Rajasthan High Court Stays World's Largest Solar Project near Sambhar Lake Wetland

Reported by

Kuber Bathla

Legal Data by

Anmol Gupta, Mukta Joshi

Edited by

Moushumi Sharma

Updated by

Published on

March 24, 2022

March 24, 2022

Updated on

March 24, 2022

Location of Conflict

Sambhar

Jaipur

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Renewable Power

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

Households Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

6475

ha

Starting Year

2014

State

Rajasthan

Sector

Power

In 2013, it was reported that the Union government was planning to set up an ultra-mega solar power project in an area close to the Sambhar Salt Lake in Jaipur. The then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, had announced the project during his visit to the district. The plant was proposed to have a capacity of 4,000 megawatt, making it the world’s largest solar power project in the world, requiring an area of around 16,000 acres. However, when Vasundhara Raje became the chief minister in 2014, she appealed to the High Court of Rajasthan against the project, citing environmental concerns.

The chief minister was reportedly concerned about the migratory birds in the region, and she highlighted that the site of the proposed plant is a notified wetland, which is supposed to protect the birds. She also sent letters to Praful Patel, the then minister of heavy industries, along with two other ministries and six public sector undertakings. In the high court, the Union government stated that it had no active plan to establish a solar power project in the region, and the petition was subsequently dismissed.

Since 2017, the high court has registered two suo motu petitions to examine whether effective steps are being taken to protect and preserve major wetlands covered by the Ramsar Convention. Several surveys have been carried out in the region to assess the reasons behind the death of migratory birds, scarcity of water and illegal extraction of salt. In this regard, alleged illegal salt extraction by Sambhar Salts Limited, a subsidiary of Hindustan Salts Limited, also came into question, and the issue** **is currently being reviewed by an expert panel formed by the court. Hindustan Salts Limited is a state-owned salt manufacturer. It plans to use the land allotted to the company near the lake to develop the solar project.

While the cases are pending, the most recent order of the high court from December 20, 2021, directed Hindustan Salts Limited to stop the work on the project until the court examines the “issues concerning setting up such a large-scale power project near the lake area and its possible impact on the environment and ecosystem of the lake”. The court ordered this on the basis of a news report, which stated that a solar plant at the site could “could wipe out the ecosystem with all its genetic diversity”.

In the same report, the chairperson and managing director (MD) of Hindustan Salts Limited was quoted as saying, “Solar plants come under the ‘wise use’ category. That’s why environmental clearance is not required.” In 2014, R.K. Tondon, the then MD of Sambhar Salts Limited, said that salt extraction happens only in a small part of the total land owned by the PSU and that a green project is “the best way to utilise the surplus land without harming the wetland”. However, according to Section 45(f) of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, any kind of permanent structure cannot be constructed on wetlands.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Opposition against environmental degradation

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

28000

Type of investment:

Investment Expected

Year of Estimation

2013

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010
Section 4 [Prohibition of setting up of new industries and expansion of the existing ones on wetlands]
Electricity Act, 2003
Section 25 [Power given to the Union government to make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act]
Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017
Rule 5 [Land unavailable for allotment of such projects to include land situated in catchment area of any tank, river, etc.]
Rajasthan Land Revenue (Allotment of Land for Setting up of Power Plant based on Renewable Energy Sources) Rules, 2007
Rule 5 [Land unavailable for allotment of such projects to include land situated in catchment area of any tank, river, etc.]
Point 15.1 [Allotment of government land for such projects to be done according to Rajasthan Land Revenue (Allotment of Land for Setting up of Power Plant based on Renewable Energy Sources) Rules, 2007)]
  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  2. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  3. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  4. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  5. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  6. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  7. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Violation of environmental laws

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

High Court of Rajasthan (Jaipur Bench)

Case Number

CW/6457/2014, CW/6539/2017, CW/19023/2019

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

CW/6457/2014: This writ petition, along with CW/4889/2013, was filed in public interest due to a request made by then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. The petitions requested the Union government to not take up the proposal of setting up an ultra mega solar power project (UMSPP) at Sambhar Salt Lake, stating that the project was in direct contravention with the provisions of Wet Lands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, along with other state laws. In response, the Union government clarified that it had no plans to set up a solar energy plant in the area. As a result, the petitions were dismissed by the High Court of Rajasthan. CW/6539/2017: The writ petition was registered suo motu by the High Court of Rajasthan (Jaipur Bench). The issue taken up by the court was the preservation of two major wetlands covered by the Ramsar Convention, namely Sambhar Salt Lake and Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur. An application was filed by the amicus curiae, pointing out that Hindustan Salt Limited (HSL) has initiated steps for setting up a large solar plant around the Sambhar Lake. On December 20, 2021, the court passed an interim order that the respondents could continue to accept bids for the project but no further steps could be taken. On January 25, 2022, the court examined the reply filed by HSL and it was pointed out that no bids have been invited for setting up of a solar plant. The counsel for HSL stated that “the company only wishes to explore the possibility of setting up the solar plant”. The court allowed the company to open the bids received but they could not be accepted nor a contract could be awarded by leave of the court. The matter was slated to be heard on March 23, 2022. However, no order has been uploaded for the same.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

No items found.

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

No items found.

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Rajasthan State Wetland Authority; Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority; Principal Secretary, Forest Department, Government of Rajasthan; Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Hindustan Salts Limited, Sambhar Salts Limited

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

LCW reached out to Vikram Kesharee Pradhan, director cum joint secretary, state environment department, and Shreya Guha, principal secretary, forest department, via phone and email but did not receive any response.

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

Image Credit:  

Documented By

Text Link

Reviewed By

Text Link

Updated By

Text Link

Edited By

Text LinkLand Conflict Watch
X

Support our work

Your contribution ensures continuity of this crucial project.

As a member, you will get exclusive access to special reports, policy papers and research projects undertaken by Land Conflict Watch and behind-the-scenes interactions with the writers and researchers about their work.
Join Now