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Strategic Imperatives or Environmental Sacrifice: The Great Nicobar Debate (UPSC CAPF Argument 2024)

21 Jun 2024

The proposed Rs 72,000-crore infrastructure upgrade at Great Nicobar Island, implemented by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO), has stirred significant debate.


The proposed Rs 72,000-crore infrastructure upgrade at Great Nicobar Island, implemented by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO), has stirred significant debate. The project aims to bolster national security and economic development but faces strong opposition from conservationists and local communities concerned about environmental and social impacts.

Arguments in Favor of the Project

  • Strategic Importance: The island's location near the Malacca Strait, a crucial maritime chokepoint, is vital for India's maritime security. Enhancing military and logistical capabilities here helps counter the increasing presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy in the Indian Ocean region.

  • Economic Benefits: The project includes an International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), a greenfield international airport, and a new township. These developments aim to transform Great Nicobar into a significant player in regional and global maritime economies, leveraging its strategic position.

  • Infrastructure Development: The development of gas and solar-based power plants, as well as improved connectivity, is expected to boost local economies and create job opportunities. This holistic development approach could significantly uplift the island's economic profile.

  • Tourism Potential: The proposed "greenfield city" aims to tap into the island's tourism potential, promoting sustainable economic diversification and attracting investment.

Arguments Against the Project

  • Environmental Impact: The project threatens the island’s fragile ecosystem, including the felling of nearly a million trees and potential destruction of coral reefs. It also poses risks to endangered species like the Nicobar Megapo

  • de and leatherback turtles.

  • Impact on Indigenous Communities: The Shompen and Nicobarese tribes are particularly vulnerable to displacement and cultural disruption. Critics argue that the project violates their rights and that there was inadequate consultation with local tribal councils.

  • Seismic Risks: The island is in a seismically active zone. The proposed port is located in an area that experienced significant subsidence during the 2004 tsunami, raising concerns about the safety and sustainability of such large-scale developments.

  • Legal and Administrative Challenges: The project has faced legal hurdles, including a high-power committee review mandated by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and opposition from the Congress Party demanding a suspension of clearances and thorough reviews.


  • The Great Nicobar project embodies a complex interplay between strategic imperatives and environmental concerns

  • hile the project's potential benefits in terms of national security and economic development are significant, they must be carefully weighed against the potential ecological damage and social disruption. 

  • A balanced approach that includes comprehensive environmental assessments, robust consultation with indigenous communities, and sustainable development practices is essential. 

  • By addressing these concerns, the project can achieve its strategic goals without compromising the ecological integrity and social fabric of Great Nicobar Island.

Note: In this UPSC CAPF Essay, we have given subheadings for your reference. When you write in the UPSC exam, you don't need to do that.

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