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NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) has recently proposed a plan called the “Sustainable Development of Little Andaman Island Vision Document”, which is described as the “Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The plan is to develop a greenfield coastal city within 680 sq km of fragile Little Andaman Island, the fourth largest island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands group, which will eventually be developed as a free trade zone.

The year 2021 will be remembered for a variety of reasons. There were choices made that mankind would live to regret in the future. Will we have to pay a hefty price for development?

Back in 2020, PM Narendra Modi had declared that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will be developed into a ‘maritime and startup hub. “The region will play an important role in our government’s self-reliant India project and the growth of new India,” he said during a videoconference with BJP workers from the islands, a day before he inaugurated a submarine optical fibre cable between Andaman and Chennai. 

According to the proposed plan, the island is to be divided into three specialised zones, each serving a different purpose. Along the east coast of little Andaman, Zone 1 will be spread over an area of 102 sq km. It would be the primary zone for monetary benefits, having an aero city, hospitals, and various tourism opportunities. Zone 2 will be the leisure zone which will be spread over an area of 85 sq km of pristine forest. It will have residential areas and a tourism Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Zone 3, or the nature zone, will be spread over an area of 52 sq km of pristine forest on the western coast of Andaman. It will be further divided into three districts: a unique forest resort, a natural therapeutic district, and a nature retreat.

The plan, which will have a budget of approximately Rs 75,000 crore, aims to develop the Andaman and Nicobar Islands into a trading and tourism hub to compete with the likes of Hong Kong and Singapore. The international airport, a 100km long greenfield ring highway, a tourism entertainment district, hotels, resorts, are some of the many infrastructures to be built under this plan.

There are many obstacles to this plan, which include the natural ecosystems, fragile biodiversity, the local tribes living there, and marine life. The Indian Forest Act 192 protects around 640 sq km of the island area, which is covered with forests, and around 450 sq km is protected under the Onge Tribal Reserve. To overcome these challenges, the government has proposed relocating many of the tribes, approximately 31%, and to de-reserve around 32% of the reserved forested area.

In my opinion, doing this will lead to the destruction of many food chains and webs, shaking the ecosystems to their core, which may lead to major losses in biodiversity. Also, the tribes which have been living there undisturbed for many decades now will face a lot of difficulties if moved, as they will have to look for new hunting grounds, water sources, and will have trouble navigating the new areas. Reducing forest cover may also lead to a loss in species diversity as it will lead to large-scale habitat loss, increase in interspecies competition, drastic changes in food webs, and a lot of other problems.

However, after reading this article, we’d like to know how you feel about the NITI Aayog’s recommended strategy, which will help our country’s economy and GDP, give numerous job possibilities, expand the number of jobs accessible, and boost overall trade at the cost of a few environmental losses.

Let us know what you think in the comments area.

Pranay Mathur

Pranay Mathur is a second-year student at Delhi University studying BSc. (Hons) Environmental Sciences. He is passionate about biodiversity conservation and long-term development. He aspires to be a scholar and is interested about today’s environmental challenges.

4 thought on “Is Andaman And Nicobar Islands Heading Towards Disaster?”
  1. We have been living in Singapore for the past 20years. For the benefit of Singapore , it was decided to develop the only island with real beaches into a commercial ground. Well many liked it but for me who loved the original peaceful and leisurely beaches it was a death knoll. I no longer like to visit it unless really necessary.
    It is sad if we keep developing such bio diversity reach island into commercial ground it may benefit the economy in the short term. But we have seen what a pandemic like corona can do. What survived on tourism was almost breathing it’s last breath.
    And best part of it is we as humans go about looking for place where we can relax peacefully. If the plan goes through it would be another nail in Earth’s coffin.
    Good job highlighting the issues. It may benefit some but is it really sustainable to convert it a commercial place. Well I don’t think so.

  2. Ravinder, you said it perfectly. You talk from personal experience. It’s disappointing to see such beautiful islands up for sale. Is there no such thing as a limit to human greed?

  3. I dont know what I am about to speak would really mean much. India and indians were always a simple self.centered society built on ethos of peace and coexistense. Vasudev Kutumb. We contributed to world GDP. What happened. 400 years of exploitation and ruled by outsiders. Then now we are building GDPs. ‘Exploiting’ resources to become rich to ward off the evil eyes of our neighbours.
    Is there a second way to live and not get rich to ensure safe and proud future of all our kids and indians in general.
    There is a cost to this. And this cost may not conform to the elitist thought being propagated all around.
    Come to think I love beaches. Nature. Animals but only to the extent…….we can go on creating definition of this extent

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