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Luxury tourism projects on Andamans may get nod soon

Aves Island project may also be recommended but they cannot build beyond 50 metres of HTL until the Island Protection Zone (IPZ) norms are relaxed.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2019 07:49 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Andamans,tourism,Luxury
The Smith Island project, which is about 1.5km from a turtle nesting site, cannot have any tourism during nesting season. (AFP)

A key Union environment ministry panel on Monday recommended for clearance two luxury tourism projects consisting of premium tents and tree houses in two of the Andaman islands that are in the ecologically fragile zone and in the vicinity of turtle nesting sites.

The ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) for projects related to coastal regulation zone (CRZ) discussed three projects in three islands for the second time, and recommended two of them — at Lalaji Bay on Long Island and at Smith Island — for island protection zone (IPZ) clearance, with some riders.

A third project in Aves Island is still being considered by the ministry.

“We only recommend. The final decision has to be taken by the environment ministry. The project proposed at Lalaji Bay on Long Island in North and Middle Andaman district needs to receive an environmental clearance now. So it will be appraised by another committee. The second project at Smith Island, also in North and Middle Andaman, will be recommended for clearance. But the third project in Aves Island is at about 20 metres from high tide line (HTL) and hence we have some reservations about it,” said an official from the environment ministry who asked not to be named.

He added that Aves Island project may also be recommended but they cannot build beyond 50 metres of HTL until the Island Protection Zone (IPZ) norms are relaxed.

One of the riders is that the Smith Island project, which is about 1.5km from a turtle nesting site, cannot have any tourism during nesting season (from December to April), the official added. The Smith Island is famous for the nesting site of Green Sea Turtle and Hawksbill Turtles.

On January 25, a decision on whether the tourism projects proposed by the Andaman and Nicobar Island Integrated Development Corporation could be allowed was deferred after the EAC observed that the projects are located in ecologically fragile and biodiversity rich areas.

A subcommittee comprising of state and ministry representatives undertook a site visit to assess the impact of tourism on the ecosystem of the islands and marine environment.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a cluster of 572 islands and islets, 36 of which are inhabited. Tourism facilities are mainly limited to Havelock and Neil islands.

EAC members said on January 25 that solid waste management and disposal was a primary area of concern, according to its minutes of the meeting, which have been seen by HT.

“The committee observed the area of concern is in respect of management of solid waste collection, treatment and disposal. The committee in particular was concerned of the mechanism of control of solid waste management in such a fragile area, once the project is commissioned and handed over,” the minutes said in reference to all three projects.

The Long Island project, costing around ₹379 crore, involves 220 rooms and a built-up area of 39,600 sq metres. About 17 metric tonnes (MT) per month of solid waste will be generated during the operation phase, out of which 10.2 MT will be biodegradable and 6.8 MT non-biodegradable, according to the minutes.

The project on Smith Island involves 70 rooms and a built-up area of 9,100 sq metres, while the one at Aves Island was proposed to have 50 rooms on a built up area of 5,000 sq metres.

“The committee observed that the proposal also consists of a desalination plant, the details of which including the route of intake and outfall pipelines superimposed on CRZ map, impact on marine environment and mitigation measures proposed, etc. are not available,” the minutes said about Aves island proposal.

Experts cautioned that there was a need to tread carefully with these projects.

“It is important to see this in light of the central government’s plans for Andaman and Nicobar. They are also being pushed by the NITI Aayog. Tourism is central to this vision. The new amendments to the island protection zone (IPZ) notification also respond to these, which show much more leniency for construction in and extraction from inter tidal areas in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,” said Kanchi Kohli, a legal researcher with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR).

“There is a need to tread carefully with the plan for the ‘holistic development’ of the Islands and these proposals in particular as the islands are unique and fragile socio-ecological system,” she added.

First Published: Feb 19, 2019 07:46 IST