The Little Andaman Island within the Andaman archipelagos in the Bay of Bengal Sea of India, possess luxuriant tropical evergreen rainforests which is home to a large number of rare, endangered, even undocumented species of flora and fauna. It is homeland of the indigenous hunting and gathering Onge tribal community who have sustained with their deep ecological knowledge of this island ecosystem. According to the climatic phenomena, availability of freshwaterphysical and hydrological regimes and associated natural resources they have categorised their island into several Eco-scape regions through mental maps. This research work has been an attempt to detail the chronological impact of the unprecedented mainstream developmental strategies within such a tropical island ecosystem.
After Indian independence (1947) there was a huge demand for space and forest resources to rebuild the nation. Since then this island along with the other islands of this archipelago has been taken up by the Indian administration to carry out several developmental strategies. The chronological impact of the unmatched policies within this island ecosystem is explicit in the physical environment as well as the socio-cultural aspects of the Onge.
Historical backdrop of the island is interpolated from literature reviews.Anthropological and sociological documents are studied to understand the condition of the Onges before and after the Island was opened for the mainstream society. The phase wise impact of the developmental strategies on the physical and social fronts are studied in details.
The first step of the developmental policies was to clear the dense forest for rehabilitation of the excess mainland population. Timber harvesting, construction of dams, erecting 1200m long wharf cum jetty into the sea, quarrying activities, exotic red oil palm plantation, oil mills, rehabilitation programmes and many more came up sequentially which are sufficient to harm the island’s physical environment.
The aforesaid activities also hampered the Onge’s socio-cultural perspective resulting in a drastic decline of their population. Their ecological knowledge in understanding the island ecosystem was never considered. The last decade came up with certain environmental protection act that banned some exploitative practices within the island ecosystem. But for the sustenance of the already rehabilitated population further newer aspects of policies are being adopted. So, it is seen that this island is treated on a trial and error basis without any a-priori impact analysis.
Implications of the study
This research assessment details the problem of resource utilisation process within a remote tiny island ecosystem recognised as a bio-diversity hotspot along with its native tribal community. When any virgin region comes within the arena of development, it cannot be ceased all of a sudden as the change brought to the region becomes a process.
This study is helpful in detecting the areas where improvements are necessary and restrictions should be firm. The author would like to infer her humane suggestions to synergise the tribal Eco-scape perception and knowledge with the mainstream planning schemes to maintain the Island carrying capacity.