Opinion

Railways’ move to be a clean, green transporter

Raghu Dayal | Updated on May 16, 2019 Published on May 16, 2019

Railways Solar push   -  PTI

Tapping solar and wind energy, fuel blending, converting waste to energy are some of the initiatives on fast track

Transporting 23 million passengers daily in 65,000 carriages on 13,500 trains, Indian Railways encounters an enormous challenge in keeping its stations and trains clean and environment-friendly.

The Railways set up, in January 2015, Directorate of Environment and Housekeeping Management to spearhead its green initiatives.

Railways’ policy framework to earmark one per cent lumpsum provision in all works/project estimates towards environment-related works is complemented with a common pool of best practices coordinated for optimal gains.

Apart from being the country’s largest landowner, the Railways is also the single largest consumer of energy and water, consuming around 1.8 per cent of electrical energy generated in the country and around 3 per cent of total diesel oil.

With its annual fuel bill of around ₹15,000 crore, Railways consumed 18,021 million kW of electricity and 2,834 million litre of HSD in 2017-18, electric traction accounting for 56 per cent of Railways’ passenger traffic and 64 per cent of freight. Besides its plans to set up 1,000 MW of solar power by 2020 through PPP mode on vacant railway land, rooftops of stations and office buildings, the Railways aims at building wind power capacity of 200 MW. Solar PV system on roof of trailer coaches of a 1,600 hp DEMU rake would, for example, save about 525,000 litres of diesel and reduce 1,350 tonnes of CO2/train over 25 years.

The Railways also started blending bio-diesel with HSD at the rate of 5 per cent, and using CNG-based dual fuel on 1,400 hp DEMU power cars to achieve up to 20 per cent substitution of diesel. It plans to convert 100 more DEMUs to run on dual fuel, as it simultaneously develops locomotives to run on LNG. The Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuel (IROAF) is collaborating with RDSO and IIT-Kanpur to develop solar-assisted biomass pyrolysis technology for production of methanol and other bio-fuels.

Similarly, LED lights are likely to annually save around ₹20,000 per AC coach and ₹8,400 per non-AC coach. Towards its goal to achieve cumulative savings of the estimated ₹41,000 crore in 10 years (2015-25), Railways started drawing about 200 MW power in November 2015 from its own captive 4X250 Mw thermal power plant at Nabinagar in Aurangabad district (Bihar).

As the country’s third largest consumer of water, after agriculture and the power sector, the Railways’ plans towards water-use efficiency include installation of meters in all major service buildings, rain water harvesting, providing new recharge structures, and setting up water recycling plants, along with automatic coach washing facilities for reducing fresh water consumption. A total of 1,559 water bodies are now functional, including 55 of them recreated and another 44 non-functional ones rejuvenated.

Food is the main source of solid waste generation at railway stations, estimated to be around 115 tonne/day food waste, 340 tpd recyclable plastics, metal, glass, paper and cardboard, and 215 tpd of residual waste.

Waste from railway stations generally gets dumped along with municipal waste. At bigger stations, faecal flow from trains together with the sewage flow from stationary toilets flows into the municipal wastewater sewerage system.

Waste to energy

With waste-to-energy (WtE) potential across major railway stations estimated to be around 17.6 MwH of biogas, Railways began installing WtE plants at various locations for bio-degradable waste to produce electricity.

A serious environmental hazard, also impacting basic hygiene and sanitation at stations and on trains, besides corroding rails and thus impacting safety, faecal waste has been a big problem. Railways has committed to eliminate direct discharge toilet system from its entire coaching fleet by end of the year. It first converted it to controlled discharge type toilets, later to aircraft type vacuum toilets fitted with bio-digester tanks for faecal matter to get digested.

Approximately 4,10,000 hectare of railway land was under afforestation by March 2017 and 1.25 crore saplings planted in 2016-17.

Railways also launched a multi-faceted strategy for new age materials being increasingly used in new design higher capacity freight wagons, lighter weight stainless steel passenger carrying coaches and new EMUs equipped with 3-phase regenerative capability, developing steel channel sleepers vice wooden sleepers used on girder bridges, likewise using composite material sleepers made of a polymer matrix.

A growing awareness of the need to garner benefits of ‘green’ buildings across the Railway network is observed in several of its structures and campuses having been awarded prestigious certificates.

The writer is former CMD, Concor

Published on May 16, 2019
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