While the problems of smog and air pollution in China have received a lot of attention, it's sometimes less well reported that air quality in many Indian cities is at least as bad, if not worse. In fact, in a 2014 list of cities with the worst air pollution, six of the top 10 were in India.

That's not great for the country's tourism or international business reputation — not to mention its residents.

Luckily, there are promising signs that many of India's business and political leaders want to change course. From large-scale tree planting initiatives to a boom in solar power, the fledgling shoots of a lower carbon development model are beginning to emerge. Now the international airport in Cochin, Kerala, is sending an unambiguous message to the world on this front, building a 12-megawatt (MW) solar power plant that makes it the first 100-percent solar-powered airport in the world.

Of course, this isn't the first solar project we've seen at an airport. But it's notable for both its sheer size and its location. What's even more interesting is that this may be the first of many such projects at airports across the country. According to an article by Anand Upadhyay over at Solar Love, the Airport Authority of India has plans to build 50MW of solar at various airports by 2016, a number that will eventually be expanded to 150MW.

With international and domestic visitors flying into Cochin all the time, a project like this presents a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness about the feasibility of a new, low emissions model for India's development. India is already committed to building 100GW of solar by 2022, and there are promising murmurs that the government might be mulling a deeper, more far-reaching commitment to fighting climate change than it has so far been able to muster.

Maybe Cochin International Airport is a sign of brighter, bigger things to come.