest aviation market in the world, capable of sustaining at least 1.5 billion trips out of eight billion trips globally but this planned increase could potentially wreck the country’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. 

At a conference on the future of aviation and aerospace organised by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) and Toulouse Business School, France, here on Saturday, aviation industry experts called on the government to institute reforms to help the industry fulfil its potential. 

Among the recommendations were to upskill aviation workers and attract better talent, while carrying out structural reforms in the sector. 

“I have every confidence that Indian aviation can take on the Americans and Chinese within two decades. Our aviation is in a great place right now. It is time to make business and money,” said Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation. 

At least one aviation insider, however, pointed out that rampant growth could defeat India’s other commitments to sustainability. 

Manish Raniga, Acting Chief Commercial Officer of South African Airways, said that with a single long-haul flight consuming a person’s annual carbon credit, and with India’s lack of a sustainability policy for air travel, airliner proliferation may not be the panacea that the government believes it will be. 

“Is there infrastructure to support an expansion of 300 airliners? In other countries, governments and airlines seek to reduce their carbon print by employing more efficient models of aircraft with quieter engines and less fuel burn, by utilising biofuels and other zero-footprint technologies and by gaining carbon credits such as planting trees. In the Indian context, these measures are totally missing,” Raniga said. 

He added that Indian airlines may be too aggressive in chasing economic shares to the point of neglecting sustainability. 

Dubey admitted that the lack of policy on environmental sustainability and growth was hurting the sector. “There is a crying need to formulate it. Everyone focuses on numbers but a lack of attention to the environment can delay projects and incur losses for the service provider,” he said. 

‘Growth not the answer’

When Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Strategy and Development Officer, BIAL, questioned why so many Indian airlines were struggling and why every five years, an airline collapsed, Dubey admitted that perhaps growth was not the answer. “It is better to have flatline growth and profitability rather than a 20% growth and frequent collapses,” he said. 

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