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NGT to revisit environmental nod to Great Nicobar Island project

NGT constitutes high-powered committee to revisit environmental nod granted to Great Nicobar Island project

Great Nicobar Island (GNI) is a mega project to be implemented at the southern end of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The project includes an international container terminal, international airport, township development and a 450 MVA gas and solar power plant on 16,610 hectares on the island.

The East Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered a stay on the Rs 72,000 crore Great Nicobar Island project and set up a committee to review the environmental clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The bench passed the order on April 3.

The High-Powered Committee (HPC) headed by Secretary MEF&CC has been asked to submit its deliberations within two months.

Great Nicobar Island (GNI) is a mega project to be implemented at the southern end of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The project includes an international container terminal, international airport, township development and a 450 MVA gas and solar power plant on 16,610 hectares on the island.

The main objections in the appeals were that the project would have an adverse impact on the area’s rich biodiversity and damage the habitat of endangered species. The island’s Galathea Bay is a nesting site for birds and the project area is part of Coastal Regulatory Zones-IA and IB.

According to the appeal, only one season of data was taken against the requirement of three seasons of data collection for the comprehensive impact assessment, environmental impact assessment reports were not carried out as per terms of reference (ToR), turtle nesting sites will be disturbed, dolphins and other species will be harmed by dredging.

Andaman and Nicobar Island Integrated Development Corporation Ltd. (ANIIDCO) denied the project’s potential detrimental effects on the island, saying, “The Great Nicobar Island Holistic Development Project will transform the island into a port-led development hub.” However, the tribunal noted that part of the project falls within the CRZ-IA area, in which the construction of ports is prohibited. The location of the proposed port also has a huge number of coral colonies.

“The project is consistent and large, but…”
One of the appeals challenged the deforestation on the grounds that the impact on biodiversity and tribes of the diversion of 130.75 square kilometers of pristine tropical rainforest had not been taken into account. The NGT noted that ANIIDCO is committed to complying with Island Coastal Regulation Zone 2019 and tribal rights; it also plans compensatory afforestation and mangrove plantations.

“Therefore, the project is generally in line and the EC does not require interventions. However, there are some unanswered deficiencies pointed out by appellants that need to be addressed. For example, it is pointed out that out of 20,668 coral colonies, 16,150 are proposed for relocation without any mention of the threat to the remaining 4,518 coral colonies,” he noted.

According to the tribunal’s order, the HPC will consist of the Principal Secretary, Andaman & Nicobar, Zoological Survey of India, Botanical Survey of India, Central Pollution Control Board, Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman nominee, Secretary nominee, Ministry of Shipping and Director. , Wildlife Institute of India

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