Sea turtles in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, deep off India’s east coast are under grave threat if the country goes ahead with the proposed ‘development’ of the island. The plan by an Indian think tank could decimate the leatherback turtle population on the island.
The nesting spots of the rare sea turtles are under direct threat even as their population is steadily going down globally. The leatherbacks are the largest living sea turtles and the Andaman Islands are one of its largest nesting sites. The Little Andaman is also the home of the hunter-gatherer tribe, the Onge.
NITI Aayog’s Appalling ‘Vision Document’ Could Decimate The Sea Turtles
A ‘vision document’ has drawn the blueprint for the ‘sustainable’ improvement of the tiny island of Little Andaman. The 260 square miles (675 square kilometers) island is sparsely populated and covered with rainforests.
The development envisaged in the plan includes an international airport, freeways, a marina, and casinos, hotels, and theme parks. The appalling plan also includes adding an opera, a jungle resort, and natural healing district.
The authors of the National Institution of Transforming India report also have proposed developing the Great Nicobar Island to the south.
Of the 7 species of sea turtles, 5 can be found in the waters of India. The leatherback sea turtles are one of the rarest. It is the lone sea turtle without a hard bony shell. It instead has a protective leather-like carapace.
Individuals can weigh as much as a ton and can reach over 6 feet (2 meters) in length. It is the largest of all sea turtles. Their diet consists primarily of jellyfish. Except for the Antarctic and the Arctic, they are found in every ocean on the planet.
But their population has been decimated with nests in Malaysia declining from 5,000 in the 1960s to a mere 10 at the beginning of this century. The Andaman Islands remain one of the few sites where they are still thriving. A study in 2019 discovered 2 high-intensity nesting sites in the West and South Bay area of Little Andaman.
Sea turtles are slow-developing creatures and it takes considerable time to study them. The implementation of the unbalanced plan by NITI Aayog will further push the turtlebacks towards extinction.