India is home to 165 globally threatened bird species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list. Of these, 110 species have a strong population hold in our country, and any fluctuations will put the entire race under considerable threat.
A report by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) highlights the lesser-known danger of wind power projects to our avian inhabitants and recommends mitigation measures to curb and control the damage they might cause to sensitive ecosystems.
Collision, disturbance, displacement, change in migratory pattern and behaviour are some of the detrimental effects. In bats, collisions due to disorientation caused by ultrasound noise is prevalent.
An avian collision threat assessment carried out by BNHS in Sangli with 13 wind turbines revealed the annual collision rate to be 25 birds. Numerous other studies revealed that the maximum collision risk was during winter which saw 19 mortalities as compared to minimum in monsoon.
There are similar instances of death due to wind projects with the Sarus crane in Uttar Pradesh and flamingos in Gujarat where the number touched 76 within three years. The critically endangered Great Indian Bustard is one of the species at risk in Maharashtra. A dead white-backed vulture, which is a critically endangered species, was once found by BNHS near Pune.
The report recommends identification of eco-sensitive areas, adequate briefing to site personnel, and detailed research in the three phases of construction. These studies would be continued regularly on a comparative basis post-construction.
Wind energy projects, which come under the ministry of New and Renewable Energy, constitute almost 70% of the total energy derived from renewable sources in our country. Incorporating policies to reduce the effect of this vital source on wildlife is pointed out by BNHS.
“There needs to be a comprehensive study of wildlife impacted by wind projects in our country and policies need to be formulated based on these studies,” said Atul Sathe, BNHS spokesperson.