Environment & Biodiversity

Project Nicobar receives approval for diverting 130 sq km of Forest

The diversion of 130 sq km of forest on Great Nicobar Island for the major project has received preliminary approval from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

The Great Nicobar

  • The Great Nicobar Island is the archipelago’s southernmost island. The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve is there.
  • About 200 members of the mongoloid Shompen Tribe dwell in the biosphere reserve’s woodlands, especially near rivers and streams.

About Great Nicobar Project

  • A transhipment port, an airport, a power plant, and a greenfield township are all part of the Great Nicobar Island Mega Project, which is being carried out by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation in accordance with a vision plan developed by the NITI Aayog.
  • The submission of a comprehensive plan for compensating afforestation on Haryana’s “non-notified forest land” is a crucial need for the project’s approval.

Ecological impact

  • To begin with, the project’s area is about 15% of the 900 sq km of the heavily forested Great Nicobar Island. One of the largest such forest diversions in recent memory is this one.
  • It accounts for 65% of the 203 sq km of forest area diverted in the three years between 2015 and 2018 and over a quarter of all the forest land diverted in the past three years nationwide.
  • Secondly, according to the ministry’s own calculations, this project will need the removal of 8.5 lakh trees in Great Nicobar.
  • Third, the project region is home to unique flora and animals, which is doubly significant given that they are main evergreen tropical forests with great biological diversity and high endemism. These include saltwater crocodiles, the Nicobar megapode (a flightless bird native to the Nicobar islands), and leatherback sea turtles.
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