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Great Nicobar development plan, Nicobar islands, India

A proposed transhipment port - with an airport, power plant and residential area - would take up 18% of the island, with large potential impacts on indigenous Shompen people and the great variety of wildlife including migratory leatherback turtles.


Great Nicobar is the southernmost island of the Nicobar Islands Archipelago. It covers 103 870 hectares. A background to the Nicobar islands (that belong to India), can be found (among other sources) in the anthropologist and ecologist Simron Singh's work (before and after the tsunami of 2004). [11]. Now the Great Nicobar island is threatened by a massive "development" plan. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Great Nicobar development plan, Nicobar islands, India
State or province:Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Location of conflict:Nicobar Islands
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The 126-page pre-feasibility report entitled ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ prepared by AECOM India Private Limited for NITI Aayog, proposes a project comprising an international container shipment terminal, a greenfield international airport, a power plant and a township complex. The development would take up an area of 166 sq km, nearly 18% of Great Nicobar Island.[3] The area is also earmarked for a strategic defence project.[2] The overall plan envisages use of about 244 sq km. Projects planned for execution in Phase 1 include a 22 sq km airport complex. A transhipment port at South Bay, a parallel to the coast mass transport system and a free trade zone and warehousing complex on the southwestern coast.[4] The project of building a coastal city, that will be developed as a free trade zone, aims to strengthen India’s status in the spheres of the economy, trade and tourism. The goal of the major transhipment centre is to strengthen India’s presence in the Andaman Sea and Southeast Asian region. The proposed international airport would cater for Airbus A-380 aircraft, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, with peak capacity of 4,000 passenger per hour (PHP). The 450 MVA power plant envisages gas and diesel generating stations, solar plants and an additional 50 MW LNG power plant. It is proposed that diesel would provide about 15% of the total of 450 MVA, about 10% solar and the remaining 75% would be gas based. The development plan demarcates 75 sq km for an urbanised area, 42 sq km for a residential area and 32 sq km for commercial development.[9]

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Project area:24,400
Level of Investment for the conflictive project9,997,305,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:05/01/2021
Company names or state enterprises:AECOM India Private Ltd. from India - Pre-feasibility study
Water And Power Consultancy Services Limited (WAPCOS ) from India - Issue of tenders Traffic Study For “creating Transshipment Port At South Bay, Great Nicobar Island Of A&N Islands Conducting Techno-economic feasibility & REIA Studies for creating transhipment port at south bay, Great Nicobar
Relevant government actors:Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation Limited (ANIIDCO)
NITI Aayog
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC)
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)
Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways
Environmental Appraisal Committee
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Andaman Nicobar Environment Team -
Dakshin Foundation -
Conservation India -
Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) -
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
The Shompen, a scheduled tribe, will be impacted
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Official complaint letters and petitions
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Oil spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Proposal and development of alternatives:Manish Chandi, a human ecologist and senior fellow with the Andaman Nicobar Environment Team, suggested funds allocated for the transhipment port project be spent instead on improving infrastructure for the local community and enhancing their capacity to create and augment their own income-generating opportunities through nature-based tourism.[2]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The transhipment port project would take up about 18% of Great Nicobar Island having major negative impacts on leatherback turtles and many other species. Many types of forest are also at risk. The Shompen tribe would lose access to important foraging areas. The proposal has moved forward quickly with the designation of a minimal eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around Galathea National Park removing a key impedient to implementation. Great impact on biodiversity (turtles and others), and on the Shompen indigenous people.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

National Marine Turtle Action Plan, Government of India Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (2021-2026)
[click to view]

Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman & Nicobar Islands: Pre-Feasibility Report, AECOM India Private Ltd., March 2021
[click to view]

Policy on Shompen Tribe of Great Nicobar Island, Andaman and Nicobar Administration Directorate of Tribal Welfare, 22/05/2015
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[9] Aabhas Pareek and Swadha Sharma, NITI Aayog’s Project for Great Nicobar Island, Indian Journal of Projects, Infrastructure and Energy Law (IJPIEL), 05/08 2021
[click to view]

[11] Simron Jit Singh. 1) The Nicobar Islands, Cultural Choices in the aftermath of the Tsunami, Vienna: Oliver Lehmann. 2006. 2) In the Sea of Influence: A World System Perspective of the Nicobar Islands. Lund Studies in Human Ecology 6. Lund: Lund University Press, 2003.

[12] Kalpavriksh, Monumental Folly report (Sekhsaria). March 2021.
[click to view]

[1] Denotify turtle nesting site in Andaman for shipment project: Wildlife board, Hindustan Times, 28/01/2021
[click to view]

[2] Great Nicobar’s protected areas to get near-zero eco-sensitive zones for “holistic development”, Mayank Aggarwal, 08/03/2021
[click to view]

[3] Proposed Development Tsunami will Engulf Great Nicobar Islands, Conservation India,
[click to view]

[4] NITI Aayog vision for Great Nicobar ignores tribal, ecological concerns, Pankaj Sekhsaria, The Hindu, 20/03/2021
[click to view]

[5] Green panel allows Great Nicobar plan to advance, Pankaj Sekhsaria, The Hindu, 10/05/2021
[click to view]

[6] NITI Aayog’s Vision for Great Nicobar Is at Great Odds With Islanders’ Reality, Rishika Pardika, Science, The Wire, 29/05/2021
[click to view]

[7] Location, Port Design Could Spell Doom for Turtles at Galathea Bay: Experts, Pankaj Sekhsaria, Science, The Wire, 04/06/2021
[click to view]

[8] India’s turtle researchers oppose development plans for Little Andaman, Great Nicobar islands, Ashis Senapati, Down To Earth, 10/06/2021
[click to view]

[10] A&N Islands to have public hearing for Rs 72K cr project, environmentalist cries foul, 27 Dec. 2021. New Delhi. |
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Petition - Save Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and Great Nicobar Island
[click to view]

Galathea Bay: Will the World's Largest Sea Turtle Return to Nest in India?

Video explaining the habitat and life-cycle of the Leatherback Turtle in Galathea Bay on the tip of Great Nicobar Island. In January 2021 the protected status of the sanctuary was cancelled for construction of a transshipment port. Roundglass Sustain, 08/10/2021
[click to view]

Other comments:January 2022. The Combined EIA has been published and there is a public hearing on 27/01/2022
Meta information
Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded mapping, email: [email protected]
Last update06/01/2022
Conflict ID:5678
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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