Will India’s megaproject sink Great Nicobar island? – DW – 02/20/2024 – Travel India Alone

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s authorities is planning to take a position $9 billion (€ 8.38 billion) to rework India’s Nice Nicobar island into a large navy and commerce hub. However the plans have raised issues amongst environmentalists, scientists and civic organizations who imagine the megaproject will destroy the distinctive ecology of the distant area.

Past ecological issues, many worry the impression on indigenous communities — particularly the Shompen folks, a hunter-gatherer group who’ve lived on Nice Nicobar for 1000’s of years with little or no outdoors contact.

India’s japanese outpost

Indian officers say plans to develop Nice Nicobar have been fueled by China’s rising assertiveness within the Indian Ocean, noting that the island’s strategic place makes it very important for safety and commerce.

The island is situated some 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) east of India’s mainland, near Indonesia’s Sumatra and solely a whole lot of kilometers away from Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia. It at the moment has round 8,000 residents.

Plans permitted by the Indian authorities envisage the development of a global container terminal; a dual-use airport for navy and civilian functions; a fuel, diesel, and solar-based energy plant; and a greenfield township on the 1,000-square-kilometer island. These developments would additionally enhance the island’s inhabitants into the a whole lot of 1000’s.

The authorities level out that the port, set to dominate the island’s Galathea Bay, will flourish resulting from being near one of many world’s busiest delivery lanes, the Malacca Strait.

And plans are continuing at a quick tempo with the federal government managing to safe varied approvals, clearances and exemptions over the previous three years, main some to reward the challenge because the creation of India’s personal “Hong Kong” at Nice Nicobar.

India’s minister of ports, delivery and waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, advised reporters the federal government had no second ideas about pushing forward with the island’s growth.

“It’s true that completely different stakeholders have raised environmental issues, however these have been clearly addressed,” Sonowal mentioned.

Reducing down the rainforest

Nonetheless, critics say the initiative would trigger irreversible injury to the pristine rainforests on Nice Nicobar. The island has “one of many best-preserved tropical rain forests on the earth,” in line with the Indian authorities, however the plans to rework it right into a protection and commerce hub would imply chopping down round 852,000 timber.

Environmentalists warn that the massive port at Galathea Bay would destroy a delicate nesting space for leatherback sea turtles. Other than turtle nesting websites, dolphins and different species could be harmed by the proposed dredging, and saltwater crocodiles, Nicobar crab-eating macaque and migratory birds would additionally bear the brunt of the island’s growth.

The coral reef alongside the coast of the bay might be destroyed by dredging throughout the port’s development, India’s environmental watchdog EIA has warned. The township, airport and thermal energy plant will all be constructed in areas with dense forest cowl, which can “considerably” have an effect on biodiversity the EIA mentioned in a draft report.

Much more alarmingly, activists warn {that a} huge demographic shift mixed with depleting pure sources would endanger and probably finish indigenous communities.

Shompen group set for extinction?

London-based Survival Worldwide, a human rights group that campaigns for the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, pointed to the danger to the Shompens, an area tribe numbering round 300 folks. The group mentioned Shompens face the threat of whole extinction.

“It’s unattainable to think about that the Shompen will survive this catastrophic transformation of their island. If the authorities in India succeed of their ambition to show the island into the ‘Hong Kong of India,'” Survival Worldwide Director Caroline Pearce advised DW, including, “future residents ought to know that it was constructed on the graves of the Shompen, whose homeland this has been since time immemorial.”

Survival Worldwide factors out that like different hunter-gatherers, the Shompen have an intricate information of their forest and use the flora of the island in a mess of the way.

Transferring into quake-prone space

Earlier this month, dozens of students from world wide expressed the identical issues in an open letter to India’s President Droupadi Murmu, urging her to halt development and pointing to the dangers posed by the anticipated demographic shift. The signatories, which included specialists on genocide, warned that an anticipated 650,000 settlers, or an 8,000% improve in inhabitants, would imply the top of the Shompen.

“The folks will be unable to outlive on their very own phrases inside this framework. And the folks dwelling there, they won’t simply undergo bodily, they are going to be psychically destroyed. It’ll kill them,” Mark Levene, fellow on the UK’s College of Southampton, advised DW.

And native tribes aren’t the one ones in hazard. A large inflow of inhabitants would additionally imply placing a whole lot of 1000’s of individuals into one of many world’s most harmful seismic areas. In 2004, the Nice Nicobar area was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 9.3 on the Richter Scale, triggering the deadliest tsunami in recorded historical past.

“This challenge is totally arbitrary. The multimillion-dollar challenge comes at an enormous price. It’ll destroy the setting and the rights of the indigenous folks,” Bhupesh Tewari, who works with indigenous teams in India’s Chhattisgarh, advised DW.

Edited by: Darko Janjevic


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