Natarajan's 'no' to missile firing range in Andamans
New Delhi: The environment ministry has rejected an Indian Navy proposal to test fire missiles at the Tillanchong sanctuary in the Andaman and Nicobar islands as a firing range would destroy the habitat of the Nicobar megapode, an endangered bird species.
"The matter came up during the meeting of the National Board for Wildlife last month and many non-official members raised concerns about it. I decided yesterday (Thursday) that the range should not come in that area," Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters here Friday.
She said it was a very tough decision as there was lot of pressure from the defence ministry to clear the project.
"It was a very difficult decision to reject the proposal as it involves security and missile range is important for the country's defence. But as environment minister it is my mandate to make sure that wildlife, flora and fauna of our country are protected and I should stay with it," she said.
The navy has reportedly sought permission for temporary use of the ecologically sensitive forest land on the island for missile testing.
It also wants to put up a temporary structure as a target for testing the accuracy of missiles fired from submarines. The test firing is proposed to be carried out once every year for duration of seven to 10 days.
The wildlife board in its meeting last month had also turned a proposal from the Indian Coastguard to divert forest land at the Narcondam Islands in the Andaman Sea to install a coastal surveillance radar.
According to ministry, the project will adversely affect the life of the endangered Narcondam hornbill, endemic to the island.