Bird Diverter - Significance, Function

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 21, 2022, 9:18

Bird Diverter has been gaining attention in recent times. The significance of power transmission lines in transmitting electricity can't be undermined. However, they have been turning into death knells for several bird species. This includes Great Indian Bustard, an extremely endangered avian species. Overhead transmission lines running across their natural habitat in Rajasthan have been proving fatal for them. Bird diverter is a measure to reduce high mortality in avian species due to the transmission lines.

So, what is the significance and function of bird diverter? And what ruling did the Supreme Court pass in this matter? Read on to know the details.

Bird Diverter Significance

A bird diverter is a device designed to help birds avoid collision with power lines and prevent fatal accidents.

About 19000 birds of various species lose their lives every month in the Jaisalmer-Barmer area alone due to high-tension transmission lines. This was revealed through a study conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), covering an area of 6000 sq. km. The calculations indicate that more than five birds fall prey to these power lines every kilometre each month.

To cope with this issue, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Ministry of Environment, Forest Climate Change (MoEFCC) introduced firefly bird diverters in the areas with a concentrated population of Great Indian Bustard.

Why is it Essential to Preserve Great Indian Bustard?

Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is a critically threatened species with around 150 surviving members in India. It is one of the heaviest species of flying birds in the world. High-voltage power lines are one of the leading causes of high mortality in this species in the Thar desert region. Power transmission lines account for about 15% of the mortality rate of this species. If this species isn't protected, it will cease to exist in India.

Bird Diverter Function

Firefly bird diverters are suitably designed flaps that can be installed on transmission lines. Upon installation, they act as reflectors for avian species and can be spotted from a distance of around 50 meters. When birds spot these diverters, they divert their flight path. This enables species like GIB to avoid colliding with the power lines. They are called firefly bird diverters as they shine at night and resemble fireflies when seen from a distance.

However, the effectiveness of bird diverters may not be the same for all bird species. This is because smaller birds can swiftly alter their flight direction when they see the reflectors. But the same can't be said about the larger bird species. Such species find it difficult to change their direction due to their body weight and other aspects.

Supreme Court's Ruling Concerning Bird Diverters

The Supreme Court of India had directed the governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat to convert overhead transmission lines to underground lines. This order was passed in response to a public interest writ petition filed before the apex court in 2019 by a group of environmentalists. They sought the protection of two avian species on the verge of extinction: Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican. The Court had ordered the installation of bird diverters until the overhead transmission lines were converted into underground cables to save the endangered birds from accidental death.

The Centre has sought modification of the order that advised converting overhead power lines into underground ones. The plea highlighted several technical difficulties in carrying out the Supreme Court's ruling. The Centre urged the apex court to continue using high voltage and extra high voltage power cables to be laid as overhead transmission lines in the GIB habitat. It sought to take up suitable mitigation measures to address the issue, such as installing bird diverters.

More than one lakh birds are killed due to collisions with power lines every year. Bird diverter can be an effective way to prevent the loss of birdlife. Until the Centre and the Supreme Court come up with a permanent solution for this issue, bird diverter can prevent such deaths.

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FAQs on Bird Diverter

Q.1. What is the working principle of bird diverter?

Bird diverter normally functions on the principle of reflection.

Q.2. What features should be there in bird diverter?

Bird diverter must have certain features, such as the ability to glow in the darkness, rotate and swing easily, and withstand all weather conditions.

Q.3. What can be the impact of birds colliding with power lines?

When birds collide with power lines, they risk losing their lives. This impact can also cause a short circuit in the transmission line and lead to power disruption.

Q.4. Is installing a bird diverter a cost-effective measure to prevent bird deaths?

Yes, bird diverter presents a cost-effective measure to prevent bird deaths.