Govt plans to contest Supreme Court order on great Indian bustard

Synopsis:  Govt plans to contest Supreme Court order on great Indian bustard


Recently, public interest litigation was filed by a few wildlife activists to protect the “critically endangered” the great Indian bustard. The petitioners urged that the overhead electric lines that are causing mortality to the birds should be avoided.

In response, the Supreme Court directed the governments of Gujarat and Rajasthan to lay the power transmission lines underground. The court observed that all the low-voltage lines, that is 66 kV and below, should be buried underground and that doing the same with high-voltage lines (130 kV and above) is “difficult but not impossible”.

The court gave a time period of one year for the same. However, the judgment has adversely affected the potential of renewable energy in Rajasthan. Currently, the government is planning to move the Supreme Court to seek a review of its order.

Impact of the judgment

Close to 60 Gw of solar power capacity stands to be impacted by this judgment, according to the MNRE. At stake, according to the Rajasthan government, is 95 Gw — which is the total solar potential of the state. Further, The MNRE has estimated that it would cost the project developers an additional Rs 1.5 trillion for underground transmission.

What are the arguments from the government side?

Firstly, the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) argues that the bird population was declining even before solar power plants came to the region.

    • According to a study by the MNRE, that there were 1,000 great Indian bustards in 1966. Their population shrank to 200 in 2014 and they now number 300.
    • According to MNRE records, only six birds have died as a result of collisions with solar panels or lines since the projects came up

Secondly, the other argument is that the judgment should cover its priority area and not potential area.

    • The great Indian bustard is present mainly in the two states. It’s priority area is 13,000 sq. km in Rajasthan and 477 sq. km in Gujarat, while the potential area is 78,500 sq. km in Rajasthan and 2,108 sq. km in Gujarat.

Thirdly, the government is ready to consider several options besides underground cabling.

    • For example, The National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI), is drafting options that could be explored to protect the bird while constructing the plants. it includes bird diverters, aerial bunch cables, and line markers.
    • Further, it has reviewed 52 case studies across 30 countries to learn best practices to mitigate bird collisions.
    • The study, reviewed by this paper, observed that solutions such as bird diverters, route planning and dedicated infrastructure related to the birds on transmission lines result in a “more than 90 percent decrease in bird mortality rate”.

Source: Business Standard

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