Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tillangchang: No Entry for Missiles

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
No Entry for Missiles

Photo Credit: Manish Chandy
A proposal of Indian Navy received in the MOEF for consideration of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), seeking recommendation for use of 2m x 2m area within Tillangchong Wild Life Sanctuary, A & N Islands, for erection of a structure as target for practice missiles from sub marines, for 7 to 10 days in a year has been turned down.
In the deliberations on the issue in 25th Standing Committee meeting, the matter was extensively discussed and several members expressed their strong opposition to the proposal. Representative of the Indian Navy made a very persuasive presentation of the importance of the project.
Accordingly it was recommended that the proposal for use of forest land for installation of a structure as target for use of the practice versions of the missiles in the Sanctuary cannot be permitted. The proponent, Indian Navy, was requested to identify alternate locations, where high conservation values of this nature are not at stake, for ensuring the defence preparedness and security of the country.
The area is notified as a Wild Life Sanctuary in 1985. The Island is about 15 km long and 1 km in width, with a total area of 16.83 sq km. The island supports tropical evergreen vegetation.
The proposal was considered in the 23rd meeting held on 14th October 2011 wherein a site inspection was prescribed and entrusted to Dr A Rahmani, Member, along with the Chief Wildlife Warden, A & N Islands, for submitting a report to the Committee. Site inspection was carried out by Dr Rahamani on February 12, 2012, along with the representatives of A & N Forest Department and Indian Navy. Dr Rahmani reported that the area is important for presence of the endemic Nicobar Megapode, Megapodius nicobariensis nicobariensis, a sub species of the Nicobar Megapode, occurring on seven islands of the Nancowry group. The population of this sub species has declined to less than 200 from above 2000 breeding pairs in 1990s and Tillangchong is the only island holding the safest population of the sub species. He also reported presence of a few other endemic species in the area like Nicobar Bulbul, Nicobar Sparrowhawk, Coconut crab etc. The Island is considered sacred by the Nicobarese communities and hunting of birds is not allowed. They had expressed their opinion against the proposal of the Navy. Dr Rahmani recommended that the proposal should not be recommended due to the unique status of this habitat, and potential destruction of the habitat in the nearby area in case of misfire. The report was considered in the 25th meeting held on 13th June 2012. In the meeting it was generally felt that the area, being among the last remaining habitats of an endemic bird, must be preserved. In the meeting, was also considered to permit one pilot testing to understand the impact.
Subsequently several representations and more information were received in the Ministry related to the conservation value of the island. It is indicated that the proposed missile testing is likely to have highly damaging consequences on the ecosystem including the endemic species.

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