The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and The Corbett Foundation (TCF) have welcomed a recent Supreme Court order making it mandatory to lay power lines underground in both ‘potential’ and ‘priority’ habitats of the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) to aid in its conservation efforts. The court has given specific directions to protect the GIB’s nesting sites.
According to the Wildlife Institute of India, an estimated 18 GIB die every year owing to collision with power lines. Overhead power lines pose the most significant threat to the endangered bird today, the BNHS and TCF said in a statement.
“About 100 of these magnificent grassland birds remain in the world. Though habitat loss and degradation have been responsible for this bird’s decline in the past few decades, their deaths due to collisions with overhead power lines are today the biggest direct threat. GIB needs grasslands and semi-arid areas to survive. Most of these areas are unfortunately categorized as ‘revenue wastelands’ in governmental records, and therefore given away for solar and wind energy projects in India,” the statement said.
The apex court has directed shifting of power lines underground irrespective of the cost within one year from the date of the order, prioritising efforts to save the near-extinct bird, and installing bird-diverters on all lines till they are moved underground. The Supreme Court has also constituted a three-member expert committee to examine the technical feasibility of laying high-voltage power lines underground.
BNHS director Dr. Bivash Pandav said, “With a population of less than 100, the Thar desert is the one and only intensive critical care unit of the Great Indian Bustard in the world. BNHS applauds the Supreme Court’s judgment and firmly believes in leaving no stone unturned in safeguarding the remaining Bustard habitats in the Thar desert.”