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Land Challenge for Green Power

  • IASbaba
  • September 23, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Conservation

Land Challenge for Green Power

Context: As India switches from fossil fuel to clean energy, it will trigger a race to establish mega green power plants.

  • This in turn would necessitate the need for substantial land to establish large spreads of solar panels. 

Issues/ Concerns 

  • Huge Land Requirement: If India wants to go ahead with its plan to implement its net-zero target by 2050, solar could occupy anything between 50,000 and 75,000 square kilometres of land, while wind could occupy an additional 15,000 to 20,000 sq km
    • The amount of land that could be needed for solar is equivalent to 1.7-2.5 per cent of the country’s total landmass, or 2.2-3.3 per cent of its non-forested land. 
  • Disproportionate impact on small farmers: Push for green power (solar & wind power) could lead into land acquisition spree by private players, which could eat away the lands of farmers on the margins of cities and urban clusters.
  • Environmental Imbalances: Environmental concerns may be brushed aside in the name of green power to accommodate huge stretches of solar panels. In long run, this could create imbalances in the ecosystem impacting the biodiversity of the region.
  • Food Security: Green projects even eat into agricultural or forested land. Such projects may generate clean energy from sunlight but cannot produce food.
  • Vulnerability of the Poor: Unless regulated, it could be the repeat of 1970s Mumbai when dishonest realtors forced simple folk to give up their properties at throwaway prices and converted farmlands into housing jungles.
  • Alternative in Wastelands is not without concern: Earlier it was suggested that wastelands’ or ‘zero impact areas’ be used to set up renewable energy parks. However, environmentalists have pointed out that areas designated as ‘wastelands’ could “actually be fragile and home to unique ecosystems”. 
    • These ‘Open Natural Ecosystems’ are also the source of essential fodder to feed our 500 million livestock. 

Way Ahead

  • Balancing Environment & Developmental needs: Recently, the Supreme Court asked for transmission lines evacuating solar energy in Rajasthan to be laid underground to reduce the threat to the already threatened bird species, the Great Indian Bustard. 
  • Policy Intervention: Developing clear environmental and social criteria for rating potential sites.
  • Regionally Balanced development: Limiting undue regional concentration and supporting widely distributed renewable generation.
  • Promoting Innovations that reduces need for land: 
    • Solar can continue to use more and more rooftops, even those belonging to large public and private institutions. 
    • Some designs that need minimum land use such as solar trees and solar canopies could generate large amounts of energy. 
    • Also, one can tap into artificial water bodies where floating solar projects are a possibility. 
    • Wind energy can innovate to use rooftops (options are already available) and experiment with offshore wind projects
  • Nurturing the ‘agrivoltaics’ sector: This means helping farmlands that make up the country’s 60.4 per cent total surface host both wind and solar projects. Wind turbines can be easily set up in farms and so can a host of solar trees.
    • In the right conditions, they are seen to maintain yields, and reduce soil moisture loss. 
    • However, extended research needs to be done on this method to establish optimal conditions for different geographies and crops. 

Connecting the dots:

News Source: Business Line

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