India kicked off its energy diversiﬁcation into wind energy in the 1980s when the Government of India setup the Commission for Additional Sources of Energy (CASE). India has a potential of harnessing 48,500 MW at 50 meter height and 102,788 MW at 80 meter height of energy from wind projects.
Gujarat has the highest potential to generate energy from wind; 10,609 MW at 50-meter height and 35,071 MW at 80-meter height.
From the year 2001 onwards the Gujarat State Government implemented a special road map of local area development for the Kutch district by integrating it into the global economy. Since then, vast tracks of wasteland, coast line and grassland areas in Kutch have been allotted to various Indian and foreign corporations for establishing various industries, including wind and solar energy projects. The area affected by wind mills belongs to coastal line villages and villages surrounding the Little Rann of Kutch.
The barricading of land by massive industrial units and development of infrastructure projects for building roads has blocked the traditional passages which the pastorals and their herds used as migration routes. This has resulted in increasing marginalisation of all the traditional communities having natural resource base economies. It has increased social violence, crime rates and corruption in the region.
Companies such as Suzlon, Vestas, and NEPC have established hundreds of Wind Power production units across the Little Rann of Kutch. The biggest wind farm is being built by Suzlon Company, which includes a cluster of windmills surrounding the Little Rann at Amaliyara, Sinoi, Shikarpur, Lathedi, Changdi, Bhada, Nanisindhodi, Jakhau, Vanku, Jamanwada, Suthari and Kadodi villages.
The first turbine of the Suzlon Wind Farm was commissioned at Lathedi way back in December 2005. By 2014 the company completed the installation of 1100 MW of hybrid windmills at this park. Now, the Suzlon Group is planning to complete the 2000 MW Kutch wind park in the next three years. Once this farm is finished, it will become the world’s largest wind farm at a singular location or belt.
The Little Rann of Kutch is a Wild Life Sanctuary for the Wild Ass, and authorities have been trying to ban the entry of other migrating cattle herds and salt panning activities for several years triggering a strong social resistance by the local marginalised salt farmers, cattle breeders and fishermen. Also, wind energy companies like Suzlon are allotted land for setting up wind farms at the cost of dispossessing common lands of indigenous people. Large scale wind farms pose a great danger to Indian grasslands and scrublands, which are oﬃcially known as 'waste' lands. Such areas have little if any protection from the law when it comes to land grabs or protection from environmental degradation.
India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) assumes that, because wind farms produce renewable energy, no environmental impact assessment (EIA) of these projects is required (‘Environmental Impact Assessment Notiﬁcation, 2006, MoEF&CC). However, wind mills have several socio-environmental impacts. Several organisations like the Centre for Science and Environment are lobbying the Indian Government to bring wind power projects under the mandate of environmental impact assessment.
The most visible impact that wind mills have on the natural world is their impact on birds and bats. The LRK (Little Rann of Kutch) Landscape is a 6979 sq km ecosystem that is home to the wild ass. A saline desert, the LRK resembles a reservoir during the monsoons. Nanda is the only place in LRK with a resident human population of about 400. In the three months of the monsoon, the wild asses move to the raifed islands of Pung, Mardak and Banjana. Rich in marine life, the Gulf of Kutch is the breeding ground for endemic prawn species. Many migratory birds come to this wetland and flamingoes congregate in two or three sites.
Windmills and the transmission lines not only pose a risk to the critically endangered birds, like Great Indian Bustards, but also to other species including vultures, Macqueen’s Bustard (Houbara Bustard), Lesser Florican and White Backed vultures. In fact, according to Vibhu Prakash, Principal Scientist, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), who is also in charge of the vulture breeding programme, “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.”
Alongside these impacts, the setting up of infrastructure, such as substations, maintenance oﬃces and the turbines themselves, leads to the introduction of weeds in grazing lands. In Kutch the changing grass compositions also has a direct impact on pastoral communities as well as people dependent on animal husbandry.
Furthermore, local communities hosting these projects are still living in conditions of poor electricity supply. Often they pay high electricity rates to their respective state electricity boards despite having hundreds of wind turbines at their doorsteps. These projects either generate any substantial employment for the host communities. Despite regular maintenance of turbines is required, this is made by high skilled engineers from outside these communities. At best these wind farms generate a few security jobs for local villagers who guard the windmills. Yet, these are low wage jobs, as they are outsourced to private security agencies.