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India’s giant solar project in Thar desert runs into environmental hurdle

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India’s Thar Desert Solar Project

India’s large project execution record has been quite pathetic in recent years due to policy paralysis, vested interests, delays due to environment issues etc. etc. Thinking that solar projects would be exempt from these systemic issues is a pipe dream. India recently decided to turbo charge its solar energy building capacity by developing giant solar farms in 4-5 areas of the country. These massive solar power plants with millions of solar panels would allow the already low price of solar electricity to become even lower due to economies of scale.

One of the first large scale ultra-mega power plants with 4000 MW of capacity to be built in the desert state of Rajasthan has run into a hurdle. This project where feasibility studies have started and 20,000 acres of land have been allotted is now stalling. The reason is that the state government thinks that it will have a major environmental impact on migratory birds that visit the salt water lake of Sambhar. Note the area of the solar project had already been cut down due to this reason earlier. This problem that has come again, is an issue because this has been the main reason why India’s economy is in a rut. There is speculation that the state government is not really concerned about the birds, rather it does not want to go ahead with this project because it was conceived during the previous government led by the Congress at the state and the center.

The massive project would generate thousands of jobs in the next 4-5 years and lead to curtailment in India’s large energy deficit. However, politics as usual trumps rational sense in India. India had earlier got 5-6 of its large centrally owned PSUs to form a JV to set up this large solar power plant.


India has announced plans to build the world’s biggest solar-power generating facility on a salt-producing plain in Rajasthan, but experts say the massive project may still face ecological hurdles. Backers say the project will sit on dried-up land no longer required for salt production.

“There is almost 30 square miles of barren land surrounding the (Sambhar Lake) site which could be well-utilised for green energy production,” R.K. Tandon, chairman and managing director of Hindustan Salts Limited, one of the partners in the solar plan

The company providing the land for the project controls 58,000 acres (90 square miles) in the area, and the catchment of Sambhar Lake covers 60 square miles, according to the Sambhar Master Plan prepared by the state government.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Suryaprakash Rao

    The In the first place how did the project report was submitted, evaluated, approved for execution with such loose ends?

    How did the project neglect environmental issues?

    The Nation cannot afford delaying such crucial projects. It gives a feeling that the working methodologies are week in support. Further it raises questions and creates fear on the makeup of planning commission!

    National projects shall be global in nature for their purpose, utility and independent of ruling parties. None shall have neither claim on project’s conception, execution nor completion. There shall be executed with excellence to achieve only success and no claim of its success by an individual or a party. They shall be dedicated to Nation with regular monitoring for best performance. Every individual shall question: Am I doing or playing my part or role in complete, in best possible way, safe, …?

    The project formats need revision. The guidelines for draft project report submission shall be made more complete. There is no dearth for such help or situations analogous.

    Our Nation is rich in Solar and so wind and wave energy sources.

    For example, consider:
    Project: Production of fuel cells based on solar energy and export to the needy.


  2. Dr Deep Kumar Gupta

    Once a King over ruled such nasty notings on Silent Valley Project saying my people are dearer to me than deers, the project will continue. Govt is to take hard decisions particularlywhen it is well known that many environmentalists or rather having anti national agenda. Govt is voted for taking actions and notbowing down to such moves that solar parks shall affect ecosystem. The fact is solar panels use only photo range of light, the other two components heat and electromagnetic componrnts are not touched. I cannot understand why the birds will not like darker ground reflection. When it comes to lives every one is adaptable to changed conditions.