‘Development projects ignore fragility of Andaman, Nicobar Islands’

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Kolkata, April 24 (IANS) Most of the development projects happening in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) are “almost in negation” of the reality of the fragility and vulnerability of the island chain, says researcher and author Pankaj Sekhsaria.

“When the area is so volatile… it’s so unpredictable… what could you do to reduce damages and vulnerabilities? The public, politicians and administrators have to recognise the constant state of flux, the fragility of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, because most of the development projects happen almost in the negation of this reality and that can be a deadly combination,” Sekhsaria told IANS ahead of the launch of his book ‘Islands in Flux – The Andaman and Nicobar Story’ here on Tuesday.

The island chain belongs to the volatile, earthquake prone zone, alongwith the entire northeastern India, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, and a part of north Bihar.

On December 26, 2004, the coasts of the islands were devastated by a 10m (33ft) high tsunami following the Indian Ocean earthquake.

“We have to recognise there are certain things that can’t be done there… we can’t do what we do elsewhere… the specific configuration have to be kept in mind,” said Sekhsaria, whose book is a compilation of writings on key issues and developments in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands over the last two decades.

“The scale of what is being proposed in the islands today is unmatched, and its implications for the local people and the local ecology barely understood,” the author says in the preface referring to the proposals by the central government.

He says “early 2016 also saw a flurry of proposals for the development of the islands – one from the Ministry of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping for port construction and also for the development of lighthouse tourism, including places that are inside protected areas and tribal reserves”.

“There was another plan outlining development options for the islands that was prepared by the Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence and sent to the A&N administration for consideration and comments by the Niti Aayog.

“It included, among others, plans for port construction, an integrated tourism complex, construction of a trans-shipment terminal and creation of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in areas that are ecologically fragile and also legally protected in the name of the indigenous communities. All this in parallel with huge proposals or ongoing projects for the augmentation and expansion of the military infrastructure there,” he writes.

–IANS

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