Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

In the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago’s southern region, near Little Nicobar, seven small islands, though labelled “uninhabited,” are vital to the indigenous Payuh community. Meroë and Menchal, named Piruii and Pingaeyak, are cherished and managed by community elders, ensuring sustainable resource use and protection.

In 2022, the A&N administration announced plans for wildlife sanctuaries without consulting indigenous communities. Despite objections, they proceeded to designate areas in October 2022, including Meroë and Menchal Islands, without acknowledging indigenous rights or concerns.

The unilateral establishment of wildlife sanctuaries in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands without consulting indigenous communities reflects broader global issues of conservation colonialism and the violation of indigenous rights in several ways:

Disregard for Indigenous Land Management Systems: The decision to designate wildlife sanctuaries was made without considering the traditional land management systems of the indigenous southern Nicobarese peoples, who hold ancestral rights over these territories.
Lack of Consultation: The Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) administration failed to consult or inform the southern Nicobarese about their plans, denying them the opportunity to voice their concerns or provide input on the decision-making process.
Violation of Indigenous Rights: By proceeding with the establishment of sanctuaries without consulting the indigenous communities, the A&N administration disregarded their rights to self-determination and control over their ancestral lands.
Perception of Ancestral Lands as “No-man’s-land”: The unilateral decision to establish wildlife sanctuaries portrays the ancestral lands of the indigenous population as uninhabited or unclaimed, perpetuating the notion that these territories are open for exploitation or conservation without the consent of the rightful inhabitants.
Pattern of Global Injustice: This case reflects a broader pattern seen globally, where indigenous peoples’ rights are frequently violated in the name of conservation, development, or national interest, highlighting systemic issues of colonialism and marginalisation.

Conclusion: Governments worldwide frequently violate indigenous rights by displacing them from their ancestral lands, often in the name of progress or conservation. Indigenous peoples, numbering 476 million and covering 22% of the Earth’s land, are crucial stewards of biodiversity, and their wisdom should guide land management in southern Nicobar.

Source The Hindu

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