After many twists and turns in the de-notification of leatherback turtles’ nesting site, the ground has been set up for a mega transshipment port proposed by NITI Aayog with an estimated cost of 35,000 crore INR.
The Galathea Bay wildlife sanctuary has been established by the Indian Government near the island of Great Nicobar Island in 1997. Since then, it has been a thriving spot for various flora and fauna innate to it. Extending over a stretch of 110 square kilometers, it has been gazetted as the National Park of India in 1992. The Galathea forms a separate 12 km forest buffer zone. A rare species of leatherback turtle breeds in the area. It is preserved location for the species.
The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has denotified the sanctuary a year before. And six months after that, the NITI Aayog proposed a development plan for the area. While many activists and locals have been protesting the de-notification, plans for development have also geared up.
After an RTI field by legal researchers in Bengaluru, the Wildlife Institution of India(WII) surprisingly Stated that it lacks expertise in the study of the rare species, supporting de-notification.
After the interventions of the court, a committee and been set up and the development plans in the area had been stalled. However, the developers have suggested an alternate plan to conserve the biodiversity in the galathea by reducing the connectivity between the river and the bay.
The connection channel is very crucial for the migration of the turtles from the hatching spot to the sea. The actual stretch of the channel is 3km which is reduced to only 300 meters. Environmental activists fear the narrow stretch would alter the breeding habits and migration of turtles into the sea. It would, therefore, make it less likely for the turtles to commute and prone to risks of predators.
Despite the development actions, lawyer and legal researcher Sreeja Chakraborty has been fighting for the space of turtles with the support of activists.