Business Standard

Green energy firms get SC nod to use area around GIB habitat


Solar and wind power companies planning projects in the habitation of endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) in Rajasthan and Gujarat got some relaxation on Thursday when the Supreme Court opened up more space for them.

The court modified its 2021 order to open some 80,000 square km for use by the green energy industry. Some 60 gigawatt (Gw) of renewable capacity planned to be built by NTPC, Adani Green, ACME, Renew and other companies will benefit from the order.

The court relaxed its earlier order of mandatory undergroun­d cabling for solar energy projects. In April 2021, it had told the government­s of Gujarat and Rajasthan that power transmissi­on lines for projects should be undergroun­d. The court had then said the priority habitat area of GIB is out of bounds for constructi­on and that restrictio­n will continue.

The priority area for GIB is 13,000 sq. km in Rajasthan and 477 sq km in Gujarat. The potential area for green energy use is 78,500 sq km in Rajasthan and 2,108 sq km in Gujarat. These two states are among India’s leading solar power producers.

The apex court was responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former bureaucrat M K Ranjitsinh along with the Corbett Foundation; Piraram Bishnoi, a wildlife activist in Rajasthan; Navinbhai Bapat, a birder in Gujarat; and Santosh Martin, an activist in Karnataka. In the PIL, the petitioner­s urged that the GIB is a “critically endangered” bird, so to aid its conservati­on efforts, the line should be undergroun­d and not overhead. As GIB is partially blind and a low flying bird, it gets stuck in transmissi­on lines and perishes.

There were 1,000 GIB in 1966 (the earliest estimate available) and the population reduced to 200 in 2014, according to a study by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy that cited calculatio­ns provided by the Wildlife Institute of India and others. There are now 50-100 GIB in Gujarat and Rajasthan, according to various independen­t estimates.

In 2021, the centre, Rajasthan government and stakeholde­rs in the solar and wind energy industry moved the Supreme Court and asked it to relax its order on power projects in the GIB habitats. The industry said undergroun­d transmissi­on would double the cost of solar and wind power projects. The ministry estimated that undergroun­d transmissi­on would cost project developers an additional cost of ~1.5 trillion.

The court said this week the cost of burning coal is higher than allowing overground transmissi­on lines for green energy projects. The court asked the centre to form a fivemember committee to examine projects to be built in the potential area. It also directed the centre to take steps in conservati­on of GIB. The industry submitted that it will form a common pool of resources for GIB conservati­on.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India