In a significant move, the Supreme Court (SC) of India recently prohibited felling of naturally grown trees in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) islands. The order is aimed at putting a stop to the large-scale logging in the islands which has pushed the rich biodiversity and its indigenous people to the brink of devastation.
A bench headed by Justice B N Kirpal, Justice N Santosh Hegde and Justice Ashok Bhan ruled that "...the cutting of naturally grown trees in any ongoing project or otherwise, except plantation wood, is prohibited from being cut." The ruling came six years after an Interlocutary Application was filed on the issue by T N Godavarman Thirumulpad along with Kalpavriksh, a Pune-based non governmental organisation (NGO) Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology (SANE), a Port Blair-based NGO and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
In 1999, these three organisations also had filed a writ petition before the Circuit bench of the Calcutta High Court in Port Blair stating the deforestation being carried out in the island of Little Andaman and the threats this posed to the Onge tribal community living there.
In an order passed on August 31, 1999, the Calcutta High Court urged the petitioners to draw the attention of the apex court on the matter. Following this, an intervention in the SC was filed and the recent order is an outcome of this.
During the recent Supreme Court hearing held on October 10, 2001, the bench rapped the A&N administration saying, "You will turn the beautiful island into a desert."Another hearing on the issue is due soon and all that one can hope is that the island's natural wilderness value and its traditional people are protected.