Future of only home of Andaman’s Hornbills now depends upon Jayanthi Natarajan
It is a story you will not find anywhere in the India’s mainstream media but it is unnerving country’s top conservationists. It is all about to fight to save 300 Narcondum Hornbills, whose only home on the globe is a 6.5 sq km island in Andaman named after the bird itself.
I am taking precious space of my newspaper Hindustan Times, through my blog Ecostani, to urge environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan to save the rare bird as the ball is in her court.
It all started with the environment ministry giving a positive indication to allow Indian Coastal Guard to install a coastal surveillance radar, a two-km road through the virgin forest and a power supply source in Narcondam Island Sanctuary in Andaman and Nicobar Island, where these small beautiful bird has been living for centuries.
On the fact of it, the Indian Coastal Guard’s proposal seems to aid conservation. It said installing of the radar will help in keeping a close watch on the poachers and intruders frequenting the open India waters in the area.
“Installation of radar by the Indian Coast Guard besides securing the open waters around the island, would also benefit the wildlife by keeping a check on activities of poachers,” the proposal submitted to the ministry says.
Dr Madhusudan of Nature Foundation and Dr Asad Rahmani of Bombay Natural History Society were of the view that Narcondam Island was the only home for the critically endangered Narcondam Hornbills and, therefore, any activity that had an impact on this species should be viewed with utmost caution. They wanted the Indian Coast Guard to harmonize their requirement of installing the radar within the existing establishment of the police outpost on the island.
It now appears that the Coast Guard is not willing to agree with conservationists and is insisting on installing the radar system in middle of the country’s unique island sanctuary.
The issue was discussed at the last meeting of the standing committee of National Board for Wildlife and minister Jayanthi Natarajan, who chairs the meetings, has been asked to take final call.
Now, conservationists from across the country are writing to Natarajan asking her not to allow the coastal guard proposal and prevent huge ecological loss in this Andaman Island, which could result in irreparable damage to the hornbills.
The coastal guards have failed to give a convincing reason for the need of the radar system on this particular island. They have also failed to provide any alternates to their proposal like whether the system can be installed in some other island or not. If the radar system was required in particular island, some examples of sea intrusions posing danger to national security should have been given.
In absence any convincing argument, deciding in favour of coastal guards in the name of strategic important will not be less a horrendous man-made ecological disaster. Most independent members of NBWL have already hinted at this possibility, if Natarajan allows the project.
On the other hand, minister Natarajan can strengthen her credentials by asking the coastal guard to consider some other location and striking a perfect balance between ecology and national security.
Let’s wait and wait.