PUNE: Environmental activists and experts have said that “green norms” are needed to regulate the country’s wind energy projects. It should include mandatory environment impact assessment (EIA), they added. The country’s wind power capacity wind power is expected to double in 2017.
Many projects have been planned in forest areas and have an impact on the local ecology, states a report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), released here on Wednesday. The report has documented the environmental impact of wind power in many parts of the country including Maharashtra. Suggestions have been invited and a final report will be submitted to the Union government.
The CSE study states that the demand for forest land by the wind power industry has increased rapidly in the last seven years. A total 3,454 hectare forest land has been diverted for wind projects of which 31% is in Maharashtra. Till 2006, only 478 hectare forest land was diverted for wind projects. “Our conclusion is that if a wind project is set up close to human settlements, it may cause significant health impacts. We also find that projects sites on forest land and hilly areas have greater impact on ecology and water resources, compared to projects in plains,” said Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general.
In its report, the study states that commercial wind turbines have a height of 100-150 meters, generate noise and shadow flicker which can disturb nearby communities-leading to stress and attacks in epileptics.
It also reports that building roads in forests can cause linear fragmentation which could hinder migration of animals. It also leads to soil erosion. Studies in India have confirmed birds and bat deaths from wind farms. The report states that bats can be affected by the changing air-pressure around wind turbines. The Western Ghats and other hilly areas, considered good wind locations, are also home to many threatened species of bats.
Rohan Bhate, honorary wildlife warden, said that the tiger movement in the Sahyadri tiger reserve and Chandoli national park had altered, perhaps due to the road construction work done for windmill projects in the area.
The report recommends that based on a feasibility study, detailed Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) needs to be carried out to assess the overall impact. It further states that an Environment Management Plan (EMP) be prepared for each location. The report suggests that the benefits be shared with the local community, including the first right of the community over the power produced by the wind projects.
“We are not against wind power, but we think that systems need to be in place to ensure ecological damage does not occur,” said Bhushan.
Forest officials review impact on wildlife
State forest department officials said that there has been detrimental effect on birds in Maharashtra due to windmills and recommended the use of satellite mapping to keep a watch over forest cover while granting clearances for projects.
“There has been a detrimental impact on birds. Forest officials do not have proper knowledge about birds. Agencies like BNHS and WII should carry out detailed mapping of migratory birds, so that their paths can be avoided while setting up windmills,” said Anurag Chaudhary, Chief Conservator of Forest and Silviculturist, Maharashtra Forest Department.
Chief conservator of forests, Pune, Jeet Singh, said that there was a need to set up an integrated authority comprising of experts, NGO and locals which would make a recommendation to the forest department regarding the suitability of the site for wind power.
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