Major infrastructure reinforcement for the island of Great Nicobar, southern tip of India

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Port Blair: The Great Nicobar Islands, which are the southernmost island of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the southernmost tip of India, are all set to receive a Greenfield International Airport, an international container transshipment terminal , a township and a power station.

A prestigious Great Nicobar Island (GNI) holistic development project, aimed at transforming the island into a port-led development hub, has received a green signal, an official statement from the administration said on Sunday. Andaman and Nicobar.

The GNI project has been designed based on the principles of Sustainable Development where ecological, economic and social factors have been duly taken into account at each stage.

Considering the national importance of the project considering the safety, socio-economic benefits and strategic location of the transshipment terminal, the Government. of India designed the project at an estimated cost of Rs 72,622 crores after careful consideration of the environmental condition of Great Nicobar Island.

Citing a report by major Indian newspapers, the Information and Publicity Division of the Andaman and Nicobar Administration issued a press release today stating that the committee of the Ministry of Environment has cleared a project to construct a Greenfield International Airport, an International Container Transshipment Terminal, a Township and Power Station on Great Nicobar Island.

The Expert Assessment Committee (EAC) consists of a few government officials, primarily subject matter experts and eminent scientists from various fields of environment, pollution control, groundwater, road research, ocean technology, infrastructure, energy, among others, after long series of deliberations and meetings recommended granting of Environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance for the project during its meeting held from 22.08.2022 to 23.08.2022. A series of meetings and deliberations, including for the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and EAC, took place starting in March 2021 and finally ended. concluded in August 2022 before the recommendation to grant the environmental and CRZ authorization by the EAC for the RNB project.

“The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in general and the Indian Ocean in particular has become a strategic hotspot in recent years. In response to the growing strategic value of this IOR, a critical mass of development in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is needed to strengthen India’s regional presence,” quoted the statement issued by the IP Division.

Great Nicobar Island also represents a significant economic development opportunity as the main east-west shipping route that connects East Asian exports to the Indian Ocean, Suez Canal and Europe passes just south of this island, he added.

“By building a container port there, India can participate more fully in global maritime trade” and generate thousands of new jobs, according to the report.

Other countries like Mayanmar, China and Sri Lanka are gearing up to develop deep sea facilities to take a major share of trade by developing proper port facilities and so it is imperative that India does the same, according to the report.

Great Nicobar Island is considered a perfect location as it is equidistant from Colombo, Port Klang and Singapore and is also very close to the international east-west corridor.

Of the 910 km2 of Great Nicobar Island, only 166.10 km2 are proposed for development, or approximately 18% of the total area. The remaining 82% area will remain covered by protected forest, two national parks, ecologically sensitive areas and a biosphere reserve and will be managed for the conservation of biodiversity at the ecosystem, species and genetic level.

The total forest area to be diverted over 166.10 Sq. km. including deemed forest is 130.75 square feet. km. Remaining project area of ​​35.35 m². km. is in the Income area.

Approximately 50 pc of the total forest area to be diverted forming 65.99 ft2. km. will be reserved as a green zone and no tree felling is planned here.

In the rest of the forest area to be diverted, the felling of trees is proposed in a staggered manner over a period of 30 years. In addition, it is proposed to carry out compensatory afforestation in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) for the diversion of forest land.

“EAC has mandated a specific conservation and management plan and high funding for endemic species, mangroves and corals and other fauna in addition to several other caveats,” the statement added.

The EAC said three independent committees will be set up: one to oversee pollution-related issues, another on biodiversity, and the third to oversee welfare and issues related to the Shopmen and Nicobarese tribes. Accordingly, an EIA was undertaken for the preparation of a conservation and management plan to ensure minimal environmental and social impact from the project.

The comprehensive environmental management plan will be put in place and monitored regularly. As a result, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Salim Ali Center for Ornithology & Natural History (SACON), Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have been entrusted by the administration A & N for the preparation of conservation/mitigation measures. biodiversity plans, including leatherback turtles, megapodes, crocodiles, etc.

The conservation and protection of the Nicobar macaque, robber crabs, endemic birds, mangroves, giant clams and other endemic flora and fauna have been given due consideration.

In addition, the UT administration is in the process of notifying three wildlife sanctuaries for leatherback turtles at Little Nicobar (13.75 km²), Megapode at Menchal (1.29 km²) and Corals at Meroe Island (2.73 km²), for the conservation of these species.

The EAC, in its deliberations and recommendations, has ensured that the conservation of the various flora and fauna is approached in a scientific manner. Experts have been mobilized and tasked with preparing effective conservation plans and measures.

A substantial financial provision was allocated upstream to the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). All construction activities to be undertaken under the project will be carried out to the highest environmental standards.

Special studies relating to fauna and flora in the GNI are proposed concerning various species, landscapes, biodiversity, etc.

“The Andaman & Nicobar Administration, in accordance with its Shompen Policy, is committed to recognizing the social, ecological and economic diversity of the islands’ particularly vulnerable tribal groups, to preserving and protecting their cultural heritage and to ensuring their well-being. . The Tribal Reserve measuring 743.96 km² after denotification will remain protected as a Tribal Reserve. The project will not displace any Shompen tribes. Tribal communities will continue to have the absolute right to meet their daily needs for subsistence,” the statement added.

The project will not only ensure a significant presence of the country in the Strait of Malacca, but will also enhance socio-economic growth and usher in a new era for the overall development of Andaman &

The Nicobar Islands and Great Nicobar Island in particular.

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