Activists call mega-project on India’s Great Nicobar Island ecocide

OONA RAISANE/WIKIPEDIA

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India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, joined the rising chorus of voices against the multi-million construction project at one of the country’s environmentally sensitive islands, the Great Nicobar Island. 

The project has been proposed by the right-wing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Groups opposing the project have demanded the immediate suspension of all clearances given so far and a thorough review of the project, which threatens the natural habitat of rainforests, rare species of animals, and endangered tribes.

The island is located at the southernmost tip of India and is the home of dense rainforests and a Unesco biosphere reserve.

India’s NITI Aayog, a government think tank, conceptualised the project in March 2021. The project, worth more than $9bn, is officially referred to as “Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Adman and Nicobar Islands.”

Implemented by a government undertaking named Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO), the project will comprise the building of an international transhipment terminal, an international airport, which will be used both by the military and the civilians, a power plant and a township for more than 300,000 people.

Currently, there are only around 8,000 people living on the Island.

The project requires the diversion of around 130 sq km of forest land and the felling of around one million trees. It will ultimately require the clearing of nearly 244 sq km, almost a fifth of the Great Nicobar Island.

Jairam Ramesh, Congress leader, demanded an impartial review of the project by the parliamentary committee. He had earlier alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was committing “ecocide” by defying environmental and constitutional norms. – Peoples Dispatch/Globetrotter News Service

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