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Vultures grounded by windmills  

Suthari village in Abrasa taluka, Kutch used to have 10 to 15 nests of the white backed vultures till a couple of years ago. This year, just a lone nest has been found. Where once there were more than 70 birds, now only 10 to 15 remain. When birdwatchers got together to look for a possible reason for the sudden drop in number of these birds, they attributed it to the wind farms that have come up in the area in the last one year.

Ashwin Pomal, an avid birdwatcher from Bhuj says, “The windmills are proving critical for vultures who are already under threat of a possible extinction. The birds are reluctant to fly over the blades. Chances of getting hit is always there. So they have now moved over to other villages.”

While vultures have been most affected by the windmills, it can also disrupt behavior of other birds in the region. Pomal says, “The big rotating blades of the windmills can also affect the flight path of birds like the Lesser Florican and Houbara Bustard. In fact, I have gave a presentation before the Bombay Natural History Society on the issue.”

There are close to 300 windmills in Kutch and many more are expected to come up. Those in Dumra, Surthari, Adikhana, Pingleswar, Kotharia, Lala and Lathedi can potentially impact life of birds in the region.

Dr Vibhu Prakash, Principal Scientist, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and in charge of the vulture breeding programme says, “Windmills do create problems for birds, especially for large birds like the raptors. They can get sucked into the windmills and get injured. However, its impact in India has not been documented so far. There have been a few studies in USA and Scotland though.”

In Kutch, till now there have been no reported cases of birds hitting windmills. R L Meena, Conservator of Forests, Kutch-Bhuj says, “We have not received any reports of birds hitting windmills in the region. However, to protect the Great Indian Bustard we have declared an area of 100,000 hectares as ‘zone of influence’ where no windmills should come up. The Great Indian Bustard is a critically endangered species and and we want to take no chances with it.”

The most notorious windfarm in the world is situated in Altamount Pass, USA where studies indicate that close to a 1,000 birds of prey die every year after flying into the blades.

In India, no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is done before setting up windmills as they are a source of clean energy. In Gujarat, the Gujarat Energy Development Agency (GEDA) is the apex body looking after energy conservation and clean energy alternatives. V H Buch, Director, GEDA says, “So far we have not received any such complaints or representation on the issue. If it does come up we will look into the matter.”

By Saurav Kumar


19 September 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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