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Great Nicobar Development Project

Context: Recently, nearly 100 former civil servants, have written to the President protesting the government’s push for a mega-infrastructure project in the Great Nicobar island.

About Andaman and Nicobar Islands

  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a cluster of about 836 islands in the eastern Bay of Bengal.
  • The clusters comprise of two island groups, the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands, separated by the 150-km wide Ten Degree Channel.
Great Nicobar Development Project
Great Nicobar Development Project
  • The Andaman Islands lie to the north of the channel and the Nicobar Islands to the south.
  • Great Nicobar Island (GNI), the southernmost last mass of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is the largest of the cluster of islands with an area of about 910 sq km.

About Great Nicobar Island (GNI)

  • It includes two national parks, and a biosphere reserve, and is home to the Shompen and Nicobarese tribes.
  • Nicobar island has among the best-preserved tropical forests in the world.
  • It is home to nearly 650 species of flora and 330 species of fauna, including endemic species such as the Nicobar shrew, the Nicobar long-tailed macaque, the Great Nicobar crested serpent eagle, the Nicobar paradise flycatcher and the Nicobar megapode
  • Indira Point, earlier known as Pygmalion Point, lies at the tip of the Great Nicobar Island and is the southernmost point of the country.

About Project

  • ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Islands in Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ project is being spearheaded by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO) under a vision plan conceived by the NITI Aayog.
  • Objective: Leveraging the locational advantage of being on the international sea route and develop GNI as a sustainable, green, global destination for business, trade, and leisure.
    • Employment: The initiation of the project will mark a steep rise in employment opportunities.
  • Main Components of the Project
Component Features
International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT)
  • It has the capacity to handle 14.2 million TEUs (units of cargo capacity):
  • It will allow Great Nicobar to participate in the regional and global maritime economy by becoming a major player in cargo transhipment.
  • Development of a transhipment terminal would attract existing traffic from ports along the eastern coast of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, as they form the primary catchment for transhipment terminals.
Greenfield International Airport
  • It would be developed as a “joint military-civil, dual-use airport”, under the operational control of the Indian Navy and will cater to tourism as well.
A Township
  • It consists of a mixed-use development area that will link the infrastructure facilities to complete the physical framework of the new city.
  • A 450-MVA gas and solar power plant spread over 16,610 hectares in Great Nicobar Islands

Concern With the Project

  • Forest Diversion: Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has granted an in-principle (Stage 1) clearance for the diversion of 130.75 sq km of forest in Great Nicobar Island for the mega ₹72,000-crore project.
    • It is one of the largest single such forest diversions in recent times.
    • It is nearly a quarter of all the forest land diverted in the past three years across the country and 65% of the 203 sq km of forest land diverted in the three year period 2015-18.
  • Loss Of Forest Cover: It will see around 8.5 lakh trees in pristine rainforests being felled, and the loss of 12 to 20 hectares of mangrove cover.
    • Coral reef along the coast of the bay could be destroyed by dredging while the port is being constructed.
  • Concern with compensatory afforestation: It will be carried out on “non-notified forest land” in Haryana.
    • Haryana has one of the highest rates of diversion of its own forest land even though the forest cover in the State is minimal.
    • The State diverted nearly 80 sq km of its forest between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the highest for any State in the country for that period.
  • Volatility of the Area: In the wake of the deadly Tsunami, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur prepared a report which claimed that approximately 8-metre-high waves hit the shores of Andaman on December 26, 2004 as a result of which a lighthouse on Indira Point, the southernmost point of India, got submerged in water.
    • This is a clear indication that the area is extremely volatile and a slight tweak into the normal indices could result in a catastrophe.
  • Displacement of Tribal Communities: The proposed Development Plan fails to recognize the rights of the tribals and falls short of expectations.
    • It threatens to displace the ‘extremely vulnerable’ Shompen tribe as well deliver a significant blow to the ecology of the island.
Great Nicobar Project
Great Nicobar Project

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