The process of acquiring land can be difficult, especially in developing nations. This is true for our country, where acquiring land remains a significant barrier that frequently causes delays in the successful completion of renewable energy projects.

The agrarian nature of the Indian economy is a contributing factor to this difficulty. Land purchase in India is hindered by issues such as the loss of livelihoods, compensation provided during the acquisition process, and socio-cultural norms of land ownership, which in turn contribute to the country’s sluggish infrastructure growth and economic expansion. 

The key factors that lead to delays in renewable energy projects: 

Inefficient maintenance of land records  

Land ownership in India is determined by government survey records, registered sale deeds, and property tax records. Ambiguous property records have led to ownership-related legal challenges that have impacted renewable energy projects. Gaps in the legal system and inadequate administration of land records frequently result in legal conflicts regarding ownership. Land records are kept by several departments at the district or village level and contain a variety of information, including property details and prior transactions. Data held by departments is not promptly or appropriately updated. As a result, land records are marred by inaccuracies. When data is held by several departments, accessing land records is a cumbersome task. For anyone to stake ownership claims on property, they must sift through paperwork accumulated over years. Such convoluted procedures lead to inefficiencies and delays. 

Lack of a formal policy in certain key states 

Rajasthan has approximately 85,000 square kilometres of wasteland, much of which is made up of desert and arid areas. Jammu & Kashmir has 75,000 sq km of wasteland, whichis primarily made up of hills and has no grid connectivity. There are no explicit land allocation policies in place in most of the key states. The Central Government should exploit land availability in these regions by deploying suitable land allocation regulations, in order to capitalise on the enormous opportunity for solar and wind. Only four states, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, have formulated suitable policies for government land allocation in terms of renewable projects, while the others still suffer on this account. 

Delay in government land allotment under Solar Park Scheme for ISTS projects 

Prior to auctioning solar park projects, it’s crucial to finish the necessary land purchase requirements. There have been multiple instances where the government has rushed to auction solar park projects before all the necessary land acquisition procedures are completed. This causes delays for developers, because even after project allocation, the necessary infrastructure is not ready for them to begin developing the project . 

Lack of digitization of land records 

Digital land records can reduce the likelihood of property conflicts, and result in more open land records. The process will be made more contemporary by digitising land records. A recent study of 100 land parcels scattered over five villages and two tehsils revealed that newly computerised land records accurately reflected land ownership. Clear land titles can provide solutions to a host of problems, from allowing the poor to borrow from the official banking system, to reducing the need to acquire commercial land for infrastructure projects. 

Obtaining environmental and local clearance from authorities

There are several legal procedures that must be followed in order to gain access to land for a solar project. Numerous environmental factors, including SEBI-monitored PACL assets, wildlife, legal titles, ceiling limit, government land allotment, state rules on the sale of ancestral property, khatedari rights, and many others, control land. Unfortunately, the ongoing conflict between land seekers and conservationists has remained a barrier in India up to this point. 

Since land is a state subject, adequate coordination between state and Central Government entities is necessary for the evaluation and publishing of tenders. The anticipated due dates should match the actual situation. A critical step toward streamlining and accelerating the land allocation process is the digitisation of land records Also, in order to improve cooperation and speed-up the approvals and permissions process, fewer agencies should be involved. 

The author is MD and CEO, Datta Infra