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Lt. Governor against permanent settlement in Andamans

By Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI, NOV. 25. The Lt. Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Ram Kapse, has written to the Centre seeking a total ban on migration of people on the island in the "interest of the ecology and the local community''.

Talking to reporters during a seminar on "Conservation of Biodiversity in Andaman and Nicobar Islands'' here today organised jointly by the Island Development and Training Institute, Port Blair and the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Mr. Kapse said his letter to the Union Home Ministry was in spirit of the recommendations made by the Saldhana Commission in 1988.

"We have suggested promulgation of a regulation already in existence in the north-eastern States and the Lakshdweep Islands that does not allow permanent settlement in these areas,'' Mr. Kapse said. People can come and visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but they should not be allowed to settle there, he said adding that this had been done following reports of experts who feel it was necessary to save any further damage to the fragile ecology of the islands and for the sustenance of the 3.56 lakh people there. The Centre accepted the Saldhana Commission report and reversed its policy of settling people on the islands, though it is yet to implement all the recommendations fully. "The Centre will fully implement the recommendation after studying the legal aspects of the report, which will take some time,'' Mr. Kapse pointed out.

Statistics show that the population of the aboriginals on the inhabited islands is only 800 besides 35,000 Nicobaris and the remaining are migrants from the mainland who were settled there after 1950 onwards.

But increasing population has wrecked havoc with the biodiversity and the forests since the people survive on forest wood and minor forest products as there is only 13 per cent land available to them. But, after the enactment of the National Forest Policy, 1988 and the recent Supreme Court notification that prevent felling of trees, sustenance has become a major issue.

"We are now trying to promote high-value agriculture, fisheries and eco-tourism. While the Cabinet has cleared high-value agriculture and fisheries schemes, clearance for eco-tourism will depend on the National Tourism Policy which is yet to be announced,'' he said.

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