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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 10 May, 2021

  • 5 Min Read

Great Nicobar development plan and its environmental concerns- NITI Aayog

Great Nicobar development plan and its environmental concerns- NITI Aayog

Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) on the plan

  • The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) - of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has flagged serious concerns about NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for Great Nicobar Island
  • The committee has, however, removed the first hurdle faced by the project.
  • The EAC was responding to the 126-page ‘pre-feasibility’ report, ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, prepared for the NITI Aayog by the Gurugram-based consulting agency Aecom India Private Limited.

Proposals for the Great Nicobar plan

  • The proposal includes an:
    • International container transhipment terminal,
    • A greenfield international airport,
    • A power plant and
    • A township complex spread over 166 sq. km. (mainly pristine coastal systems and tropical forests) and is estimated to cost 75,000 crores.

Concerns on-site- missing information in EIA

  • A discussion on the proposal in the March meeting was deferred because of delayed and incomplete submission of documents.
  • The missing information included the minutes of the meeting note, details of the township to be developed over 149 sq. km., a note on seismic and tsunami hazards, freshwater requirement details (6.5 lakh people are envisaged to finally inhabit the island when the present population is only 8,500; the current total population of the entire island chain is less than 4.5 lakh), and details of the impact on the Giant Leatherback turtle.
  • The committee also noted that there were no details of the trees to be felled — a number that could run into millions since 130 sq. km. of the project area has some of the finest tropical forests in India.
  • A point-wise response to concerns was submitted by the project proponent, the Andaman and Nicobar Island Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO), on April 5, the very day the committee convened for its next meeting.

Environmental concerns in Galathea Bay

  • Galathea Bay is an iconic nesting site in India of the enigmatic Giant Leatherback, the world’s largest marine turtle (IUCN status- Vulnerable).
    • Other species at Galathea Bay- Nicobar Magapod and Dugong.
  • The committee noted that the site selection for the port had been done mainly on technical and financial criteria, ignoring the environmental aspects.
  • Ecological surveys in the last few years have reported a number of new species, many restricted to just the Galathea region.
  • These include:
    • Critically endangered Nicobar shrew,
    • The Great Nicobar crake,
    • The Nicobar frog,
    • The Nicobar cat snake,
    • A new skink (Lipinia sp),
    • A new lizard (Dibamus sp,) and
    • A snake of the Lycodon sp that is yet to be described.
  • “None of these are even mentioned in AECOM’s pre-feasibility report or the EAC’s observations,” he notes. “We don’t even fully know what exists here, leave alone understanding the many fragile inter-linkages of the Great Nicobar’s complex systems.”

Other recommendations of the Committee- Important points to note for EIA in Ecologically Sensitive areas

  • The need for an independent assessment of terrestrial and marine biodiversity
  • A study on the impact of dredging, reclamation and port operations, including oil spills
  • The need for studies of alternative sites for the port with a focus on environmental and ecological impact, especially on turtles
  • Analysis of risk-handling capabilities, a seismic and tsunami hazard map, a disaster management plan, details of labour, labour camps and their requirements, an assessment of the cumulative impact
  • A hydro-geological study to assess the impact on ground and surface water regimes.
  • The committee has also asked for details of the corporate environment policy of the implementing agency — whether the company has an environmental policy, a prescribed standard operating procedure to deal with environmental and forest violations, and a compliance management system.

Andaman and Nicobar Island Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO)

  • ANIIDCO, the Port Blair project proponent, is a government undertaking involved in activities such as tourism, trading (iron and steel, milk, petroleum products, and liquor) and infrastructure development for tourism and fisheries.

Read more about Little Andaman Island Development Plan- https://www.aspireias.com/daily-news-analysis-current-affairs/Megacity-plan-for-Little-Andaman

Source: TH


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