Wildlife board mandates underground power cables in protected areas to prevent wildlife deaths

In wildlife protected areas like sanctuaries and eco-sensitive zones, the power companies are now mandated to lay only underground transmission cables.
The wild forests of Mudumalai Tiger reserve. (Photo | Sushmitha Ramakrishnan, EPS)
The wild forests of Mudumalai Tiger reserve. (Photo | Sushmitha Ramakrishnan, EPS)

CHENNAI: To curb increasing cases of elephants and birds getting electrocuted coming in contact with with transmission lines passing through protected areas, the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has directed all electricity supply units, Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), Central Electrical Authority (CEA) and State Electricity Board (SEBs) to only lay underground lines.

The decision was taken at the 54th meeting of the Standing Committee of the board, which was chaired Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on August 29, following recommendations from a task force constituted by the ministry for suggesting eco-friendly measures to mitigate impacts of power transmission lines and other power transmission infrastructures on elephants and other wildlife. The meeting was attended by Tamil Nadu Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Chief Wildlife Warden Sanjay Kumar Srivastava.

The task force recommendations report, which was accepted by the board, calls for use of underground cable for laying of transmission lines of 33 KV and below passing through protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserve, community reserve), eco-sensitive zones around the protected areas and wildlife corridors. "In case, where thee areas are aquatic and marine in nature, aerial bunched cables or covered conductors would be used."

Firstly, the existing transmission lines would be replaced with an insulated cable or underground cables on a priority basis. "Burying transmission lines effectively removes the problem of wildlife electrocution," CK Mishra, environment ministry secretary and NBWL member, said.

To deflect the birds from coming in contact with earth wires (less visible wires) installed at the top of transmission lines, the board has directed the power companies to install sufficient number of line marker devices/bird reflectors. "As an immediate measure, the rectification of sagging transmission lines and joint inspection of every cable passing through the protected areas should be undertaken at least thrice a year, once before onset of monsoon and once after monsoon so as to identify potential problem stretches. There is also a need to set up reinforced electric poles fitted with spikes to prevent elephants rubbing against them," the board said.

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The New Indian Express