THER GREAT NICOBAR PROJECT

The Union government will not allow the displacement of tribespeople to make way for the ₹72,000-crore Great Nicobar island project, the Tribal Affairs Ministry told the Rajya Sabha.

About the project:

  • The project, being implemented by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO), includes:
  • International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT)
  • The proposed port will handle 14.2 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) of cargo capacity.
  • It will allow Great Nicobar to participate in the regional and global maritime economy by becoming a major player in cargo transshipment.

Greenfield International Airport

  • The proposed Great Nicobar Island International Airport (GNIIA) will be developed as an international airport in Great Nicobar Islands.
  • The airstrip will be developed to cater for operation of Airbus A-380 type of aircraft, in all weather conditions.
  • The airport 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.

Township

  • The Township project consists of a mixed-use development area that will link the infrastructure facilities to complete the physical framework of the new city.
  • It will be made up of commercial, industrial and residential zones, but a major chunk of the land will be set apart for different types of tourism projects and activities.

Power-Plant

  • The project proposes the development of a power plant near the ICTT, with capacity to produce sufficient electrical power to run the new city.
  • The power generation plan for the project envisages solar plants, gas based plants and some diesel generating stations in initial days.
  • Diesel gensets shall be used in initial phase of development.
  • About 10 per cent is planned through solar panels and the balance shall be gas based.
  • In November 2022, the project had received Stage 1 clearance from the Union Environment and Forest Ministry to divert 130.75 sq.km. of forest land for the purpose.
  • The port will be controlled by the Indian Navy.
  • The airport will have dual military-civilian functions and will cater to tourism as well.
  • Roads, public transport, water supply and waste management facilities, and several hotels have been planned to cater to tourists.

Diversion:

  • A total 166.1 sq km along the southeastern and southern coasts of the island have been identified for project along a coastal strip of width between 2 km and 4 km.
  • Some 130 sq km of forests have been sanctioned for diversion, and 9.64 lakh trees are likely to be felled.

Timeline

  • The project is to be implemented in phases over the next 30 years.
  • The first phase would extend to 2036 (from 2021), and the second phase would stretch from 2037 to 2051, but the container terminal would become operational around 2027-28.

Need of the project:

  • The island has a lot of tourism potential, but the government’s greater goal is to leverage the locational advantage of the island for economic and strategic reasons.
  • Great Nicobar is equidistant from Colombo to the southwest and Port Klang and Singapore to the southeast, 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 ICTT can potentially become a hub for cargo ships travelling on this route.

The concerns

  • The proposed massive infrastructure development comes under an ecologically important and fragile region.
  • The loss of tree cover will not only affect the flora and fauna on the island, it will also lead to increased runoff and sediment deposits in the ocean, impacting the coral reefs in the area.
  • Coral reefs, already under threat from warming oceans, are of enormous ecological importance.
  • Environmentalists have also flagged the loss of mangroves on the island as a result of the development project.

About the Island

  • Great Nicobar, the southernmost of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has an area of 910 sq km.
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a cluster of about 836 islands in the eastern Bay of Bengal, the two groups of which are separated by the 150-km wide Ten Degree Channel.
  • The Andaman Islands lie to the north of the channel, and the Nicobar Islands to the south.
  • Indira Point on the southern tip of Great Nicobar Island is India’s southernmost point.
  • Great Nicobar is home to two national parks, a biosphere reserve, and the Shompen and Nicobarese tribal peoples, along with ex-servicemen from Punjab, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh who were settled on the island in the 1970s.
  • The Shompen are hunter-gatherers who depend on forest and marine resources for sustenance.
  • The Nicobarese, who lived along the west coast of the island were mostly relocated after the 2004 tsunami.

Biodiversity:

  • The Great Nicobar Island has tropical wet evergreen forests.
  • The leatherback sea turtle is the island’s flagship species.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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