Andaman & Nicobar Islands Current Affairs
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Andaman & Nicobar Islands are to home to tenth of India’s fauna species and hosts 1,067 endemic faunal species found nowhere else. It was revealed by Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) publication titled Faunal Diversity of Biogeographic Zones: Islands of India. This publication for the first time has come up with database of all faunal species found on the island. It has database of species found in particular category of animals and also highlights most vulnerable among them.
Highlights of ZSI publication
Total area of A&N Islands, which comprises of 572 islands, islets and rocky outcrops, is about 8,249 sq. km has around total 11,009 species. It comprises only 0.25% of India’s geographical area but is home to more than 10% of country’s fauna species. Thus, presence of such large number of species in such small area makes A&I Islands one of the richest ecosystems and biodiversity hot spots in India. Tourism, illegal construction and mining are posing threat to the islands’ biodiversity, which is already vulnerable to volatile climatic factors. Some of the species in A&N Islands are restricted to very small area and thus more vulnerable to any anthropogenic threat.
Marine fauna: Of the ten species of marine fauna found on islands, dugong/sea cow and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin are both classified as Vulnerable under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Terrestrial mammalian species: 46 terrestrial mammalian species are found. 3 species have been categorised as Critically Endangered —Jenkin’s shrew (C. jenkinsi), Andaman shrew (Crocidura andamanensis) and Nicobar shrew (C. nicobarica). Five species are listed as Endangered, 9 species as Vulnerable, and 1 species as Near Threatened by IUCN.
Birds: Endemism is quite high in A&N islands, with 36 among 344 species of birds found only on the islands. Many of these bird species are placed in IUCN Red List of threatened species and also under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA).
Marine diversity: Eight species of amphibians and 23 species of reptiles are endemic to the islands. They are at high risk of being threatened.
Marine faunal diversity: It includes coral reefs and its associated fauna. In all, 555 species of scleractinian corals (hard or stony corals) are found in the island ecosystem, all which are placed under Schedule I of the WPA.
Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
It is India’s apex organization on animal taxonomy. Its objective is to promote survey, exploration, research and documentation on various aspects of animal taxonomy in Indian subcontinent. It also seeks advancement of knowledge on animal taxonomy. It was established in 1916 and headquartered in Kolkata. It has been declared as designated repository for National Zoological Collection as per section 39 of the National Biodiversity Act, 2002.
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) conducted the Regional Level Marine Oil Pollution Response Exercise named ‘Clean Sea-2017’ at sea off Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
The objective of exercise was to ascertain preparedness of IGC, resource agencies and other stakeholders in responding to major oil spill in line with provisions of National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP).
Need for exercise
The Great Channel between Nicobar Islands and Northern Sumatra that leads into Malacca Straits is marine drive of high seas. Almost 200 ships cross 160-km wide Straits daily making it among busiest sea routes of world. Considering, high intensity of oil tanker traffic through this route, the area is highly vulnerable to oil spills. So there is need for robust national system for oil spill response is critical
Highlights of Clean Sea-2017
The exercise was planned to evaluate preparedness for Response Operations for any such oil pollution incident in highly sensitive area of A&B islands. The exercise was conducted in two phases for synchronizing support and cooperation provided by all stakeholders for combating oil spills in such ecologically sensitive areas.
The exercise saw participation of ICG Pollution Control Vessel and integration of ICG Dornier/Chetak aircraft into Oil Spill Disaster Management System for aerial assessment and delivery of Oil Spill Dispersant for mitigation of spilled oil.
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) under Ministry of Defence is responsible for marine environment protection in maritime zones of India and is coordinating authority for response to oil spills in Indian waters. It has drawn up National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP) and has established three pollution response centres at Mumbai, Chennai and Port Blair.