Environmental clearance has been granted to the Centre’s ambitious multi-development projects on Greater Nicobar Island, India’s southernmost point and a strategically significant area. As of last year, the project had received in-principle approval from the ministry.
An international container transshipment terminal, a military-civil dual-use airport, a solar energy plant, and an integrated township are among the ambitious plans of the Indian government. The Indian Navy will be responsible for the development of the port.
To implement this project, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has approved the diversion of just over 130 square kilometers of forest land and the feeling of approximately 8.5 lakh trees. There is a possibility that the project will adversely affect the coral reef and the mangrove cover in the area.
There are two tribes inhabiting the Greater Nicobar island: the Shompens and the Nicobarese. Two national parks near the project area are Galathea Bay National Park and Campbell Bay National Park.
“The project received environmental clearance at Stage 1 10 days ago. It is now time for the project proponent to apply for Stage II clearance, which will involve the examination of several compliances. An official of the ministry stated that this process might take months.
Leatherback sea turtles and other important species are found in the Greater Nicobar region. These include Nicobar macaques, Nicobar megapodes, saltwater crocodiles, and rare and endemic plants such as tree ferns and orchids. It was decided to proceed with the project based on the port’s strategic importance.
Given India’s presence in the Bay of Bengal and China’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea, this project is of the utmost strategic importance. The recent docking of a Chinese survey ship in Sri Lanka has increased the urgency of this project. There is no doubt that this project is of great national significance, and the Home Ministry has been very clear about its importance. The ministry has been diligent in its clearances and has involved the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) in the process,” the official said.
Government officials stated that a project would be undertaken to relocate part of the coral reef affected by the project. It is anticipated that only a portion of the coral reef will be affected by the construction of the port, as it will not extend along the entire coastline. Coral has been translocated previously. The ZSI will handle this activity,” the official stated.
Meanwhile, the WII is working on a conservation management plan for leatherback turtles, which will also be impacted.