Reconsider the Great Nicobar infra project - Hindustan Times
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Reconsider the Great Nicobar infra project

ByHT Editorial
Dec 01, 2022 07:53 PM IST

A project will likely involve the diversion of around 15% of the island’s forest area and compensated by afforestation in Haryana’s Aravallis, a completely different ecosystem.

At the southernmost tip of the subcontinent lies the Great Nicobar Island — a repository of rich biodiversity, some of the last untouched forests in the country and, if the government has its way, a 75,000-crore development project that includes an International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT); a greenfield airport; eco-tourism; a residential township; and a 450 MVA gas or solar-based power project. That this ambitious scheme, whose economic potential is untested, is risky is to state the obvious. The project will likely involve the diversion of around 15% of the island’s forest area and compensated by afforestation in Haryana’s Aravallis, a completely different ecosystem. While green rules allow such a move, it will not help compensate for the damage caused to the sensitive ecosystem in Great Nicobar, which, according to the environmental impact assessment report, harbours a range of ecosystems. This includes tropical evergreen forests, mountain ranges and coastal plains that foster rich diversity and several rare and endemic species. Along the coastal beaches of the island, Leatherback and Olive Ridley turtles are known to nest. Questions must be raised about whether it is worth endangering this tropical oasis.

Biodiversity is a critical part of India’s intangible heritage and wealth. Preserving it to the maximum extent possible is our duty. (HT Archive) PREMIUM
Biodiversity is a critical part of India’s intangible heritage and wealth. Preserving it to the maximum extent possible is our duty. (HT Archive)

Science has shown us untrammelled development can cause drastic, unpredictable and irreversible changes to the environment. While the strategic location of the site is key — it lies adjacent to the western entrance to the Malacca Strait — policymakers must weigh the environmental risks anew and reconsider the environmental clearance given to the project. Biodiversity is a critical part of India’s intangible heritage and wealth. Preserving it to the maximum extent possible is our duty.

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