Over nine lakh trees likely to be axed for Great Nicobar Project

Over nine lakh trees likely to be axed for Great Nicobar Project

Over nine lakh trees likely to be axed for Great Nicobar Project


According to a response given by Minister of State for Environment Ashwini Kumar Choubey in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, the ambitious 72,000 crore Great Nicobar Project could result in the removal of 9.64 lakh trees, not 8.5 lacks, to build a township, an international airport, a transhipment port, and a 450 MVA gas and solar-powered power plant on the Great Nicobar island.

What is Great Nicobar Project?

  • The southernmost point of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will see the implementation of the Great Nicobar Island (GNI) Project.
  • The project spans an area of 16,610 hectares on the island and consists of a 450 MVA gas and solar-powered power plant, a township development, an international container transhipment facility, and a greenfield international airport.

What is the need for Great Nicobar Project?

  • Economic Reasons
    1. Marine Connectivity: The region would be able to take part in the marine economy as a significant player in cargo transhipment thanks to the projected port on Great Nicobar Island. The port might act as a vital transhipment hub for products transiting between the eastern and western areas of the world because of its advantageous position.
    2. Geographical Advantage: Great Nicobar Island is situated approximately halfway between Singapore, Port Klang (Malaysia), and Colombo, three of the world’s busiest ports. A strategic benefit for possible maritime businesses is its proximity to the East-West international shipping corridor, which manages a sizeable amount of world shipping commerce.
  • Strategic Reasons
    • National security: Great Nicobar Island’s development is strategically significant for India’s national security. India can improve its surveillance capabilities and protect its territorial integrity in the Indian Ocean by maintaining a strong presence in this area.
    • Indian Ocean Region Consolidation: Great Nicobar Island’s growth can help India’s presence and influence in the Indian Ocean region. It gives the Indian Navy and other defence forces a strategic basis from which to protect maritime interests and effectively address security concerns.
    • Countering Chinese Influence: India and other countries in the region are very concerned about China’s growing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean region. The construction of infrastructure on Great Nicobar Island might be seen as a reaction to China’s expanding influence and presence in the area.
    • Geographically crucial location: The island’s vantage point for observing marine activity in the Bay of Bengal, the Malacca Strait, and the larger Indian Ocean is near the southernmost point of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.

What are the advantages of implementing the project?

  • Development of Key Infrastructure: The project seeks to build key infrastructure, such as a transhipment port, an international airport, and a power plant. These amenities may improve the area’s connection, trade, and commerce, luring investments and maybe enhancing economic activity.
  • Employment Creation: Local communities may have employment opportunities as a result of the project’s many components’ construction and operation. This may result in higher income levels and better living conditions.
  • Trade and Export Opportunities: With a trans-shipment port established, there may be more chances for trade and exports, which can be advantageous for local businesses and industries.
  • Increase in tourism: The construction of an international airport and a township may draw more visitors to the Great Nicobar Island, perhaps increasing the demand for travel-related goods and services.
  • Energy Security: The construction of a gas- and solar-powered power plant can improve the region’s energy security and lessen its reliance on outside energy sources.

What is the environmental impact when implementing this project?

  • Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss: The development of townships and infrastructure may result in the removal of vast tracts of virgin forest. Deforestation, habitat loss, and fragmentation may arise from this, which may have an impact on a variety of plant and animal species, including endangered and endemic ones. The fragile ecological balance of the island could be disturbed by a loss of species.
  • Disturbance of Marine Ecosystems: Dredging, sedimentation, and increased vessel traffic caused by port building and related activities have the potential to negatively impact marine ecosystems, including coral reefs and marine life.
  • Impact on Climate Change: The project’s carbon footprint, which includes emissions from building, operation, and transportation, may have a greater impact on the island than previously thought.

What is the way forward?

  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): Carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) that is complete and transparent that assesses the project’s possible effects on the ecosystem, wildlife, water bodies, air quality, and local communities. Stakeholders in the EIA, such as environmental specialists, local people, and indigenous groups, should be involved.
  • Sustainable Development Practices: Throughout the project, place a strong emphasis on sustainable development practices. This includes reducing the environmental impact of infrastructure, maximizing resource use, implementing eco-friendly technologies, and incorporating circular economy and green infrastructure principles.
  • Biodiversity conservation: Identify biologically vulnerable places and important habitats, and safeguard them. To counteract the loss of flora and fauna brought on by deforestation and development, establish solutions for biodiversity conservation and habitat restoration.
  • Alternatives and Mitigation: Look at alternative development methods with a lower environmental impact. To address any negative effects, put in place efficient mitigation strategies. For instance, programs for replanting and afforestation can compensate for tree cutting.