Narcondam Campaign Update — Rare Hornbills in danger as Ministry Reopens Radar Project!

Campaign Details — June 2012

CI urges your immediate action regarding a serious threat faced by India’s Narcondam Island and the endemic and endangered Narcondam Hornbill (Aceros narcondami).

Many organizations and people have written to the Union Minister for Environment and Forests. If you haven’t done this yet, please do. The danger still persists.

 
Background

Narcondam is an extremely remote, tiny island in the Andaman and Nicobar Island group, and is home to about 300 Narcondam hornbills, a species that is found nowhere else in the world.  It is a notified Wildlife Sanctuary. The island is uninhabited but for a small police outpost.

Project Details

A proposal  from the Indian Coast Guard to build a RADAR installation and a diesel power generation station on the island was recently placed before the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). The plan includes new constructions, a wide 2-km road through virgin forest that will require considerable tree felling, additional human presence, and high potential for chronic and increased disturbance to this lushly forested island and its small hornbill population.

Collateral Damage

The existing police outpost has itself caused some loss of habitat. It is dependent on the single freshwater source available on the island, and any additional human presence and installations will only compound the problems for the island and its unique flora and fauna. The infrastructure construction that is planned will entail large numbers of labourers camping on the island for months or years.  The island will become an open latrine, introducing all manner of pathogens into the environment. Vegetation will be cleared for labour camps and workers will undoubtedly cut firewood from the forest for their cooking needs. It is almost inevitable that many will also hunt anything that moves in and around the island to add protein and flavour to their daily meals. Who will monitor and prevent all this? Once the construction begins, it will be classified as a ‘defence project’ and the island will become off limits to practically everyone else. This is exactly what happened when a missile testing base came up right next to the olive ridley mass nesting beach in Gahirmatha, Orissa, over a decade ago. Today, bright lights blaze throughout the year, causing light pollution, and domestic and feral dogs from the base invade the nesting beach and feast on turtle eggs.  Once the RADAR and affiliated construction activities begin, Narcondam will suffer irreparable harm and degradation.  It is also very likely that more and more buildings and facilities will be added in the future.

Site Inspection Report

It is undoubtedly with all this in mind that Dr. Asad R Rahmani, Director, Bombay Natural History Society, who made a site visit in February this year on behalf of the Standing Committee, has strongly recommended rejection of this proposal. This was unanimously supported by the other Independent Members of the NBWL at the last Standing Committee meeting held on 13 June 2012.

Why We Should Oppose This Project

Every agency desires to show progress by doing something new, and the Coast Guard is probably no exception. But so far, no documents have been placed before the Standing Committee of the NBWL explaining why, after all these decades, a RADAR station is suddenly needed in that location.  Is there a new or emerging threat to national security?  If so, is this the only way to monitor it? Has the CG explored alternative sites or alternative means?

Why is the project still “under consideration” after a site inspection carried out by an NBWL expert categorically concluded that it should be rejected? With the survival of an entire species at stake, isn’t this a good reason to look at alternative sites and means of achieving the same end? When all the Independent Members of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife are unanimously opposed to the project, where is the question of keeping a decision pending? After all, it is the Committee that is empowered to take a collective decision. If the Minister could take a unilateral decision overriding the majority opinion of the Committee, where is the need for a Committee or, for that matter, the NBWL itself? It is clear that this proposal, like many others, is being rushed through without adequate due diligence. This is not acceptable, notwithstanding the bogey of “national security”.

Finally, the Wildlife (Protection) Act and Supreme Court orders are clear: no non-forestry activities can be taken up in Protected Areas unless they are for the betterment of wildlife.

Alternatives

The onus is entirely on the Government to come up with a list of viable alternatives. The Ministry of Environment and Forests must constitute an independent, multi-disciplinary team to examine alternate sites as well as alternate means to achieve the objective of monitoring maritime activity in the Andaman Sea. So far there has been no move to do so.

What You Can Do

The proposal is still pending with the Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge), Mrs Jayanthi Natarajan. Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), a Member of the NBWL and its Standing Committee, has written a letter to the Minister explaining why the project must not be given the go ahead. The letter clearly sets out several ecological reasons, and we urge you to read it carefully to familiarise yourself with the facts (you can download the PDF of the letter from the link above).

