COAI promises to come up with green plan in 3 months

The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) — the body of GSM telcos — has promised to come out with a clear roadmap for moving its members off diesel-powered towers, a day after environmental organization Greenpeace accused its leader Airtel of dodging its environmental obligations.

Late last month, Greenpeace activists had made an attempt to write “Switch off Diesel” in large letters on the company’s corporate headquarters in Gurgaon. Instead, the activists turned back after getting an assurance from Airtel — the biggest Indian telecom operator — that it will come out with a diesel-elimination program by June 10 (yesterday.)

However, Greenpeace sent out another statement yesterday saying that Airtel did not come out with any anti-diesel program, but merely pushed the industry association COAI forward, which in turn promised to deliver the plan in three months. Greeenpeace alleged that Airtel was “hiding behind” industry associations.

COAI today issued its statement on the matter to put forward its perspective, repeating Airtel’s position that all operators, at least all those in COAI, must take steps together, instead of pressurizing Airtel along.

It said it has promised Greenpeace to come out with a “clear, detailed and sustainable” emission reduction program with “realistic time frames for achievement” in three months for all its members.

“Such detail will include issues of a common approach to measurement, comparability of results, common definition of terms, identification of initiatives that have the best promise of effectiveness, efficiency and scalability and defined milestones for implementation. In addition, COAI committed within this time frame to engage a competent third party entity to assist its members with “best international practices” and provide independent verification of achievement of programs and milestones,” it said.

Rajan Mathews, head of COAI, said diesel generator sets have become an integral part of India’s telecom revolution not because the telecom operators enjoyed polluting more.

“A large amount of opex (money) is spent on running the network on diesel annually due to the shortage of grid supply and limited availability of scalable alternate energy sources… The real business of mobile companies is providing communication services and is not power generation,” the Association pointed out, adding that it was the responsibility of the government and power companies to provide them with power in all habitations in the country.

It is estimated that around 60% of the power used in running India’s 3.6 lakh telecom towers comes from diesel. According to estimates, the biggest telecom tower firm, Indus Towers, buys up nearly 35% of all diesel generator sets produced in India.


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