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Green panel allows Great Nicobar plan to advance

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

Green panel allows Great Nicobar plan to advance:


Context:

The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) – Infrastructure I of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has flagged serious concerns about NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for Great Nicobar Island.

  • The committee has, however, “recommended” it “for grant of terms of reference (TOR)” for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies, which in the first instance will include baseline studies over three months.

About the project for Great Nicobar Island:

The proposal includes an international container transshipment terminal, a greenfield international airport, a power plant and a township complex spread over 166 sq. km. (mainly pristine coastal systems and tropical forests), and is estimated to cost ₹75,000 crore.

What are the main concerns?

  • The plan document has no information about a note on seismic and tsunami hazards, freshwater requirement details and details of the impact on the Giant Leatherback turtle.
  • Besides, there were no details of the trees to be felled — a number that could run into millions since 130 sq. km. of the project area has some of the finest tropical forests in India.
  • The committee raised a number of additional issues, including about Galathea Bay, the site of the port and the centrepiece of the NITI Aayog proposal. Galathea Bay is an iconic nesting site in India of the enigmatic Giant Leatherback, the world’s largest marine turtle.

Action points listed out by the committee:

  1. The need for an independent assessment of terrestrial and marine biodiversity.
  2. A study on the impact of dredging, reclamation and port operations, including oil spills.
  3. The need for studies of alternative sites for the port with a focus on environmental and ecological impact, especially on turtles, analysis of risk-handling capabilities.
  4. A seismic and tsunami hazard map, a disaster management plan, details of labour, labour camps and their requirements.
  5. An assessment of the cumulative impact, and a hydro-geological study to assess impact on round and surface water regimes.

Need for conservation:

Ecological surveys in the last few years have reported a number of new species. These include the critically endangered Nicobar shrew, the Great Nicobar crake, the Nicobar frog, the Nicobar cat snake, a new skink (Lipinia sp), a new lizard (Dibamus sp,) and a snake of the Lycodon sp that is yet to be described.

Sources: the Hindu.