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Sustainable Development:Understanding our Environmental and Social Responsibilities

Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. (POWERGRID) an ISO 14001 certified company and the Central Transmission Utility of the country is one of the largest electrical power transmission utilities in the world. By the very nature of our business, we touch millions of lives every day and understand that real success is the result of inclusive development of all the involved entities and stakeholders.

Our developmental activities have minimal environmental and social impact owing to very nature of activities that do not involve disposal of pollutants in any environmental matrices such as land, air or water nor it involve large scale excavation which may result in soil erosion. In spite of that POWERGRID, which is committed to achieve the goal of Sustainable Development has the realization that given the scale of its operations, it is inevitable that there will be some residual impacts upon both the natural environment and the communities that it helps to support. To address such issues, POWERGRID has integrated environmental and social management procedures into its corporate operations by enunciating Environmental and Social Policy & Procedures (ESPP).

POWERGRID’s Environmental and Social Policy & Procedures (ESPP)

POWERGRID is the first company in Asia to develop a comprehensive and written "Environmental and Social Policy & Procedures (ESPP)" to manage its environment & social issues. POWERGRID evolved its ESPP in 1998 after a "National Consultation" involving various Stakeholders such as General public, Representatives from Ministry of Power, MOEF, CEA, State Electricity Boards, Allied Organizations, Academia, NGOs, Multilateral funding agencies and Project Affected Persons (PAPs). The basic principle of the  ESPP are  Avoidance, Minimization and Mitigation and it outlines POWERGRID's commitment to deal with environmental and social issues relating to its projects and lays out management procedures and protocol to address them. The ESPP has been revised twice in 2005 and 2009 to make it updated in line with the changed rules and guidelines of Govt. of India, including that of multilateral funding agency like World Bank, ADB, JBIC, etc. and suggestion/best practices and feedback received from different sites.During the revisions of ESPP, the consultative process was further enlarged to engage all stakeholders, including Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and the local communities. The regional level consultations were organized in southern, western, northern and eastern regions of the country. The national consultation was held at its corporate office in Gurgaon.

The comprehensive coverage and content of the ESPP can be judged by the fact that it has the distinction of being certified and accepted by two leading Multilateral Agencies of world i.e. the World Bank and the ADB under their Use of Country System (UCS) and Country Safeguard System (CSS) policy in 2009 and 2017 respectively after a detailed and multi-layered assessment. We aim to ensure total transparency and accountability in dealing with our stakeholders and their involvement through well-defined procedures as well as dissemination of relevant information at every stage of project implementation.

The ESPP Spells Out POWERGRID’s Commitment To:

  • Ensure total transparency in dealing with all the stakeholders i.e. concerned government agencies, local communities, individual landowners and employees through a well-defined public consultation process as well as dissemination of relevant information about the project at every stage of implementation.
  • Maintain the highest standards of corporate responsibility not only towards its employees but also to the consumers and the civil society, social responsibility through various community development activities for promoting socio-economic development and most importantly through people’s participation.
  • To minimize adverse impacts on the natural environment by consciously economizing on the requirement of land for civil structures, reducing the width of the Right of Way (ROW), adopting multi circuit towers and state of the art technology in transmission etc.

Sustainable Development

Striving to be a responsible corporate citizen, POWERGRID tries to find a balance between the often-competing demands of the technical, economical, and environmental commitments. The corporation is committed to protecting and enhancing the natural environment in all its operations as far as possible and aims to go beyond mere compliance with environmental legislations. POWERGRID endeavours to achieve sustainable development through five interlinked themes: Stakeholders, Environment, Networks, Statistics and Employees. The importance of sustainable development is understood by the corporation and embedded its imperatives in all its activities to ensure that the efforts to promote sustainable development are successful.

POWERGRID is the first Power Utility in the World accredited with a Publicly Available Specification, PAS 99:2012 based Integrated Management System (IMS) that includes ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management System), ISO 14001:2015 (Environment Management System) and OHSAS 18001:2007 (Occupational Health & Safety Management System). The Company is also certified with Social Accountability Standards SA 8000:2014 for its human resource and labor management policies and practices.

Transparency

Transparency is the fundamental characteristic of being accountable. POWERGRID has already shown its commitment to the principle of Transparency by becoming the first PSU in Power Sector of the country to bring out its maiden Sustainability Report for the FY 2008-09 in March ’10 based on Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. The 2nd Sustainability Report for FY 2009-11 was released in March, 2013. The 3rd Sustainability Report for FY 2011-13 was released in Sept., 2015. The 4th and the 5th Sustainability Report for FY 2013-15 and FY 2015-17 were disclosed in January 2018 and June 2018 respectively. First three Sustainability Reports were based on the universally accepted G3 guidelines of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Amsterdam, Netherland while fourth and fifth reports were based on G4 guidelines of Global Reporting Initiative. Last Four reports were externally assured following International Standards like Accountability, UK Standard “AA1000APS (2008), AA1000SES (2011), AA1000SES (2015) and AA1000AP (2018).  These reports highlighted some of the initiatives undertaken to achieve the goal of Sustainable Development while also disclosing data pertaining to our impact on environment, society and economy. As the activities of the company have minimal environmental and social impact the company publishes its Sustainability Report biennially.    

