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Daily Category  (Environment)

NITI Aayog’s Great Nicobar Development plan

CONTEXT:

  • The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) has “recommended” it “for grant of terms of reference (TOR)” for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies for NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for Great Nicobar Island.

NITI Aayog's 'sustainable' vision for Great Nicobar Island | IASbaba

KEY DETAILS:

  • Serious concerns: Earlier, the Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) – of MoEFCC has flagged serious concerns about NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for Great Nicobar Island.

  • Terms of reference: The committee has, however, removed the first hurdle faced by the project as It has “recommended” it “for grant of terms of reference (TOR)” for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies.

NITI Aayog’s Great Nicobar Development plan: 

  • Aims: To promote the holistic development of Greater Nicobar.

  • Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary: Based on that, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) denotified Sanctuary for building port and other related infrastructure.

  • NITI Aayog has been mandated with the task to steer the holistic development of the islands sustainably without damaging the pristine biodiversity.

  • Implementation Agency: Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO)

Concerns regarding Island Environment:

  • The committee’s concerns were both procedural and substantive.

  • Concerns: Occurrence of seismic and tsunami hazards, freshwater requirement details and details of the impact on the Giant Leatherback turtle.

  • Removing tropical forests: The committee also noted that there were no details of the trees to be felled — a number that could run into millions since 130 sq. km. of the project area has some of the finest tropical forests in India.

  • Galathea Bay: It is the site of the port and the centrepiece of the NITI Aayog proposal. Galathea Bay is an iconic nesting site in India of the enigmatic Giant Leatherback, the world’s largest marine turtle.

  • Selection Criteria: The committee noted that the site selection for the port had been done mainly on technical and financial criteria, ignoring the environmental aspects.

Needed:

  • Need of independent study: It has now asked for “an independent study/ evaluation for the suitability of the proposed port site with specific focus on Leatherback Turtle, Nicobar Magapod (sic) and Dugong”.

  • Corporate policy: The committee has also asked for details of the corporate environment policy of the implementing agency — whether the company has an environment policy.

Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC):

  • The EACs’ primary role in the environmental clearance (EC) process is to give recommendations to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on project proposals after considering the potential impacts of the project.
  • It exists at the Union as well as state levels (state expert appraisal committee or SEAC) to advise the government on environmental clearance of development projects.
  • Based on these recommendations, the MoEFCC either rejects the proposal or grants a clearance with conditions which would mitigate the impacts or compensate for the same.

Giant Leatherback Turtle:

  • Largest sea turtle: It is the largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet.

  • Other six species are: Olive Ridley turtle, Green turtle, Hawksbill turtle, Loggerhead turtle, Leatherback turtle.

  • Found in: They are found in all oceans except

    • Arctic and

    • Antarctic

  • Indian Ocean: They nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

  • Conservation and Protection Status:

    • IUCN: Vulnerable

    • WPA,1972: Schedule I

    • CITES: Appendix I

SOURCE: The Hindu

Hoolock Gibbon Species

Context:

  • Fourteen years after reports noting that India has two separate species of the gibbon – the hoolock gibbon and the eastern hoolock gibbon – a genetic analysis has now proved that there is only one species of ape in India.