Great Indian Bustard (GIB): Bustard order will hit green pledge, SC told

What is the news?

Earlier, the Supreme Court asked the Center to put underground power transmission cables in vast areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat for the protection of endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB). But recently Centre has sought modification of the Supreme Court’s order.

Must read: Govt plans to contest Supreme Court order on great Indian bustard
Why does the Centre seek modifications?

The centre cited a recent report of a technical group comprising experts from the transmission and power sector and members from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and said the following challenges in implementing the SC order.

Cost intensive and Technically not possible: Undergrounding medium/ low voltage lines over a large area will lead to a high cost. The total cost of underground cables will take up to Rs 12 crore a km, but the aim could be achieved by installing firefly bird diverters.

For instance, bird diverters in the Gwalior-Jaipur line by Power Grid Corporation protect Indian Vulture and Egyptian Vulture. Similarly, bird diverters in the Bhuj-Banaskantha line protect Flamingos and Cranes.

Challenges to India’s international commitment: India has set a target to achieve installed renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) of 175 GW by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030. The area sought to be debarred by SC order in Rajasthan and Gujarat is 80,688 sq km.

The area being debarred is bigger than many states of India, and also contains a very large proportion of the total solar and wind energy potential of the country and, in particular, has very high solar irradiance. So, debarring the whole area will impact India’s international commitments.

Whereas the GIBs dwell in only 1% of this area, and the present habitat of GIBs is protected by enclosures that occupy only 1% of the above 80,688 sq km.

Adverse direct impact on environment: So far, only a minuscule 3% of the estimated potential of around 263 GW renewable energy of this area has been tapped. If the remaining potential stays untapped, then India will need an additional 93,000 MW of coal-fired capacity to replace the unutilised renewable energy.

So implementing the SC order will have adverse implications for the power sector in India and energy transition away from fossil fuels.

Other challenges: Implementing the SC order would lead to a huge delay in commissioning of already awarded and under-construction renewable energy projects in these states, which otherwise would get commissioned in the next couple of years.

Source: This post is based on the article “Bustard order will hit green pledge, SC told” published in the Times of India on 15th December 2021.

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