The Supreme Court heard a case involving the protection of two bird species, including the Great Indian Bustard. It was agreed to be listed by a bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana.
One of the attorneys who appeared before the court urged the court to re-list the Great Indian Bustard case before a three-judge panel, as it had previously been listed before a two-judge panel.
The counsel also apprised the court that the matter was heard earlier before a three-judge bench. A three-judge bench had previously ordered that the overhead cables be converted into underground powerlines. The court’s decision was based on a petition to protect two bird species, including the Great Indian Bustard.
According to the petition, the presence of overhead power lines has become a hazard, resulting in the deaths of the above-mentioned species of birds when they collide. In one application, interim orders were sought for Rajasthan and Gujarat to ensure predator-proof fencing, controlled grazing in enclosure development, and the prohibition of overhead power line installation.
The court noted that the petitioners were environmentalists who wanted to protect rare birds whose numbers are dwindling.
It was also claimed that the GIB is one of the world’s heaviest flying birds, having disappeared from 90% of its habitat except for protected areas in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Overhead power lines, according to the petitioners, are the biggest threat to the survival of the GIBs.
In 2021, the Supreme Court ordered the governments of Gujarat and Rajasthan to install high-voltage power lines underground in the bird’s habitats to aid conservation efforts. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the bird as “critically endangered” because it is only found in India and a few areas of Pakistan.
Power lines have long been a threat to the GIB, and one of the main reasons for the GIB population decline over the last decade. According to research conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India, nearly 18 GIBs die every year in the Thar region of Rajasthan due to collisions with power lines.
When Gujarat’s Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, visited Kutch in 2013, he said, “The Great Indian Bustard is a unique gift of nature to Kutch district, and the Gujarat government is committed to its protection.” Male GIBs have not been seen in Kutch since 2018, which is a cause for serious concern. In India, there are an estimated 100 GIBs, the majority of which are found in Rajasthan’s Thar desert.
This bird will become extinct soon if the threat of power lines is not addressed. In response to the PIL, the Ministry of Power stated that low voltage lines (66 kV and below, according to the affidavit filed by the Ministry) could be easily laid underground, while high voltage lines (66 kV and above, according to the affidavit filed by the Ministry) could be easily laid above ground while the high voltage lines (130 kV and above, as per the affidavit) were slightly more difficult and expensive to be laid underground.