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Great Nicobar Island Mega Infrastructure Project:  NGT Directs to Review Environmental Clearance 

National Green Tribunal has appointed a committee to evaluate the environmental clearance given to Andaman and Nicobar Islands

By pragyaanant
New Update
Holistic development of ANdman Nicobar

National Green Tribunal has appointed a committee to evaluate the environmental clearance given to Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIDCO). The project is designed for the multi-component mega-development in the Great Nicobar Island. The NGT's Eastern Zone bench formed a committee to review the clearance issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

The Mega Project

The massive project was supposed to be implemented in Southern Andaman and Nicobar Islands. An international airport and a container transshipment terminal are part of the project. In addition, the project calls for the construction of a 16,610-hectare township, a gas, diesel, and solar-powered power plant, and a military-civilian dual-use airport. ANIDCO had received environmental and forest clearance earlier. At present, NGT hears appeals against those clearances. NGT had already requested a response earlier on January 11 from the ANIDCO  and MoEF&CC.

According to a bench led by Justice A K Goel and  Justice S Agarwal, Justice B Amit Sthalekar, Justice A K Tyagi, and expert members Dr. A S Vel and Dr. A Ahmad, said there is a need for adequate studies on the harmful effects of erosion, disaster management, and other conservation and mitigation measures on coral reefs, mangroves, turtle and bird nesting sites, other wildlife and habitats.

The Shortcomings of the Project

The appellants claimed that it is expressly forbidden for the port, a component of the project, to be located there because there are so many coral colonies in the area. They also emphasized that it would cause coastal erosion. The opponent had argued that only one season's worth of data had been obtained for the study. But, a thorough impact assessment needed to be gathered for three seasons. The court stated that there could be no two views about the requirement for more studies of the negative impact on coral reefs, mangroves, turtle and bird nesting sites, wildlife, erosion, disaster management, conservation, and mitigation measures.

The bench also emphasized a few unanswered issues, such as the damage to 4,518 coral colonies, the impact assessment's short duration, and the project's location where ports were not allowed. The appellants had additionally argued that a qualified consultancy had not carried out the Environmental Impact Assessment and that the government policy required the isolation of the Shompen tribes and Nicobari villages, which had not been considered in this instance.

The Necessity of the Project

Respondent MoEF&CC and ANIDCO, argued that the project is significant for defense, national security, and the comprehensive development of Great Nicobar Island. This was said in opposition to the appellant's claim that Campbell Bay National Park and Galathea National Park would be negatively impacted. Respondents said the project would increase India's influence in the Andaman Sea and Southeast Asia. Furthermore, provide a significant freight transshipment terminal and a central tourism hub. Building an international trans-shipment facility presents enormous opportunities further to strengthen India's trading position globally.

Conclusion

After considering both parties' submissions, the Tribunal determined that there were no reasons to interfere with the forest clearance. It declared that both national security and economic development were essential and that both factors were not insignificant.

  • The head of the Wildlife Institute of India,
  • The Zoological Survey of India,
  • The Botanical Survey of India,
  • The Central Pollution Control Board,
  • The nominees for Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog and
  • Secretary of the Ministry of Shipping, are also members of the high power committee.

The Tribunal ordered the Committee to convene within two weeks and complete its work within two months. The Tribunal asked the MoEF&CC's secretary to designate a nodal person. The NGT declared that the Committee might meet in two weeks and finish its work in two months. The Committee will be free to collaborate with any other organization or professional. The relevant authority may reexamine the EC or its conditions in light of the Committee's report. The NGT ordered all parties to stop working further on the disputed EC, except for work that may be insignificant.

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