Power Generators Must Add Diverters to Save the Great Indian Bustard Supreme Court

The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) saga that has been simmering for some time came up for hearing in the Supreme Court on April 21, 2022.

During the course of the hearing, the Apex Court said that the installation of bird diverters in the priority areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan should be taken up urgently, and bird diverters in these areas should be installed before July 20, 2022.

The court said that Rajasthan and Gujarat and private power producers should ensure that within the priority areas, a comprehensive exercise is completed within three weeks to assess the total length of transmission lines and the number of bird diverters required.

The petition has been listed for further hearing on July 20, 2022.


Background 

In February this year, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) said that all renewable energy projects located in the priority or potential territory of the GIB would be granted a 30-day extension on the scheduled date of commissioning after the date of judgment by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the overhead transmission should be shifted underground to protect the endangered species of birds. In April 2021, it directed the authorities to complete moving the transmission lines underground within a year. Until then, diverters were to be hung from the existing powerlines.

Later, MNRE filed an interlocutory application in the Apex Court, citing the problems of bringing the transmission lines underground. “In case undergrounding of lines is insisted upon, India might need more fossil fuel-based conventional sources to meet the shortfall of renewable energy. This will increase our carbon footprint, which will be detrimental to the environment,” it said.

Court’s assessment

The Supreme Court said that out of the eight applications submitted, the committee constituted to look into the matter approved only two applications on the receipt of the Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA) technical report permitting the laying of overhead transmission lines subject to the installation of bird diverters. The remaining six applications are being scrutinized.

The Court said that the committee should, within a month in consultation with the CEA, formulate the standards of quality required for the bird diverters so that uniformity can be maintained.

“The committee has stated that it has received reports regarding the ongoing installation of power lines despite the directions of this court. The states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and private power producers should ensure that there is no breach of the directions of this court. As noted earlier, the committee is examining the feasibility of and need to install new overhead transmission lines on a case-to-case basis. Hence, applicants have sufficient remedies to approach the committee and move this court if there be any subsisting grievance,” the Court noted.

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Image Credit: Maarten Visser, CC via Wikimedia Commons