NITI Aayog vision for Great Nicobar 

 

#GS3    Conservation, Environmental Pollution, and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

#GS2    Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.


 

  • News info:
    In recent news on Little Andaman Island, more than 150 sq. km. of land is being made available for Phase I of a NITI Aayog-piloted ‘holistic’ and ‘sustainable’ vision for Great Nicobar Island(southernmost in the Andaman and Nicobar group). 
  • This amounts to nearly 18% of the 910 sq. km.  island, and will cover nearly a quarter of its coastline. The overall plan envisages the use of about 244 sq. km. — a major portion being pristine forest and coastal systems.

Projects planned:

Phase I 

  1. include a 22 sq. km. airport complex, 
  2. a transshipment port (TSP) at South Bay at an estimated cost of ₹12,000 crore, 
  3. a parallel-to-the-coast mass rapid transport system and
  4. a free trade zone and warehousing complex on the south western coast.

Concerns in the Project:

  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO) is designated as the nodal agency for the project, in mid-2020 and the speed at which the project is getting unfolded.  
  • NITI Aayog is taking the Centre stage in the project which is mainly planned on the sensitive ecological zone.

Ecological uniqueness:

India’s National Marine Turtle Action Plan had listed Galathea Bay as one of the ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and ‘Important Marine Turtle Habitats’ in the country. It is included in Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)-I.

National Marine Turtle Action Plan

Aim: To strengthen and sustain collective and collaborative sea turtle conservation through the monitoring of key sites and a network of partners in the Indian sub-continent.

  • It clearly defines actions to be taken for handling stranded animals on the shore, stranded or entangled animals in the sea or on a boat, reducing threats to marine species and their habitats, rehabilitation, etc.

IUCN Status of Indian Turtles:

  1. Olive Ridley – Vulnerable
  2. Green turtle – Endangered
  3. Loggerhead – Vulnerable
  4. Hawksbill – Critically Endangered
  5. Leather back – Vulnerable
  • They are protected in Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, under Schedule I.
  • They are also protected under the Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation program.

Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)

The coastal areas - seas, bays, creeks, rivers, and backwaters which get influenced by tides up to 500 m form the high tide line (HTL).

The land between the Low tide line (LTL) and the High tide line(HTL) was declared as Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) in 1991.

  • The coastal regulation zones have been declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate change (MoEFCC) under the Environment Protection Act 1986.
  • While the CRZ Rules are made by the Union environment ministry, implementation is to be ensured by state governments through their Coastal Zone Management Authorities.

CRZ 2018 notification is based on the recommendation of Shailesh Nayak committee constituted by the MoEFCC.

 

CRZ-I (ecologically sensitive areas like mangroves, coral reefs, biosphere reserves, etc.).
 

  • No new construction shall be permitted in CRZ-I except
    • Projects relating to the Department of Atomic Energy;
    • Construction of trans-harbor sea link and roads without affecting the tidal flow of water, between LTL and HTL. Etc.
  • Between Low Tide Line and High Tide Line in areas that are not ecologically sensitive, the following may be permitted;
    • Exploration and extraction of natural gas;
    • Construction of basic amenities like schools, roads, etc. for traditional inhabitants living within the biosphere reserves;
    • Salt harvesting by solar evaporation of seawater;
    • Desalination plants;
    • Storage of non-hazardous cargo such as edible oil, fertilizers within notified ports.

Environment Ministry expert committee approved a “zero extent” Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ) for the Galathea National Park to allow the use of land in the south-eastern and south-western part of the island for the NITI Aayog plan.

The draft notification for this zero extent ESZ had listed out in great detail the park’s ecological uniqueness — that it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • houses a range of forest types, 
  • has one of the best-preserved tropical rainforests in the world, 

is home to 648 species of flora and hosts 330 species of fauna including rare and endemic ones such as the 

  1. Nicobar wild pig, 
  2. Nicobar tree shrew,
  3. the Great Nicobar crested serpent eagle, 
  4. Nicobar paradise flycatcher and 
  5. the Nicobar megapode. 
  • It also notes that the park is home to the indigenous Shompen community.

Shompen is the only PVTG in the region with Mongoloid features.

  • They belong to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) as categorised by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs implements the Scheme of ‘Development of PVTGs’ exclusively for them.
  • Article 366 (25) of the Constitution provides a process to define Scheduled Tribes.
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