Projects worth Rs 75,000 crore on Great Nicobar Island show green flag

The Environment Department panel on Wednesday approved the controversial 16,610-hectare project on the island of Great Nicobar. The project which is expected to cost Rs 75,000 crore will include the construction of a greenfield international airport, an international container terminal, a township and a power station, according to a report by Economic Period (ET) declared.

“The Indian Ocean region in general and the Indian Ocean in particular have become a strategic hotspot in recent years. In response to the growing strategic value of this IOR, a critical mass of development in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is needed to enhance India’s regional presence,” the report said, according to HEY.

The island was declared a biosphere reserve in 1989 and was included in UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere program in 2013. The report adds that the projects will require the felling of more than 850,000 trees and the loss of 12 to 20 hectares of mangrove forests. This will lead to a considerable loss of corals and claim more than 298 hectares of seabed.

The Infrastructure Projects Evaluation Expert Committee has approved the projects. But according to the minutes of the meeting, this will cause great harm to the flora and fauna of the island.

The island is home to the Shompen tribe, as well as rare flora and fauna such as the Nicobar megapode, leatherback turtles, the endemic Nicobar macaque, and saltwater crocodiles. Nearly 30 of the 51 Nicobar megapode nests will be permanently destroyed, the ET report added.

However, the panel indicated that three independent committees will be set up. One will oversee pollution-related issues, another will deal with biodiversity, and the third will oversee welfare and issues related to the Shompen and Nicobarese tribes.

Lynn A. Saleh