Navy’s range proposal shot down by Environment Min

New Delhi: The Environment Ministry has rejected the Navy’s proposal to set up a missile testing site at Tillanchong Sanctuary in Andaman and Nicobar islands, saying the firing range would destroy the habitat of endangered bird species Nicobar Megapode.

“The habitat of the megapode should not be disturbed and the missile firing range should not come up in that area,” Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said at a programme organised to mark the wildlife week here.

Later talking to reporters, the Minister said it was a “very very difficult decision” for her to reject the proposal for setting up a temporary facility at the ecologically sensitive island as “it involves security and missile range is important” for the country’s defence.

Tillanchong island in the Nicobars is important for the Nicobarese people and endemic wildlife.

She said the reason why she rejected the proposal is that the “the megapode actually does not exist anywhere and it is a very unique species”.

“It is too sensitive to withstand any such installation over there and as Environment Minister it is my mandate to make sure that wildlife, flora and fauna of our country are protected. So, it is an extremely hard decision but I decided that it is my mandate and I should stay with it,” Natarajan said.

The Nicobar Megapode is found in some of the Nicobar Islands. Being restricted to small islands and threatened by hunting, the species is vulnerable to extinction. Population of the species on some islands is believed to have been wiped out in the 2004 tsunami.