The azure seas and white coral beaches of Lakshadweep and the tropical lushness of Andaman & Nicobar have been identified as tourism growth zones with nine islands selected as part of a Niti Aayog master-plan.
The islands are being seen as drivers of tourism and sustainable economic development on the lines of countries like Singapore that use water parks and natural resources to promote tourism, overcoming limited land areas while being mindful of conservation.
Given ecological sensitivity of the islands, capacities will be limited, though current options for tourists will be improved. Options in Lakshadweep, which is seen as a high end tourism destination, are limited compared to Andaman & Nicobar.
Among the islands identified are Smith Island, Ross Island, Avis Island and Long Island in Andaman & Nicobar. In the Lakshadweep, Bangaram, Thinnakara, Suheli, Cheriyam and Minicoy are among those slotted for development.
There are tourist facilities in Lakshadweep, but these are limited to Bangaram and a few other islands. "We are working on a master-plan for sustainable development of the nine islands," said Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant. The inclusion of Little Andaman, the biggest island in the chain with an area of 734.34 square meters, almost equal in size to Singapore, came in for detailed discussion.
According to Vivek Rae, former petroleum secretary who served as chief secretary of A&N Islands, Singapore has earmarked 10% of of its area for parks and natural resour ces and is also ranked fourth globally in the environment performance index.
In contrast 90% of the Andaman & Nicobar islands are notified as reserved or deemed forest with only 6% of land available for development. The plan has gained momentum after a recent PMO announcement that the islands will be selected for infrastructure, tourism, agriculture (organic and fisheries) and renewable energy development