Development Project In The Great Nicobar Island:
The recently released draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the mega development project in the Great Nicobar Island has raised serious questions related to submission of incorrect or incomplete information, scientific inaccuracy and failure to follow appropriate procedure.
- A committee of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued Terms of Reference (ToR) to prepare the EIA report in May 2021.
- Earlier, a plan for the sustainable and holistic development of the 680 sq km, fragile Little Andaman Island in the Andaman and Nicobar group had raised the alarm among conservationists.
- NITI Aayog-piloted Rs. 72,000-crore integrated project in Great Nicobar includes construction of a mega port, an airport complex, a township spread over 130 sq. km of pristine forest and a solar and gas-based power plant.
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation Ltd. (ANIIDCO) is the project proponent.
- Ecologists and researchers have been raising concerns about this project for over a year.
- The area of the island is mentioned in one place as 1,045 sq. km, while it is 910 sq. km (the current official figure) in another.
- It was reported that the Galathea port area does not record any coral reefs, whereas the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) study shows that the coral reef spread over 116 hectares in Galathea Bay.
- Galathea Bay is an iconic nesting site in India of the enigmatic Giant Leatherback, the world’s largest marine turtle—borne out by surveys done over three decades.
- 330 species of fauna are recorded in the island, while the same ZSI study puts the number at more than double at 695.
- The EIA says in another place no migratory birds have been reported from Great Nicobar, whereas it is well known that these islands are located along two globally significant bird flyways and more than 40 species of migratory birds have been recorded from Great Nicobar.
- The EIA report was expected to have details of the project proponent’s (ANDICO) environmental policy such as its standard operating process, procedures for highlighting violation of environmental and forest norms and for ensuring compliance with environmental clearance conditions.
- The undertaking, issued by the Directorate of Tribal Welfare, the agency tasked with the primary job of securing the rights of the indigenous people on the islands.
- It first assures that “the right of the tribal shall be well protected and taken care of” and,
- Then goes on to conclude that “whenever any exemption from the existing regulations/policies/law of the land are required to be provided for the execution of the project, this Directorate will seek required exemptions(s) from the competent authority to that effect”.