A&N Islands to have public hearing for Rs 72K cr project, environmentalist cries foul

The A&N Islands Pollution Control Committee has issued a notice for a public hearing for the Niti Aayog-pushed, Rs 72,000 crore Great Nicobar project, being termed as a “monumental folly” by an environmentalist, “the price paid for which cannot even be comprehended”.

The public hearing would be conducted for the ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island’ – which includes integrated development of international transshipment terminal, greenfield international airport and township and area development, apart from 450 MVA gas and solar-based power plant.

The public hearing would be held on January 26 and the administration has asked the public to send in comments, objections etc. by then, as per a notice published on Sunday.

In two meetings held in quick succession in March and April earlier this year, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change’s Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) Infrastructure-I “recommended” the project “for grant of terms of reference (TOR)” for undertaking environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies.

Associate Professor, Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA) & Associate Faculty, Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), IIT-Bombay, Pankaj Sekhsaria, who is also a member of the Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group, on Monday brought out a compilation “A Monumental Folly: Niti Aayog’s Development Plans for Great Nicobar Islands” on “the devastation that will be wrought by the project”.

The report has documented the ecologically fragile value of the pristine islands and “how the administration is hell bent on destroying it”.

Recounting the developments since January 2021 in connection with the project – the de-notification in January 2021 of the Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for locating the port in the bay, the notification, also in January 2021, of a ‘zero’ extent ecosensitive zone (ESZ) of the Galathea National Park to allow for the low-lying coastal area to be made available for the projects, the release in March 2021 by AECOM India Pvt Ltd of the pre-feasibility report titled ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ with the NITI Aayog being the client for the same, and the formation in mid-September 2020 of a committee for de-notification of tribal reserves in the islands, Sekhsaria said: “The EAC recommendation was the latest in a concerted and co-ordinated effort to smoothen out the regulatory and legal processes to facilitate the implementation of these projects.”

“The Andaman and Nicobar Island system lies at a very fragile and vulnerable intersection of the geological, ecological and socio-cultural. NITI Aayog’s Great Nicobar plan is deeply ignorant of these multiple realities even as it aggressively pursues a completely illusory agenda of economic growth and development. To go ahead with it will be to perpetuate a monumental folly the price paid for which cannot even be comprehended,” he wrote in the report.

“We still don’t have access to the EIA report. The links mentioned in the notice don’t have anything about the project and no EIA report either,” he said.

However, the notice published in the newspapers mentioned that a copy of the EIA would be available at multiple offices in Andaman & Nicobar Islands.




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