[Burning Issue] Island Development Agency

What is Island Development Agency (IDA)?

  1. The 1382 offshore-identified islands of India hold immense unexploited potential for fostering growth and achieving cohesive socio-economic development of the region in particular and also, the nation as a whole.
  2. They can significantly contribute to the GDP by leveraging the gains from promoting infrastructure and tourism on a large scale.
  3. Considering this IDA was set up in June 2017 following Prime Minister’s review meeting for the holistic development of islands.
  4. The meetings of the agency are chaired by the Union Home Minister. Members of IDA include cabinet secretary, the home secretary, secretary (environment, forests and climate change), secretary (tourism) and secretary (tribal welfare).
  5. NITI Aayog has highlighted the elements of holistic development, including key infrastructure projects, digital connectivity, green energy, desalination plants, waste management, promotion of fisheries, and tourism-based projects.
  6. With better communication services, Information Technology based and other Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) would be promoted in the Islands.

What does it include?

Key Infrastructure projects such as:

  • creation of jetties/berthing facilities,
  • Roll-on/Roll-off ships;
  • Bridges on Andaman Trunk Road;
  • Upgradation of Diglipur Airport;
  • Construction of Minicoy Airport;
  • Modernization of existing Jetty at Kavaratti;
  • Augmentation of Satellite Bandwidth from 1.118 Gbps to 2.118 Gbps in Andaman & Nicobar;
  • augmentation of helicopter services for Islanders and tourists etc.

Development of IDA

First Meeting

  • In the first meeting, directions were given to identify and execute infrastructure and connectivity projects together with provisioning of water and electricity.
  • 10 islands namely Smith, Ross, Aves, Long and Little Andaman in Andaman & Nicobar and Minicoy, Bangaram, Suheli, Cherium and Tinnakara in Lakshadweep have been identified for holistic development in the first phase.

Second Meeting

  • It reviewed concept development plans and detailed master plans for holistic development of 9 islands.
  • These 9 islands include four in Andaman & Nicobar Islands (Smith, Ross, Long, Avis) and five in Lakshadweep (Minicoy, Bangaram, Thinnakara, Cheriyam, Suheli).

Third Meeting

  • It reviewed the progress made towards the preparation of Development Plans for identified Islands (four in A&N Islands i.e. Smith, Ross, Long, Avis and five in Lakshadweep i.e. Minicoy, Bangaram, Thinnakara, Cheriyam, Suheli).
  • For these Islands, Final Site Suitability Reports have been prepared, Carrying Capacity determined and Environmental zoning carried out to ensure sustainable development.

What makes IDA important?

Maritime Strategic Importance

  1. Given the strategic location of Andaman & Nicobar (A&N Islands) and the Lakshadweep Islands and China’s assertive expansionist policy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) there is a need to develop critical infrastructure and upgrade the military base in these regions.
  2. India’s only tri-service command is established at the A&N Islands at the entrance of the Malacca Strait, the 2.8 km long -world’s most congested choke point, and the primary route for Chinese oil supply.
  3. Illicit activities such as Pirates and territorial violations can be curbed if the Islands such as Lakshadweep are strategically developed.
  4. Andaman & Nicobar Islands is centre-point for the development of Quad Group’s maritime agenda in the Indo-Pacific Region.

Energy Potential

  1. The Islands host an unexplored Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with clearly demarcated boundaries that can be capitalized on in numerous ways.
  2. The varied ecosystem can be exploited for its medicinal plants and exotic plant species, sustainable agriculture and horticulture practices conducive to the agro-climatic conditions of the regions can be propagated.
  3. The IOR is home to large-scale hydrocarbon which can be explored. Recently India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) have been extended by five years.
  4. This can boost India’s hunt for alternate renewable energy resources so as to meet the energy needs of the nation.

Economic Importance

  1. Fisheries, the main occupation of the larger population of these regions, can be given a thrust so as to develop modernized and sustainable inland fisheries and aquaculture ecosystem integrated with the ‘Blue Economy’ vision. Ex. Fishing of Lakshadweep Tuna.
  2. Most importantly, the Islands can be developed as prime Tourist Hotspots for not just the country, but also internationally.
  3. The pristine beaches, coupled with rich tropical vegetation, can be turned into a more economical and attractive alternative to conventional destinations such as Bali and Maldives.
  4. This help in creating many forward and backward linkages and boost the economy of the regions to a large extent.

Trade and Regional Connectivity

  1. Indian Ocean Region handles most of the sea trade in the world.
  2. The shallow coastline of mainland India has severe impact on trade capacity.
  3. Deep water ports can be developed on these Islands thereby paving way for creation of additional service and refuelling stations.
  4. Greater connectivity of these islands with South East Asia can be harnessed for India’s Act East Policy.

International Cooperation

  1. The 2016 Indo-Japan Joint Statement on Bilateral Cooperation envisioned to develop “Smart Islands” on the line of the ‘Smart Cities’ project.
  2. Japanese capital and expertise can be both pioneering as well as beneficial to this endeavor.
  3. The development of the Reunion Islands by France can be a guiding example and also opens up the opportunity for prospective collaboration with Paris in implementation of such projects.
  4. The positive response by OECD countries in taking on ‘Smart Cities’ projects further demands similar international cooperation.

What hinders the development of Island?

Climate Change

  1. Parali Island of the Lakshadweep got completely submerged due to rising sea levels,
  2. The vulnerabilities of these Island groups to Tsunamis is a grave matter of concern.
  3. Rise in sea temperature and oceanic acidification further intensify coral bleaching.

Restricted Area Permit

  1. Recently govt has decided stop the requirement of Restricted Area Permit for foreigners visiting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to boost tourism.
  2. This can pose a threat to the PVTGs such as Jarawas, Ongis and Sentinelese.

Chinese Assertiveness

  1. China’s bid of encircling India in the Indian ocean region by various initiatives are greatest threat to India.
  2. Chinese development such as Naval base in Djibouti and Hambantota, Sri Lanka pose a greater threat.

Other issues

  1. These include delay in the project implementation due to lack of funds.
  2. Infrastructural development in on the islands are restricted due to logistical limitations such as lack of developed ports, airports etc. Seamless supply of electricity and potable water is still not achieved in these region.
  3. The remoteness of these hinterland currently fails to attract private players due to such problems.

Indian initiatives so far

  1. Ship Building and Ship Repairing have been the high priority areas for infrastructure initiatives in the islands.
  2. The government has announced laying of Rs, 1,102 Crore worth of submarine optical fiber cable between Chennai and A&N Islands so as to increase telephone and internet connectivity in the region by December 2018.
  3. Tri-services military command has also been established in the Eastern Naval Commands at A&N islands . This will help curbing piracy, smuggling and terror activity.
  4. Various exercises such as CORPAT, SIMBEX are held to bolster maritime security.

Way Forward: Private Sector Participation

  1. The road to development sails through the islands.
  2. The high financial costs in such investments create a need for private sector involvement, where their operational and managerial expertise is required to optimally deliver on these projects.
  3. Similarly, International best practices can be modified suitably and replicated so as to maximize returns further.
  4. Although, the need for civil infrastructure development in Island regions is unquestionable, in the wake of existing geo-strategic position, upgradation of defense facilities is equally important.
  5. This will constructively channelize the positive externalities of such assets to enhance the living conditions of entire populace.
  6. Due attention needs to be paid so as to not disturb the ecological balance, disrupt local livelihood-activities, and engage all stakeholders in the decision making process while ensuring that sufficient institutions and mechanisms exist for grievance redressal, compensation and rehabilitation.

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