Update: Apparently, the ayes have it! The Envt. & Forests Ministry’s committee decidees NOT TO go ahead with the proposal!

The Narcondam Horbill, an endangered species of hornbill from the Narcondam Island in the Andaman & Nicobar chain of islands is under threat. A

Sketch of the Narcondam Hornbill (Aceros narcondami)

proposal (a short-sighted one, clearly) to install a RADAR and a power supply source on this 681 hectare island by the Indian ministry of defence could endanger this species of hornbill found nowhere else in the world. Several scientists and conservationists have pointed this out and have raised the issue right from the National Board of Wildlife (the one that has the authority to clear this) to mass media. See the appeal on conservationindia.org asking for more people to add their voice. There have been a few newspaper stories on the issue – here is an article in the Hindustan times calling it an open-and-shut-case, while another recent story in the Deccan Herald calls for relocation of the site as a possible solution. Whatever the case, we must try and throw in our voices against the move. Not merely(sic!) for this hornbill, but to decry all of the silly ways in which we deal with the diversion of forests for non-forest use.

My letter to the Minister in all earnest. Do your bit. Who knows – she or somebody else may be reading these letters!

Dear Jayanthi Natarajan,

One of the recent proposals under consideration with the National Board of Wildlife deals with denotification of land on the 681 hectare Narcondam Island in the Andamans for the purposes of coastal surveillance RADAR and power supply source for the same on the island by the Coast Guard. From what I understand, the proposal is now under your consideration as the Chairperson of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife. As you know (or may not), the Narcondam island is the ONLY home of the Narcondam Hornbill, which is found nowhere else in the world. Previous experiences with meddling with flora and fauna on islands through construction of any kind has shown us that such projects invariably lead to events that are unpredictable. A mere introduction of rats for example can wipe out entire types of birds on islands. This has happened in many cases. We are also informed of the clear rejection of the proposal to undertake this construction after a visit to the site by Dr. Asad Rahmani, the Director of the Bombay Natural History Society. In addition, several other scientists and conservationists have expressed their strong reservations on undertaking any such project on this island through newspaper articles, blogs and reports.

As a birdwatcher and a doctor working with indigenous tribal communities, I have (earlier) had to opportunity to visit several areas which are rich in wildlife. I have seen first-hand the rich natural resources and forest wealth that remains in some parts of the country. Narcondam is one such part, and fortunately, the conservation of Narcondam is not at odds with human development, as it is the case at other places. Here in Narcondam, is an opportunity for your ministry to take a clear stand on preventing ANY development activity without the need to consider other stakeholders.

Madam, minister, fortunately or not, you are the custodian of this species for mankind. However heavy such a responsibility may be, it appears for now to be an easy one – just prevent any activity on this island! As a concerned and informed citizen, I urge you to take into consideration the enormous evidence against undertaking such construction work on the island. I hope and anticipate that as a responsible representative of our people and as a custodian of our public spaces, you will take the right decision in this regard.


Dr. NS Prashanth
Faculty, Institute of Public Health, Bangalore


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