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NITI Aayog's megacity plan for Little Andaman alarms conservationists

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    Environment
  • Published
    3rd Feb, 2021

Context

  • A plan for the sustainable and holistic development of the 680 sq km, fragile Little Andaman Island in the Andaman and Nicobar group has raised the alarm among conservationists.

‘Sustainable Development of Little Andaman Island - Vision Document’

  • It is the NITI Aayog’s proposal to leverage the strategic location and natural features of the island.
  • This will be done by building a new greenfield coastal city.
  • The city will be developed as a free trade zone and will compete with Singapore and Hong Kong.

Zones of development of the city

The proposal is pivoted along three development anchors and zones.

  • Zone 1-It spread over 102 sq km along the east coast of Little Andaman. It will be the financial district and medi city and will include an aerocity, and a tourism and hospital district.
  • Zone 2- The leisure zone, will have a film city, a residential district and a tourism SEZ.
  • Zone 3-On 52 sq km of pristine forest. It will be a nature zone, further categorised into three districts: an exclusive forest resort, a nature healing district and a nature retreat, all on the western coast.

Criticism of the plan

  • The vision plan is not in the public domain, even though it is said to have been finalised months ago.
  • A fragile biodiversity and natural ecosystems.
  • Presence of indigenous tribes and concerns for their welfare.
  • Regarding de-notification of the forest land.
  • The vision document has maps with no legends or explanations and uses inappropriate photographs plagiarised from the Internet.
  • It talks of conservation of national park/wildlife sanctuary on Little Andaman when none exist here.
  • It has no mention of the geological vulnerability of the place, which was amongst the worst-affected in the earthquake-tsunami combination in 2004.
  • The plan has no financial details, no budgeting, or inventorisation of forests and ecological wealth and no details of any impact assessment.
  • The nature resort complex proposed at West Bay on the western coast is one of the most important nesting sites of the globally endangered Giant Leatherback sea turtle.

Little Andaman Island

  • Little Andaman Island is the fourth largest of the Andaman Islands of India.
  • The Duncan Passage separates it from Rutland Archipelago in Great Andaman.
  • The island is home to the Onge aboriginal tribe.
  • It has been a tribal reserve since 1957.