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The Greatly Unfortunate Indian Bustard

The Greatly Unfortunate Indian Bustard

A great Indian bustard in Kutch. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Prajwalkm, CC BY-SA 3.0

Why would a shoddily written, poorly-titled hit-piece – targeting a critically endangered bird and its mistreated grassland habitat, both struggling on the fringe of India’s conservation consciousness – make it so big across so many news channels?

An article in Bloomberg fearlessly ran down the great Indian bustard, saying that efforts to save this “slow”, “easily-frightened” bird with “bad eyesight” held risks for “green energy” projects, cast as god’s very own gifts to the “wastelands” of an energy-hungry nation.

A screenshot of the article in Bloomberg.

Instead of making other news outlets cautious, this piece was syndicated across multiple big business news channels. It was mostly run as-is, but the title was often creatively spun to ensure the bird got a good rap and a bad rep.

National media, regional language dailies and energy news channels, and many others who readily bled green, were all worried sick about an irresponsible bird that was jeopardising our renewable energy dream.

Yet the timing and synchrony of this outpouring of concern for our renewable energy projects remained unclear until I read a Twitter thread by Sashwat Mohanty, about his article in Economic Times.

According to the article, “Renewable energy companies are set to seek a revision of the Supreme Court order from April earlier this year for the undergrounding of power lines in Gujarat and Rajasthan to protect the habitat of the great Indian bustard, said people aware of the matter.”

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The article mentions the following companies by name: including Adani Green, Tata Power Renewables, ReNew Power, Hero Future Energies and Avaada.

So a full gaggle of ‘green energy’ companies, including all the usual culprits, were planning to appeal a Supreme Court order that supported the conservation and well-being of the critically-endangered bustard over their profits.

How nice it would be to show in the Supreme Court that so many different news outlets had written about the unspeakable injustice being heaped upon a community of environmentally-concerned, green-energy luminaries, on the pretext of conserving an ungainly, half-blind bird.

The same world of wealth that strings and quarters the bustards, and erases their homes, also funds our media. Little wonder then that – without irony or awkwardness – it flipped the bird at a beleaguered bustard.

The contents of this article originally appeared in a Twitter thread published by the author. The Wire Science has compiled the tweets and published them here with permission.

M.D. Madhusudan is an independent researcher who has worked on ecological research and wildlife conservation projects in Karnataka for nearly three decades. He co-founded the Nature Conservation Foundation and worked there for 23 years.

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