Cut off from the mainland, the Andaman and Nicobar islands is also cut off from the thoughts of most Indians. Few people realise that this archipelago of islands, islets and rocks is among the world’s richest and most threatened biodiversity habitats.
It is also home to ancient tribes whose very existence is threatened due to the increasing commercialisation of the islands.
Troubled Islands is a compilation of articles published by Pankaj Sekhsaria in the media since 1998 that highlight the beautiful and fragile environment of the Andaman and Nicobar islands and the impact of insensitive development policies. A mechanical engineer turned environmental activist, Sekhsaria works with the Pune-based Kalpavriksh environmental action group. Based on project findings in the islands, Kalpavriksh along with the Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology (SANE) and the BNHS had filed a writ petition related to the destruction of the forests of Little Andaman and the threat to the Onge community living there.
The articles in this book primarily revolve around the findings, the campaign, the latest developments and aims to create awareness about the islands. The articles touch upon the history of the islands, the timber industry and how the felling of forests, sand mining, introduction of exotics and encroachment by outsiders is affecting the biodiversity and the indigenous people such as the Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese. Particularly poignant is the story of the Jarawas and the impact of the Andaman Trunk Road and how timber logging and poaching have pushed the Onge to the brink of extinction.
The book endorses the Supreme Court’s landmark decision prohibiting the cutting of naturally grown trees in the islands. “The court’s orders offer the best chance to save the rich but threatened tropical rainforests and the vulnerable indigenous communities of these unique islands,” says Sekhsaria in his article ‘To save the archipelago’. Articles such as ‘The new millennium tamasha’ highlight the dangers of vested and foolish interests, who wait for opportunities to exploit the islands. The annexures include the recommendations of the Supreme Court appointed Shekhar Singh commission and the court order of May 2002.
The well-structured content, photographs and neat layout add to the book’s appeal. This is a fairly comprehensive look at the problems and the steps required to safeguard the Andaman and Nicobar islands and its indigenous population.
By Pankaj Sekhsaria, Published by: Published by Kalpavriksh and LEAD-India, Paperback; Price: Rs. 100/-