The Rajasthan High Court has, in an interim order, directed Hindustan Salts Limited, a government-owned salt company, to refrain from developing the 4 GW solar project at Sambhar Lake in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Hearing a public interest litigation suo motu initiated by the High Court, the two-judge bench Court said it wants to examine the issues related to developing such a large-scale power project near the lake area and its possible impact on the environment and ecosystem.
The court also said that Sambhar Lake attracts many birds. The Archaeology Department has also invested sizable funds to make it a tourist destination in the past few years.
The court allowed Hindustan Salts to continue accepting bids until December 28, 2021, the last date specified in its tender. The bids were to be opened the next day. However, the bids cannot be opened without the court’s permission.
Last month, Hindustan Salts Limited, through its subsidiary Sambhar Salts, issued a tender to develop an ultra-mega solar project of up to 4 GW at Sambhar in Jaipur. The land was to be provided to the successful bidders to develop solar projects.
Amicus curiae R.B. Mathur, who applied for a stay on the project, cited a newspaper report to say that a large-scale solar project on the wetland would damage the region’s ecosystem. The project would require an estimated 16,000 acres of land.
The government-owned salt company has also issued an expression of interest to develop a solar project of up to 1 GW capacity at Kharaghoda in Surendranagar, Gujarat.
The stay on the 4 GW solar project comes when several solar projects in Rajasthan are stranded because of environmental issues. In April this year, the Supreme Court directed authorities to shift overhead power transmission lines underground within a year to protect the Great Indian Bustard, an endangered bird species. Solar developers and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy have said that the cost of shifting the power lines underground is prohibitive.