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Green push for special zones

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Special economic zones must use solar power for 20 per cent of their energy requirements in the long run, according to the tentative government guidelines to make them environment friendly.

Among other proposals are eco-friendly buildings, a mandatory green cover and electric rickshaws for transport within a zone.

According to Ajay Nijhawan, who heads an association of SEZ developers, “For future projects, there will be no problem. But if these are made mandatory for existing SEZs, it will be impossible to comply with all the norms. It will also have a large impact on the cost of the development of SEZs.

“However, some of the guidelines from a long-term perspective will result in overall energy conservation and pay off the cost escalation,” he said.

There are around 570 SEZs, of which 100 are operational. The zones have employed 4.18 lakh, and exports from them in the first two quarters of the current fiscal are estimated at Rs 89,750 crore.

The government wants at least 25 per cent of the installed external lighting to run on solar power, while at least half of the billboards should use solar energy.

The new norms are for both existing and new SEZs. “In the short term, it means additional cost, regulation and permissions. But in the long term, it is a win-win situation for the developers and units. Compliance will not be a problem for the new SEZs, but for the existing ones, there has to be some relaxation,” said Lalit B. Singhal, director-general of the export promotion council for SEZs.

According to the draft proposals, a minimum of two per cent of the energy consumed in each zone should be in solar or other renewable forms. This has to be scaled up gradually. “Over a period of 10 years, solar or other forms of renewable energy must be extended from two per cent to a minimum of 20 per cent of the total estimated energy consumption,” it said.

The new norms have put a ban on the use of incandescent lights and made LEDs (light-emitting diodes) mandatory in public spaces.

Vehicles for transport in an SEZ will have to be powered by electrical energy, CNG or bio-diesel within three years of its set-up. Electric rickshaws are mandatory and there should be separate lanes for bicycles.

“Though the project cost will be higher, this can be partly compensated by the incentives provided by the government for green technologies through capital and interest subsidies,” analysts said.

It has been proposed that solid wastes from the zones will either be converted to vermicompost or used in power generation. Developers will have to use sewage treatment plants. Moreover, 30 per cent of the rainwater will have to be harvested.

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