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9th November 2022 (6 Topics)

Proposed Megaproject in Great Nicobar Could Spell Trouble for the Island Ecosystem

Context

Recently, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has granted an in-principle (Stage 1) clearance for the diversion of 130.75 sq. km of forest in Great Nicobar Island for the mega Rs72,000-crore Infrastructure project.

About

  • The Proposed Project:

    • The proposed mega infrastructure project involves the construction of;
      • A trans-shipment hub (the International Container Trans-shipment Terminal or ICTT) and,
      • Three other interlinked projects: a Greenfield international airport, a township and associated infrastructure, and a gas-diesel-solar power plant.
    • These will come up on the eastern side of the Great Nicobar Island, including Galathea Bay.

    What were the Concerns associated with the Project?

    • It has been found that 8, 52,245 trees will be cut for the project and about 130 square kilometers of forest land will be diverted.
    • Further, almost 300 hectares of land will be reclaimed by dredging the ocean.
    • The wildlife, including the giant leatherback turtle and the Nicobar megapode, a flightless bird endemic to the Nicobar Islands, will lose critical nesting grounds along the shores of Galathea Bay.



Do you know?

  • Galathea Bay – the proposed site of the project – is a critical leatherback turtle nesting site.
  • Biologists who surveyed 15 islands in the Nicobar complex for turtle nesting sites in 2016 found leatherback turtle nests in only five islands.
  • Out of the 1,068 leatherback nests on these five islands, a majority (775) were on Great Nicobar.

  • More than 1,700 people will be affected due to the project, and most of the indigenous Nicobari and Shompen

Impacts:

  • Loss of Biodiversity
  • Human habitat destruction (Indigenous Tribes of Nicobar)
  • Marine flora and fauna population reduction

Steps were taken to mitigate the Losses:

  • Building Coral population: Proposed mitigation measures to compensate for these damages include coral translocation and reef restoration in Galathea Bay.
  • Via Compensatory Afforestation: Authorities plan to balance the loss of 12-20 hectares of mangroves here by ‘re-densifying’ existing mangrove patches and planting mangroves in non-forest areas.
  • Declaring Protected areas: Mitigation measures also include intent to declare new protected areas, as well as the drawing up of monitoring and action plans to study threatened wildlife.
  • For example, the administration has envisaged a Megapode sanctuary on Menchal Island (1.29 square kilometers), a Coral wildlife sanctuary near Meroe Island (around 2.73 sq km), and a 13.75 sq. km leatherback turtle sanctuary at Little Nicobar Island.

Verifying, please be patient.

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