A directive by India’s highest court could affect recent works by Adani on large solar-power installations in the state of Rajasthan. The court has directed the state to file reports on the progress in complying with an order made last April to place new power lines underground. The measure is required to protect the Great Indian Bustard, an endangered species that requires the arid grasslands of Rajasthan for its survival. It is believed that at least one major solar-power project in Rajasthan has not complied with the directive.
Adani has a number of solar-power projects in Rajasthan. In August 2021, protests broke out against a solar project’s alleged encroachment on to tribal grazing lands. The offending entity was alleged to be a joint venture between Adani Green and JV Rajasthan Solar Park Company Limited, a corporation owned by the Rajasthan state government.
Recently, the Supreme Court directed Rajasthan to file its compliance reports with last year’s directive regarding power lines and the Great Indian Bustard. ET Energy World has reported environmentalists saying that Rajasthan officials could be ‘in a fix’ because at least some power lines were believed to have been erected above ground.
The court’s ruling arose from a public-interest case seeking to protect the Great Indian Bustard from lethal electrocution caused by collisions with power-transmission cables. Such deaths are a significant threat to birds. A government study found that five birds per kilometre of power line die every month in the desert region. For a critically endangered species such as the bustard, every human-induced death pushes it closer to extinction.
The Supreme Court ruled that in notified parts of the bird’s habitat, all future power-transmission cables, including those that would serve an Adani solar installation, are to be laid underground.
Now, the Rajasthan government has to explain to the Supreme Court how (or indeed, whether) it has complied with this order. If the transmission lines associated with new solar arrays have been installed above ground, there could be penalties that affect the viability of these projects.