While the Independent Members on the Standing Committee will undoubtedly continue to intervene in this matter, we urge you to support their stand by appealing to the Minister to heed scientific advice and take a far-sighted decision to reject the proposal and  safeguard this fragile island and its wildlife.

Please write to the Minister for Environment and Forests, as well as to the Member Secretary of the NBWL Standing Committee, immediately, expressing your concern.  If you send an email or a fax, also send a hard copy of the letter to the addresses provided below. Please email a copy of the letter to us so that we can maintain a record. Above all, please share this CI appeal widely through your social networks. The threat is serious and requires both speedy and sustained action.The above video is also available on YouTube - if you want to share the link or embed it. 

Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan

Minister of State for Environment & Forests (Independent Charge)

Chairperson, Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)

Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India

Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex, Lodi Road, New Delhi 110 003

Fax: +91 11 24362222

Email: mosefgoi@nic.in

Shri Jagdish Kishwan

IFS Member-Secretary, Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife

Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India

Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex, Lodi Road,

New Delhi 110 003

Email: jkishwan@nic.in

You can mail your campaign mails to Conservation India at info@conservationindia.org.

Comments

Older Comments
  1. Grave concern indeed, Is their a ‘general note’ that any common individual can send expressing concern rather than anybody writing anything.
    A common letter highlighting the concerns that appeal and strikes a common man being sent would have more of an impact is my opinion?

    As it being a coast guard project, it may be a sensitive project… are there alternate suggestions or places for the proposed project? Why only Narcondam?

  2. Shekar  Dattatri

    We would prefer people to write to the Government in their own words rather than provide a form letter. All the pertinent details are above and it will take only a few minutes to cut and paste appropriate material and to customize your letter.

    As for alternatives, the onus is entirely on the government, which has abundant resources at its disposal, to constitute a multi-disciplinary team to look into alternatives, rather than take the easy route of simply approving every proposal placed before it.

  3. Preeth  Khona

    Are we really short of place that we need to vanish a endangered species to fulfill a need? When will we learn our lessons? Please stop this madness. Country is a prioriy but we r not gods to decide and destroy.

  4. Anand  Sundaram

    Its really heartening to see we are now destructers of nature and we wand to show that we are dosing something new

  5. SUMIT  JOSHI

    If we can’t provide shelter to these innocent nature’s beauty then atleast nobody has given us right to destroy the habitat of these speechless creatures.Don’t be so greedy otherwise it is only the human who is solely responsible of their own destruction in the future.Try to save these assets which is provided by god.

  6. Sharad  Vohra

    Surely the National Security interest in the remote Narcondam island stems from China’s increasing influence and jingoism on South-East Asia. What with Burma’s near-at-hand Coco Is. believed to be a Chinese listening post, if not a discreet maritime base.
    India should look at building on our PM’s recent Burma visit and strengthening diplomatic relations.
    The island, no-doubt, is strategically located deep and remote in the east Andaman sea. Our long term well-being and vision of a benevolent nation will be much better served by just planting our national colours and leaving the pristine ecosystem and the wondrous Hornbill in peace.
    And our able defence strategists should be able to conjure up alternative territorial deterrents.

  7. Preeth  Khona

    It is mere madness to build a radar station at the narcondam island ,even after knowing the importance and the significance of this beautiful island…… kindly do not take this decision which will harm and may even lead to extinction of the beautiful jewel of the nature, the narcondam hornbill….. same time it also know that , the security of the nation is important .. i am sure that there must be an alternative for this problem…..

  8. And here’s my voice. Letter sent. Hope the pressure works. http://www.daktre.com/2012/08/narcondamn/

  9. Rishin  Basu roy

    Please stop creating all this damages in a place like Narcondam where nature is still valued and persist!

  10. Great news!
    MoEF refuses permission for the Coastal Radar Station at Narcondam!!

    See: http://moef.nic.in/assets/wl-04092012.pdf

  11. Hemant  Krishnani

    Congratulations Shekar and all the concerned , the permission for building the radar installation has been refused by the government. A great news.

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The endemic & endangered Narcondam Hornbill
Dhritiman Mukherjee

The hornbill is listed under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act.

The 'remoteness' of Narcondam
Map by Vasanth Asokan

The remote Island is highly vulnerable to environmental disturbances.

People who have written to the minister to stop the Great Indian Bustard from going extinct: