[Answered] Evaluate the role of environmental impact assessments (EIA) in major infrastructural projects in ecologically sensitive areas, using the Great Nicobar Island project as an example.

Introduction: Contextual Introduction

Body: Highlight the role of EIA in ecologically sensitive areas in major infrastructure projects

Conclusion: Way forward

The opposition parties have recently demanded an “immediate suspension” of all clearances granted to NITI Aayog’s mega project on Great Nicobar Island in the light of “violations of due process, legal and constitutional provisions protecting tribal communities, and the project’s disproportionate ecological and human cost.” Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are intended to be a crucial tool for evaluating the environmental impact of major infrastructure projects, especially in ecologically sensitive areas.

Role of EIAs in Ecologically Sensitive Areas

  • Impact on Endangered Species: EIAs should thoroughly assess potential environmental disruptions caused by the project. The island is home to indigenous tribes and critically endangered wildlife like the Shompen tribe and the Nicobar Megapode bird.
  • Habitat Loss: Large-scale construction can lead to deforestation and habitat destruction.
  • Water Resources: The project’s impact on freshwater availability and potential pollution of waterways needs evaluation.
  • Informed Decision-Making: EIAs should provide data for decision-makers to weigh the project’s economic benefits against its environmental costs.
  • Project Modification: The EIA could recommend changes to the project design to minimize its footprint or explore alternative locations.
  • Mitigation Strategies: The EIA could identify measures to lessen the project’s environmental impact, like habitat restoration plans or wildlife corridors.
  • Public Participation: A robust EIA process should include public consultations, ensuring that local communities have a voice and that their concerns are addressed.
  • Increased Transparency: Public participation fosters trust and transparency in the decision-making process.
  • Identification of Local Issues: Local communities often have valuable knowledge about the ecosystem’s vulnerabilities that might not be apparent in initial assessments.


The case of the Great Nicobar Island project illustrates the significant role of EIAs in identifying potential environmental and social impacts, proposing mitigation measures, and ensuring stakeholder participation. EIAs have the potential to play a vital role in ensuring sustainable development, especially in ecologically sensitive zones like Great Nicobar. However, the effectiveness of EIAs hinges on their thoroughness, transparency, and genuine consideration of public input. The Great Nicobar project exemplifies the need for robust EIAs to balance development needs with environmental protection.

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