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Great Nicobar Island UPSC NOTE

 


Great Nicobar

  • Great Nicobar, the southernmost of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has an area of 910 sq km.

  • Indira Point on the southern tip of Great Nicobar Island is India’s southernmost point, less than 150 km from the northernmost island of the Indonesian archipelago.

  • Great Nicobar is home to two national parks, a biosphere reserve.

  • It was declared a biosphere reserve in 1989 and included in the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme in 2013.

Great Nicobar

  • More than three-fourth of it is designated as a tribal reserve under The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Amendment Regulation.

  • Shompen and Nicobarese tribal peoples, along with ex-servicemen from Punjab, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh who were settled on the island in the 1970s.

Great Nicobar Project

  • The Centre’s ambitious ₹72,000-crore project.

  • To develop an international transhipment port of 14.2 mTEU cargo capacity at Galathea Bay along the island’s south-eastern coast.

  • An international airport to support 4,000 passengers during peak hours.

  • A 450 MVA gas and solar-based power plant.

  • An ecotourism and residential township of about 160 sq km.

Purpose behind the project:

  • Great Nicobar is located equidistant from Colombo and Port Klang and Singapore, and positioned close to the East-West international shipping corridor, through which a very large part of the world’s shipping trade passes.

  • The proposed international Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT) can potentially become a hub for cargo ships traveling on this route.

  • Tourism

  • Job creation

  • To counter the rising Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and Bay of Bengal.

Concerns

Environmental:

  • The government hopes to establish the offices of multinational corporations by clearing about a million trees in the tropical rainforest and destroying large parts of coral reefs.

  • The Great Nicobar Project, which is likely to come up over 130 square km of pristine forest, has been accorded environmental clearance by an expert committee.

  • However, this was challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), following which it set up an expert committee in April to investigate aspects of the clearance.

  • The quick approvals, clearances, exemptions and de-notifications show that the Union government is keen to implement this project.

  • Its marine and terrestrial biodiversity appears to have been set aside without any serious consideration.

  • Over nine lakh trees likely to be axed for the project.

  • These are evergreen tropical forests with high biological diversity and the island itself is home to nearly 650 species of flora and 330 species of fauna.

  • In lieu of the trees being chopped, compensatory afforestation would be carried out in Haryana as “the scope of plantation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is very limited,” the Minister noted.

  • To recommend afforestation as a compensation for the loss of forest in the Great Nicobar Island is unreasonable.

  • The EIA report says compensatory afforestation will be carried out in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. Far-field afforestation, that too in areas that have no ecological comparison, makes no sense.

  • The project will end up destroying vast stretches of coral reefs.

  • The report recommends ‘translocation’ of these organisms which are facing an existential threat due to climate change-induced ocean warming.

  • Transplanted corals do not have a high survival rate and are susceptible to bleaching, according to various studies.

Tribals:

  • More than three-fourth of the Island is designated as a tribal reserve.

  • The agenda to convert it  into a commercial hub to compete with the international port in Singapore will run counter to the rights of vulnerable tribal communities such as the Nicobarese and Shompen, who have been living in these areas for thousands of years and who depend on the forests for survival.

Tectonic instability:

  • Great Nicobar Island is located close to the epicentre of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which displaced the sea floor by 10-20m vertically .

  • EIA report : Great Nicobar lies in close proximity to the Ring of Fire and the Tsunami of 26 December 2004.

  • Prone it is to severe natural disasters.

  • EIA report fails to mention scientific studies during and prior to the 2004 earthquake.

  • The coastline of the Great Nicobar Islands, which was raised earlier, sank several meters during the earthquake and now it is slowly regaining its original height relative to the sea level.

  • The repeated up and down movement of land in response to such earthquakes makes the Great Nicobar Island unsuitable to be developed as an urban port city.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Great Nicobar Island UPSC NOTE
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