[Answered] Highlight the strategic and ecological significance of the Great Nicobar project. Also, discuss the concerns associated with it.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain some strategic and ecological significance of the Great Nicobar project.  Also write concerns associated with it.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change gave environmental clearance for the development project on the strategically important Great Nicobar Island. A “greenfield city” has been proposed, including an International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT), a greenfield international airport, a power plant, and a township for the personnel who will implement the project.

Strategic and ecological significance of the Great Nicobar project:

  • The proposed port will allow Great Nicobar to participate in the regional and global maritime economy by becoming a major player in cargo trans-shipment.
  • The port will cater to tourism as well. Roads, public transport, water supply and waste management facilities, and several hotels have been planned to cater to tourists.
  • More than 1 lakh new direct jobs and 1.5 lakh indirect jobs are likely to be created on the island over the period of development.
  • Great Nicobar is equidistant from Colombo to the southwest and Singapore to the southeast, and positioned close to the East-West international shipping corridor, through which a very large part of the world’s shipping trade passes. The proposed ICTT can potentially become a hub for cargo ships travelling on this route.
  • It is important for national security and consolidation of the Indian Ocean Region as increasing Chinese assertion in the Bay of Bengal and the Indo-Pacific.

Concerns:

  • The proposed massive infrastructure development is in an ecologically important and fragile region, including the felling of almost a million trees. This is doubly significant because these are primary evergreen tropical forests with high biological diversity and also high endemism.
  • The loss of tree cover will not only affect the flora and fauna on the island, it will also lead to increased runoff and sediment deposits in the ocean, impacting the coral reefs in the area.
  • Environmentalists have also flagged the loss of mangroves on the island as a result of the development project.
  • The project area is home to rare flora and fauna. These include the leatherback sea turtles, Nicobar megapode (a flightless bird endemic to the Nicobar islands), Nicobar Macaque and saltwater crocodiles.
  • The project is likely to affect 1,761 people, including the indigenous Shompen and Nicobarese communities.

Given its physical location, the A&N Islands are the natural platform for collaboration between India and Southeast Asia. Proper steps should be followed to mitigate concerns associated with this project.

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