APP Users: If unable to download, please re-install our APP.
Only logged in User can create notes
Only logged in User can create notes

General Studies 3 >> Enivornment & Ecology

audio may take few seconds to load



1. Context
The Congress party has described the proposed Rs 72,000-crore infra upgrade at the Great Nicobar Island as a “grave threat” to the island’s indigenous inhabitants and fragile ecosystem, and demanded “immediate suspension of all clearances” and a “thorough, impartial review of the proposed project, including by the Parliamentary committees concerned”
2.What is the Great Nicobar Island Project?
  • The Great Nicobar Island Project is a significant infrastructure development initiative undertaken by the Indian government on Great Nicobar Island, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. The project aims to transform the island into a strategic and economic hub.
  • A deep-draft international container transshipment terminal is planned to be developed at Galathea Bay. This port is expected to serve as a key shipping hub in the region, facilitating trade and reducing dependency on transshipment ports in other countries
  • An international airport is proposed to improve connectivity to the island, both for tourism and strategic purposes. This airport will be capable of handling wide-bodied aircraft and will enhance the island's accessibility
  • To support the infrastructure and population growth, a gas- and solar-based power plant will be developed. This plant aims to provide a reliable and sustainable energy source for the island's needs
  • A modern township with residential, commercial, and recreational facilities is planned to accommodate the increased population and workforce that the project will attract. This township is expected to have state-of-the-art amenities and infrastructure
Strategic and Economic Importance
  • Great Nicobar Island is situated near the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Developing this island will enhance India's strategic presence in the Indian Ocean Region, particularly in terms of maritime security and trade control
  • The project aims to boost the local economy by creating job opportunities and attracting investments. Improved infrastructure and connectivity are expected to stimulate tourism and other economic activities on the island
  • Enhancing connectivity through the transhipment port and international airport will integrate Great Nicobar Island more closely with the global and regional trade networks, potentially making it a key logistical and commercial hub
Environmental and Social Considerations
  • The project has raised concerns about its potential impact on the island's rich biodiversity and ecosystems. Great Nicobar Island is home to unique flora and fauna, including endangered species. Ensuring sustainable development practices and environmental protection measures will be crucial
  • There are concerns about the impact on local communities, particularly indigenous tribes such as the Nicobarese and Shompen. Ensuring that their rights and livelihoods are protected is a key consideration for the project
  • The project's emphasis on using renewable energy sources like solar power and promoting eco-friendly practices is an effort to mitigate environmental concerns. However, balancing development with conservation will be an ongoing challenge
Great Nicobar
Great Nicobar is the largest of the Nicobar Islands, part of the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India. It is located in the Indian Ocean, near the western entrance of the Malacca Strait, which is a key maritime route for international trade.
Here are some key aspects of Great Nicobar:
  • Great Nicobar is situated at the southern end of the Nicobar Islands, approximately 1,280 kilometers (800 miles) from the Indian mainland
  • The island features diverse landscapes, including dense tropical rainforests, hilly terrain, and coastal areas. Mount Thullier is the highest point on the island, rising to an elevation of about 642 meters (2,106 feet)
  • Great Nicobar is known for its rich biodiversity and is part of the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve. The island hosts unique flora and fauna, including several endemic and endangered species. The Nicobar megapode, Nicobar tree shrew, and saltwater crocodile are some of the notable species found here
  • The island is sparsely populated, with a mix of indigenous tribes and settlers from other parts of India. The Nicobarese and Shompen are the primary indigenous communities on the island
  • The indigenous tribes have distinct cultural practices, languages, and traditions. Efforts are being made to preserve their cultural heritage and ensure their rights and well-being amidst development initiatives
  • Great Nicobar’s strategic location near the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest maritime routes, enhances its significance for India's maritime security and trade interests
  • Given its strategic position, the island hosts Indian military installations, which play a crucial role in monitoring and securing the Indian Ocean Region
3. Strategic Importance
  • The Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean region are critically important for India's strategic and security interests, especially as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy aims to increase its presence in these waters.
  • India is concerned about the buildup of Chinese naval forces at key Indo-Pacific chokepoints, particularly Malacca, Sunda, and Lombok. China's efforts to extend its influence in the area include constructing a military facility on the Coco Islands in Myanmar, located just 55 km north of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
  • Earlier this year, The Indian Express reported significant upgrades to the military infrastructure on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
  • This includes modernizing airfields and jetties, creating new logistics and storage facilities, establishing a base for military personnel, and enhancing surveillance capabilities.
  • The goal of these upgrades is to support the deployment of more military forces, larger warships, aircraft, missile batteries, and troops.
  • Maintaining close surveillance over the area surrounding the archipelago and establishing a strong military presence on Great Nicobar is crucial for India's national security
4. Environmental Concerns
  • The proposed infrastructure upgrade has faced opposition due to its potential ecological threat to the islands. Wildlife conservation researchers, anthropologists, scholars, civil society members, and the Congress party have raised concerns about the devastating impact on the Shompen, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) of hunter-gatherers, who have an estimated population of a few hundred individuals residing in a tribal reserve on the island.
  • Critics claim the project infringes on the rights of the tribal population and will harm the island’s ecology, including the felling of nearly a million trees. There are fears that the port project will damage coral reefs, affecting the local marine ecosystem, and pose a threat to terrestrial species like the Nicobar Megapode bird and leatherback turtles, which nest in the Galathea Bay area.
  • A statement by senior Congress leader and former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh highlighted that the proposed port is in a seismically active zone, which experienced permanent subsidence of about 15 feet during the 2004 tsunami.
  • The statement also accused the local administration of insufficiently consulting the Tribal Council of Great and Little Nicobar Islands as required by law.
  • In November 2022, the tribal council withdrew a no-objection certificate it had issued for the diversion of about 160 sq km of forest land, citing inadequate information provided to them.
  • In April 2023, the Kolkata Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) chose not to interfere with the environmental and forest clearances granted to the project. However, the Tribunal ordered the formation of a high-power committee to review the clearances. There is still no clarity on whether the committee, mainly composed of government representatives, has submitted its report
For Prelims: National Green Tribunal (NGT), Great Nicobar Island, Coastal Regulation Zones, Turtles, Dolphins, Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), Mangroves, Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve
For Mains: Significance and Issues Related to Great Nicobar Island Project
Previous Year Questions

1. Which one of the following pairs of islands is separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’? (2014)

(a) Andaman and Nicobar
(b) Nicobar and Sumatra
(c) Maldives and Lakshadweep
(d) Sumatra and Java

Answer (a)

2. Which of the following have coral reefs? (2014)

  1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  2. Gulf of Kachchh
  3. Gulf of Mannar
  4. Sunderbans

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only
(b) 2 and 4 only
(c) 1 and 3 only 
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Answer (a)

3. In which one of the following places is the Shompen tribe found? (2009)

(a) Nilgiri Hills
(b) Nicobar Islands
(c) Spiti Valley
(d) Lakshadweep Islands

Answer (b)

Source: indianexpress

Share to Social