The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were shrouded in mystery for centuries because of their inaccessibility. These are the paragon of beauty and present a landscape full with scenic and picturesque extravaganza. These islands shimmer like emeralds in the Bay of Bengal. The dense forest which cover these islands and the innumerable exotic flowers and birds create a highly poetic and romantic atmosphere. "Here the white beaches on the edge of a meandering coastline have palm trees that sway to the rhythm of the Sea. The beat of tribal drums haunt the stillness and technicolour fish steer their way through crystal clear water." This addition of strangeness to beauty which is responsible for creating the infinite romantic impact may be described in the following famous lines of Keats.
"Charmed magic casement opening on the foam Of perilous seas in fair lands forlorn." The scenic beauty of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, would create a sense of dissatisfaction and the human mind would rebel against "the whole mass of the motley facts of life". He would be guided by an irresistible desire to this paradise on earth, with invincible faith on the philosophy of Wordsworth: "Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold is full of blessing".
The unparalleled beauty of these islands, create in men a love of nature with a caressing tenderness, a wistful fondness for all its delicate nuances. The enveloping atmosphere with its subtle harmonies of light and shade, fragrance and exhales the paradise, visionary splendours, and the music of the birds that defies definition would develop creative and constructive feelings in the hearts of those people who come here to enjoy the beauty of nature. He would like to rebel against the stereotyped moulds and forms into which life is so called 'modernman' is cast. He would be under the impact of the complex mood of infinite longing and tragic helplessness, "the yearning that craves for expression, yet defies expression, the inconclusive struggle between emotional apprehension of life and the articulation that must transcend personal emotion".
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have great maritime importance. During the British period political leaders considered dangerous to the interests of the Raj and other dreaded criminals were deported from mainland to the Cellular Jail- the Indian Bastille, situated on the sea coast of Atlanta Point in the North-Eastern part of Port Blair. Thus these islands were infamously known as the 'Black Water Prison' or 'Kala Pani'.
The Andaman & Nicobar are a group of picturesque Islands, big and small, inhabited and uninhabited, a total of 572 islands, islets and rocks lying in the South Eastern Part of the Bay of Bengal.They lie along an arc in long and narrow broken chain, approximately North-South over a distance nearly 800 kms. . It is logical to presume a former land connection form Cape Negris at South part of Burma to Achin Head (Cape Pedro) in Andalas (Sumatra). The flora and fauna of these islands, however, indicate that this land connection if it existed, should have been prior to the development of their present life form
Andaman Wood Pigeon is an endemic bird, which is found only in Andaman and Nicobar group of islands. This bird is of the size of a domestic pigeon with longer tail. This bird has whitish head with checkerboard pattern on neck. The upper parts are dark slate grey in colour and underparts are pale blue grey Metallic green sheen on upper side and reddish bill with yellowish tip and purplish red orbital skin are identification characters. The bird lives in dense broadleaved evergreen forest.
Dugong, an endangered marine mammal, also known as Sea Cow, is only strictly marine mammal, which is herbivorous. It mainly feeds on sea-grass and other aquatic vegetation. Dugong is distributed in shallow tropical waters in Indo-Pacific Region. The animal is about three-metre length and weighs about 400 kg. In India Dugong is reported from Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Within A&N Islands Dugong has been reported from Ritchie”s Archipelago, North Reef, Little Andaman and parts of Nicobars
Andaman Padauk is a tall deciduous tree found only in Andaman. It grows upto height of 120 feet. The timber is highly prized for making furniture. Burr and Buttress formation add charm to the tree and used in making unique furniture.
