Coastline ‘well being’ indicators ignored at Sippighat

Boat Repair & Breaking Yard operates in violation of forest norms
Report by: 
Port Blair
12 Feb 2019

The fire mishap at Jodakalan area that gutted one boat and extensively damaged two others at the self-proclaimed Boat Repair and Breaking Yard at Sippighat has brought to fore brazen violation of forest norms. Home to several species of mangroves, considered as coastlines ‘well being’ indicators and buffer against tsunami, cyclones, and other storms as also resident and migratory water fowl as well as terrestrial bird species, the water body at Jodakilan, Sippighat, has now been converted into a Boat Repair and Breaking Yard where several other boats carry out cargo operations between Port Blair, Havelock and Neil Island in blatant violation of safety and ecology regulations.
Last Sunday at around 8.25 pm, a fire mishap gutted an under-repair boat at Jodakilan area. The blaze spread to other boats berthed nearby and caused extensive damages to at least two. Prompt action by fire fighters, however, prevented a major fire catastrophe in the area.  Around five fire tenders and two bowsers rushed to the spot and brought the blaze under control. The fire fighting operation was initially led by Station Officer of Pahargaon, Mr ML Paul and later joined by his colleagues from FS Aberdeen. Leakage from a welding gas cylinder is believed to be the cause of the fire.
The Department of Environment and Forest was, however, caught unaware of breach of crucial environmental norms. Mangrove ecosystems play a crucial role in the coastal areas a vital role in stabilizing areas near creeks, rivers and estuaries. They act as buffers between the land and the sea and prevent assault of the sea on land. Besides, helping in preventing soil erosion, they also act as a catalyst in reclaiming land from seas. Mangroves are now looked after by scientists as saviors in the today's scenario of global warming. Destruction to mangrove ecosystem is strictly prohibited under the Forest regulations. A number of approvals are required to be obtained for cutting mangrove ecosystems in the event chopping them holds supreme objectives. They are well protected under the Forest laws as well as under the CRZ parameters.
After the earthquake and tsunami reclaimed a major portion of inhabited land at various parts in South Andaman in 2004, nature left low-lying area  of Sippighat here as home for resident and migratory water fowl as well as terrestrial bird species. Flocks of birds from different species can be noticed gliding through the wetland waters of Sippighat with the arrival of the spring season every year. The Department of Environment and Forest and Tourism have already collaborated to encourage visitors to visit the wetlands of Sippighat and other spots famous for migratory birds. One of the not-to-be-missed sites for bird watchers, this area now needs conservation. However, large scale operation of cargo boats, ship repair and breaking activities threatens our avian friends in the region.
Repeated attempts to contact senior officials of the Department of Environment and Forests for a comment failed as they all were reportedly engaged in an official meeting.