Experts apprehend biodiversity loss in Andaman & Nicobar Islands


andaman nocobar_1 &n

Union environment ministry’s Parivesh website uploaded information suggesting several infrastructure projects are being considered by Expert Appraisal Committee or EAC and Coastal Regulation Zone or CRZ committee.

A swing of infrastructure projects has been anticipated in Andaman & Nicobar Islands to provide a key boost to tourism & business there. This has been released by central government. While these will be able to transform the islands significantly, experts are worried that this would cause a huge loss of biodiversity plus will have a negative impact on the native people in these ecologically sensitive islands. Union environment ministry’s Parivesh website uploaded information implying multiple infrastructure projects are being considered by an Expert Appraisal Committee or EAC and a Coastal Regulation Zone or CRZ committee. A few of these projects include building luxury tents & resorts on a few islands; a couple water aerodrome projects in Shaheed and Swaraj islands; 2 major townships & area development projects on the Great Nicobar Island and Little Andaman.

All of this will involve massive land use change. On 28th May, the CRZ considered an application by Andaman & Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation, ANIIDC, to cede a condition under CRZ clearance granted to them for developing luxury tents in Aves Island on a public-private partnership mode. A CRZ condition was all trees, irrespective of size, will be counted & geo-referenced and not felled. But now ANIIDCO is looking for a modification to this clause so trees may be felled if need be.

Documents show that the Andaman and Nicobar Coastal Zone Management Authority, the ANCZMA, recommended that this condition be waived off. A legal researcher said that “ANCZMA is retracting its mandatory precaution by claiming that environment impact assessments do not include ‘tree canopy issues’. Review of proposals under CRZ notification requires scientific rigour and legal basis. They cannot be turned into regulatory convenience resulting in the abdication of responsibility, as has happened in the present case.”

EAC, on infrastructure projects, considered making a water aerodrome on Shaheed Island by the Airports Authority of India. EAC raised concerns about ecological impact of constructing a water aerodrome at Swaraj Island (that would have resulted in loss of 3,500 sqm of forest land). The report of environment impact assessment says that the site for construction of the terminal building,1,568.9 sqm, and associated infrastructure, 453.3 sqm, falls some way in the mangroves.

Kartik Shanker, (a professor at Indian Institute of Science’s Centre for Ecological Sciences and also a specialist in community ecology & macro-ecology), said, the islands are a host to incredible marine biodiversity. According to him, development is needed in the islands, but should be ecologically sensitive & culturally conscious. These are some of the most important arsenal in our biodiversity, ecological heritage and any development will diminish the ecological impacts and also will be benefitting the local communities. Great Nicobar hosts many endemic species like Nicobar megapode, Nicobar tree shrew and more.

This was a little about the possible upcoming biodiversity loss in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. If you would like to add to this topic, comment it down below. If you enjoyed this article, visit the space for more such content!