Story of a leaking ship

In what can only be considered a prophetic coincidence, the online version of the Port Blair-based newspaper Andaman Chronicle , carried, on August 2, two very interesting and instructive news reports related to the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands. A big meet One of the reports was about a development that has been in the making for about a couple of years. This was the announcement that the A&N administration and NITI Aayog would be organising an investors’ meet in New Delhi on August 10 for tourism projects under a plan called ‘holistic development of the islands’. The projects on four islands — Long, Neil, Smith and Aves — are being undertaken as per decisions of the Islands Development Agency (IDA) and the specifics of proposals listed for the investors meet were indeed grand: “Develop 220 rooms Premium Island Resort in 42 hectares land at Long Island, 50 beach tents in 2.75 hectares land at Aves Island, 70 premium tents & tree houses in 25 hectares land at Smith Island and 120 rooms premium beach resort in 9.75 hectares land at Bharatpur, Neil Island.” The projects also include the “setting up of infrastructure for power, water, floating jetty, adventure sports, banqueting and conferences”. The ambition and scale can be imagined from the fact that the administration is said to be simultaneously working on readying supporting infrastructure that includes “air strips, jetty, helipads, Roll On/Roll Off (RORO) ferry and roads works”. The investors’ meet in Delhi was attended by nearly 150 participants, including 40 entrepreneurs from the islands as well. Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, announced at the August 10 meeting that 100 islands in A&N and in the Lakshadweep could be opened up for tourism in the next 12 months. These announcements have been received with considerable excitement in a section of the island population, given the possible economic and livelihood opportunities. It also plays up the aspirational dimension whereby one dominant narrative is of the islands as a world-class tourism destination, a potential that has so far remained unrealised. And there can also be no space for opposition because the plan is to “provide world class and sustainable tourism infrastructure with low environmental impact and provision for socio-economic involvement of local population” with the projects also conforming to internationally acknowledged benchmarking standards.

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