SC forms expert panel to suggest areas for underground laying of power lines in GIB habitats, ET EnergyWorld

New Delhi: Observing that the Great Indian Bustard is an endangered species that requires urgent protection, the Supreme Court formed an expert committee on Thursday to suggest areas for underground laying of power transmission lines in priority and potential GIB habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and recommend conservation measures for the tall bird. Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) are especially found in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and the alarming decrease in their numbers is attributed to frequent collisions with overhead power transmission lines, including those of solar plants, near their habitats. GIBs have lateral vision as their eyes are on the sides of their head and they find it difficult to change their course of flight when confronted with a live wire.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud directed the committee to complete the task and submit a report to the court by July 31.

The bench, also comprising justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said the order passed by it in April 2019 would need to be suitably modulated and a blanket direction for the undergrounding of low-voltage and high-voltage power lines would need calibration and to be looked at by domain experts.

The members of the committee are Wildlife Institute of India (Dehradun) Director Hari Shankar Singh, who is also a member of the National Board for Wildlife, Niranjan Vasu, former principal conservator of forests, former wildlife warden B Majumdar, Deputy Director of the Corbett Foundation Devesh Ghadvi, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Lalit Bohra and a joint secretary in the Ministry of Climate Change.

The panel will also have two special invitees.

The apex court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) matter filed by retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer M K Ranjitsinh and others, contending that that the GIB is on the verge of extinction and the court’s 2021 order has not been complied with.

The top court, in its 2021 judgment on the PIL, had passed a slew of directions to protect the GIB.

It had earlier directed the Gujarat and Rajasthan governments to replace overhead electric cables with underground cables, wherever feasible, and install bird diverters in priority areas where the birds live.

It had also set up a three-member committee, comprising scientists Rahul Rawat, Sutirtha Dutta and Gadhavi, to assess the feasibility for the laying of high-voltage underground power lines.

However, the experts and others had objected to the underground laying of high-power transmission lines citing feasibility issues.

The apex court had also sought reports from the chief secretaries of Rajasthan and Gujarat on installation of bird diverters in priority areas and to assess the total length of transmission lines in the two states where undergrounding of electric wires has to be done to ensure that the birds do not die of electrocution.

The petition has sought the court’s directions for an urgent emergency response plan to protect and ensure the recovery of the numbers of the endangered GIB and Lesser Florican.

  • Published On Mar 22, 2024 at 08:53 AM IST

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