Libertatem Magazine

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Protecting Endangered Bird Species, Directs To Convert Overhead Cables Into Underground Power Lines

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Case: M.K. Ranjitsinh & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors.


A writ petition was filed seeking to protect two species of birds namely the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) and the Lesser Florician, which is on the verge of extinction. The issue of overhead power lines was raised before the court and Writ Petition also sought directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to limit the Hazardous Industries in the Ecologically Sensitive Zones which were considered a threat to these species. The court observed that it is the duty of the State and well the Central Government to preserve and protect the endangered species. Therefore, the Court while allowing the Writ Petition ordered the Respondents to take action for the same.

Facts of the Case

A Writ Petition was filed in the public interest seeking to protect two species of birds namely the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) and the Lesser Florican, which is on the verge of extinction. The existence of overhead power lines is stated to have become a hazard which is proven fatal to the said species of birds due to collision in these power lines. The Writ Petition was filed seeking interim directions to direct the State of Rajasthan and State of Gujarat to ensure predator-proof fencing, controlled grazing in enclosure development, and to direct the said respondents not to permit further construction of windmills and installation of solar power infrastructure in priority and potential habitat as identified by the Wildlife Institute of India. The Petitioner also sought directions from the respondents to install diverters for the power lines which have been listed in the application.

Arguments before the Court

The Petition stated that GIB is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world, it has disappeared from 90 per cent of habitat except for parts of Rajasthan and Gujrat thus, are needed to be protected. They also stated that overhead power lines are the biggest threat to the survival of the GIBs. Further, the Wildlife Institute of India in its report has stated that every year 1 lakh birds die due to collision with these power lines in the Respondent States. The report concluded that unless power line mortality is mitigated urgently, extinction of GIBs is certain.  

The respondents have contended that the high-voltage lines do not cause GIB deaths due to electrocution but cause death due to collision. It is also contended that the underground high-voltage line is not technically feasible due to several factors such as high costs, high downtime to repair any failed cable, non-availability of cables etc. 

Court’s Observations

The Court observed that though the Writ Petition is filed against the Respondents, the litigation is not adversarial in nature as it is in the community interest. The State, as well as the Central Government, have a constitutional duty to preserve the endangered species and as such the expenses incurred will have to be provided by them either under the schemes available or by earmarking the same in such a manner. The Court also observed that even as per the study of Wildlife Institute of India, it would not be feasible to lay underground power cables in certain areas and the conversion of the already existing cables also cannot be made in certain locations. Thus, the court recommended that  ‘bird diverters should be installed on the existing power lines and the undergrounding of the new power lines should be there wherever it is technically feasible. Also, In addition to the death of the birds due to collision and electrocution, the conservation strategy requires the protection of the eggs of the said species. Therefore, the same should be transferred to breeding centres to protect the same from wild animals. The Court also formed a committee to deal with this matter.  

Court’s Judgment

Keeping in view the facts of the case the Court stressed the protection of endangered species and directed respondents to take steps to install diverters and to convert overhead cables into underground power lines. 

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