SC seeks Centre’s response on evolving a programme to protect Great Indian Bustard

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought the government’s response about evolving a “Project Great Indian Bustard” conservation programme like the Project Tiger to bring attention to the peril faced by the critically endangered bird.

Project Tiger is touted by the government as one of the most successful conservation programmes for a single species in the world.

“Can we not have a focussed approach by the Environment Ministry involving something like Project Tiger? Take instructions on it. Have a word with the Minister and come back to us on it,” Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud addressed Attorney-General R. Venkataramani and Additional Solicitor-General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the government. The court is hearing a series of petitions highlighting the numerous deaths of Great Indian Bustards due to power transmission lines criss-crossing their habitat in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Expert panel

In its order, the Special Bench, including Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, directed the Chief Secretaries of Gujarat and Rajasthan to undertake and complete a comprehensive exercise within four weeks to find out the total length of the transmission lines in question and the number of bird diverters required in the priority areas of the birds’ habitats.

The court was not, however, for the time being, ready to agree with the Centre’s plea to expand its expert committee formed in April 2022 to study the problem.

The government wanted the court to allow the Additional Secretary of the Renewable Energy Ministry and the Chief Operating Officer of Central Transmission Utility of India Ltd. to join the committee as domain experts on transmission lines. Instead, the Bench said the expert committee was free to consult the firm’s officer for his expert opinion for now.