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

  • Published
    9th Nov, 2022
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.
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