In answer to an RTI request, the NITI Aayog stated that it does not have a vision paper for the development of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ Great Nicobar Island.
It comes nine months after the NITI Aayog issued an RfP for the ‘Preparation of Master Plan for Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island,’ two months after Gurgaon-based Aecom India Pvt. Ltd. submitted a 126-page proposal for a Rs-75000-crore plan, and a month after the environment ministry’s Environment Appraisal Committee – Infrastructure I raised serious concerns about it. ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman and Nicobar Islands,’ according to Aecom India’s 126-page pre-feasibility report for NITI Aayog. It can be found on the ‘Parivesh’ portal of the environment ministry. It was written in response to NITI Aayog’s request for proposals (RFP) for a “master plan” to “holistically develop” Great Nicobar Island, which was published in September 2020.
By 2050, the plan estimates a population of 6.5 lakh people living on the island, which will cover an area of 166 square kilometres. Today, natural coastline systems and tropical forests occupy the majority of this territory. The Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary was denotified in its entirety for the port in the bay by the National Board for Wildlife, India’s primary agency for wildlife conservation, in January 2021. The most famous nesting location for gigantic leatherback turtles in India is this bay. The bay was listed in the Environment Ministry’s National Marine Turtle Action Plan which was announced in February 2021.
Experts have also expressed concern about the effects that all of these activities will have on Great Nicobar’s rich forests, coastline, and marine ecosystems. The island is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a diverse range of forest types, and one of the world’s best-preserved tropical rainforests. It also has 648 flora species and 330 fauna species, including rare and unique species like the Nicobar wild pig, Nicobar tree shrew, the Great Nicobar crested serpent eagle, Nicobar paradise flycatcher and the Nicobar megapode.
At the time of publication, emails submitted to Gopinath, who signed the RTI answer, and Saloni Goel, an NRE vertical specialist who issued the 201-page RfP, had not evoked a response.While senior members of the NITI Aayog have denied to journalists that the organisation had plans for the islands, the RTI response stands out because it comes from the same division that produced the RfP last year – Natural Resource and Environment (NRE) Vertical, Island Development.