 Initiatives Towards Conservation of Environment

Avoiding ecologically sensitive areas while routing lines

There has been tremendous reduction in forest involvement in commissioning of transmission lines. For example, forest involvement which was about 6% in 27,000 Circuit Km. of lines till 1998. However, after implementation of ESPP w.e.f. 1998, diversion of forest area has been reduced to approximately 2.79% taking into consideration the addition of approximate 148327 Circuit Km. of line during 1998 to March 2018.

Green Installation

As a step forward in using New and Renewable energy a 10 kW Hybrid Generation Plant consisting of 4 kW Solar Photo Voltaic & 6 kW Wind Generation has been commissioned at Mapusa (Goa) substation in April, 2009. With this Mapusa substation has joined hands in using Green Power for its internal consumption. The system is generating about 30 kWh per day and is utilized at Community Centre, Children Park and few street lights. Subsequently Solar Plants of 5 kW to 50 kW have been installed at various substations.

Towards Sustainability, a 50 kWp grid interactive solar PV system has been installed at POWERGRID Corporate Centre, Gurgaon on September, 2015. It shall meet about 3-4 % of total energy requirement in the complex and also facilitate C02 reduction of about 40 Tons per annum.

To further reduce its carbon footprint, POWERGRID adopted "Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment" (GRIHA) norms for buildings at Manesar and Regional Office, Bengaluru.  The Bengaluru building has been awarded 2nd Prize by HUDCO under “Green Building” category in 2015. Sewage Treatment Plant was also constructed for ensuring proper treatment of waste water and use of treated water for various purposes such as gardening.

Reducing Right of Way (ROW) Requirement

With the development of innovative tower design, ROW requirement reduced from 85 m to 64 m for 765 kV and from 52 m to 46 m for 400 kV D/C line. Apart from this, installation of pole type structure for 400 kV transmission line in densely populated urban area has not only reduced the ROW & base width requirement, but also more aesthetic compared to conventional lattice type structure.

Employing Advanced Technology To Protect Ecosystems

Adoption of innovative tower design like multi-circuit and very tall towers to protect wildlife, trees in ecologically sensitive areas (In Tehri transmission line tree felling was reduced to 14739 against earlier estimate of 90000 trees in Rajaji National Park due to installation of 85 m high towers)

 New technologies have been adopted over the time to reduce width of right of way for the construction of transmission lines which is evident from the following table.

Reduction In Raw Material Requirement

POWERGRID’s contribution to the conservation of the national resource base and efforts to reduce the material intensity is an integral part of corporation’s sustainability strategy. The huge quantities of raw materials such as iron, steel, aluminium have been reduced over the years. This has been achieved through technological innovation using high capacity transmission lines transmitting more power. For example, use of high-temperature low-sag conductor enhances the power carrying capacity, thereby, reducing material consumption by avoiding the need for extra transmission line.

Replenishment of Natural Resources

Massive plantations in sub-stations where about 2 to 4 acres of land is being afforested with suitable species of plants in consultation with local forest department in almost each of our sub-stations. Wherever feasible, a separate fund is also earmarked for this purpose.

POWERGRID has adopted Rain Water Harvesting as an integral and mandatory part of its substations’ design with an aim to conserve the water and sustainability of ground water aquifers through recharge.

POWERGRID is following practice of manual stringing in thick forests and on slopes, to minimise damage to the environment.

 

Reducing Social Impact

 

POWERGRID is establishing compact GIS substations in place of conventional substations to have barest minimum land requirement and tries to locate sub-station on Govt. land to minimize the social impact.

In order to reduce the social impacts associated with its Transmission lines, POWERGRID practices the required due-diligence by avoiding populated area and other socially sensitive areas such as places of Religious, Historical and Archaeological importance and tries to locate its lines mostly through either Agricultural or Government land. In case lines passing through agricultural land, compensation towards tree and crop damages as per the assessment done by revenue authorities is paid to land owners. To further reduce the social footprints of our activities, compensation towards land cost for tower base and diminishing land value in corridor  as per guidelines dated 15th October 2015, issued by Ministry of Power (MoP), Govt of India is also paid, wherever, state governments have notified its implementation.

Community Development Works

POWERGRID recognizes its social responsibility and provide utmost importance to communities with whom we share local resources. The corporation requires land for construction of substations. During construction, all individuals, whose land is acquired, are consulted and the affected persons are duly compensated for their land as decided by Distt. Administration. Beyond the land compensation POWERGRID provides Resettlement and Rehabilitation assistance within the social entitlement framework and various community developments works in villages adjoining the substation, few examples are shown below.

Securing land through private purchase

In order to further reduce social impacts associated with our business, POWERGRID took a policy initiative in year 2011 to secure land through private purchase on “willing buyer-willing seller” basis on mutually agreed negotiated/market rate. Since then land for all of our substations except adjacent strip of land to our existing 750/400 KV Kurnool has been secured through this progressive measure. Such initiative not only facilitated timely possession of land but has tremendously reduced the court references normal in involuntary land acquisition and paved the way for everlasting cordial relations with our very important and immediate stakeholders.

Establishment of Waste Paper Recycling Plant

Operating “Waste Paper Recycling Plant” since September 2012 to recycle waste paper generated at Corporate Office that has resulted in conservation of natural resources like tree, water etc. and also reduced procurement of paper/stationary items from the open market. This initiative has further reduced our carbon footprint as 1 ton of virgin printing paper requires 17 trees, 4 kilolitres of water & 1350 kW of energy. The finished products such as notebooks, letterheads, envelopes etc are being used in our various offices. Further, this initiative also helped us in eliminating single use plastics in our office complexes.