Great Nicobar Project
- Great Nicobar Infrastructure Planned: A military-civil, dual-use airport, international container trans-shipment terminal, a gas, diesel, and solar-based power plant, and a township will be developed on the island.
- The proposed joint military-civil, dual-use airport will be under Indian Navy’s operational control.
- Permission: The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) were tasked with analysing the impact of the Great Nicobar project on biodiversity.
- They found that the project site would not directly cause harm to flora and fauna of the islands.
Great Nicobar: Concerns Associated with the Project
- Forest and mangrove destruction: In Great Nicobar Project Around 8.5 lakh trees in pristine rainforests will be cut to facilitate the Great Nicobar Project.
- There will be a loss of 12 to 20 hectares of mangrove cover because of Great Nicobar Project.
- Coral relocation: Around 10 hectares of coral cover will have to be translocated from the proposed site.
- Approximately 16,150 of the existing 20,668 coral colonies will be translocated.
- Indigenous communities: Original inhabitants belonging to the indigenous Shompen and Nicobarese tribes will be affected.
- The area will be prone to human-induced diseases due to the expected influx of domestic and international populations.
- Fauna affected: The leatherback sea turtles, Nicobar megapode (a flightless bird endemic to the Nicobar Islands), Nicobar Macaque and saltwater crocodiles are some of the rare fauna that will be affected.
- Protected areas: The Great Nicobar Project area falls within a 10 km radius of the Galathea Bay National Park and the Campbell Bay National Park.
- However, it falls outside the ecologically-sensitive zone notified around the two national parks.
Great Nicobar: Protective Measures Suggested
- Wildlife Corridors: The environment committee has directed authorities to construct wildlife corridors at eight locations connecting the forest and seashore.
- Specialised Medical Unit: A specialized unit with top notch facilities will be set up to monitor possibility of effects on indigenous communities.
- Turtle Protection: Intensive assessment and research will be conducted on the turtles and their movements to ensure an appropriate mitigation strategy is in place.
- Protection of nesting on trees: Clearing of trees must be carried out in a phased manner to ensure the safeguard of species nesting and living within the trees.
- Disposal of Waste: Disposal of hazardous waste material, including batteries, pesticides, organochlorines, etc have been strictly forbidden.
- Waste generated should be either recycled and reused or must be transported carefully from the Great Nicobar Islands to the mainland for safe disposal.
Great Nicobar: Strategic Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- Access to the region: The islands provide India with a geostrategic advantage in the Bay of Bengal and access to South and Southeast Asia.
- Choke points: The islands are located close to one of the major choke-points of the world, the Malacca strait.
- India’s growing naval capabilities can play a significant role in controlling access to the region.
- Trade hub: The Andaman and Nicobar islands are nearer to East Asia than Indian mainland. The islands can be developed as an export hub.