|Location||Bay of Bengal|
|Latitude||6° to 14° North||Longitude||92° to 94° East|
|Andaman Islands||Nicobar Islands|
|Saddle Peak||732 Metres||Mount Thullier||642 Metres|
|Andaman and Nicobar Islands||8249|
|South Andaman District||2672|
|North & Middle Andaman District||3736|
|Length and Breadth of Andaman Islands|
|Total Length||467 Kms|
|Maximum Width||52 Kms|
|Average Width||24 kms|
|Length and Breadth of Nicobar Islands|
|Total Length||259 Kms|
|Maximum Width||58 Kms|
|Biggest inhabitant Island in Andaman Group|
|Middle Andaman Island||1536 Sq.Km|
|Biggest inhabitant Island in Nicobar Group|
|Great Nicobar Island||1045 Sq.Km.|
|Smallest inhabitant Island in Andaman Group|
|Curlew Island||0.3 Sq Km|
|Smallest inhabitant Island in Nicobar Group|
|Pilomillow Island||1.3 Sq.Km|
|Distance by Sea (in Kms)|
|Between Port Blair & Chennai||1190|
|Between Port Blair & kolkatta||1255|
|Between Port Blair & Vishakapatnam||1200|
|Distance by Air (in Kms)|
|Between kolkatta & Port Blair||1303|
|Between Chennai & Port Blair||1330|
Source: Population census website of RGI, GoI
|C.D.Block||9||Statutory Town||1||Census Town||2|
|Lok Sabha Seat||1||Municipal Council||1||Municipal Ward||18|
|Gram Panchayat||69||Panchayat Samiti||7||Zilla Parishad||2|
|Total Islands : 556|
|Inhabited Islands||37||Uninhabited Islands||519|
|District Wise Inhabited Islands|
|South Andaman||11||North & Middle Andaman||13||Nicobar||13|
|Revenue Village||204||Census Village||547|
|Tribal Council||7||Tribal Village Council||53|
|Per Capita Income (Rs.) 2009-10 (P)|
|At Current Prices||74340||At Constant Prices||54830|
Source: A&N at A Glance 2011 handbook by Directorate of Economics & Statics, Andaman and Nicobar Administration
|Normal Rainfall at Port Blair||3180 mm|
|Actual Rainfall at Port Blair||2877.0 mm|
|Rainy days at Port Blair (No)||120|
|Mean Minimum Temperature at Port Blair||24.83°C|
|Mean Maximum Temperature at Port Blair||31.0°C|
|Mean Relative Humidity at Port Blair (0830hrs)||77%|
|Mean Relative Humidity at Port Blair (1750hrs)||80%|
|Mean Wind Speed at Port Blair (Km/Hr)||10.00|
Source: A&N at A Glance 2015 handbook by Directorate of Economics & Statics, Andaman and Nicobar Administration
Population Census Abstract 2011
|Andaman & Nicobar Islands||202871||177710||380581|
|North & Middle Andaman||54861||50736||105597|
|0-6 yrs Population Census Abstract 2011||Male||Female||Total|
|North & Middle Andaman||5991||5837||11828|
|North & Middle Andaman||43186||35497||78683|
Source: Population census website of RGI, GoI
Particularly vulnerable Tribal Groups (PTGs) who have been identified in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. They are:-
They were once the largest in population amongst the various tribes inhabiting the Andaman Islands. Their estimated population in 1789 was 10,000. By 1901, their number had decreased to 625 and by 1969 their number had reduced to 19 only. According to the Census of 1971, only 24 of them were around, but by 1999, their number had increased to 41. The Administration is doing its best to protect and preserve this tribe. These tribals have been rehabilitated in a small island named Strait Island. The Great Andamanese were foragers. Today, they eat rice, dal, chapati and other modern food items. They can cook food using spices. At times they still go hunting and gathering. Their traditional diet consists of fish, dugong, turtle, turtle eggs, crabs, roots and tubers. They also eat pork, Andaman water monitor lizard etc. As coastal people, they relish octopus, molluses taken out from shell of marine animals like turban shell, scorpion shell, sundial, helmet, trochus and screw shell besides various types of crabs and fish. Lately some of them have taken to cultivating vegetables and have also established poultry farms. They are vulnerable to communicable diseases besides unhealthy drinking habits, acquired after contact with the non-tribal, urban, dominant and advanced communities.
Onges are one of the most primitive tribes in India. They belong to the Negrito racial stock and they have been relegated to the reservation at Dugong Creek in Little Andaman Island. They are a semi-nomadic tribe and fully dependent on the food pro vided by nature. They have now experienced the impact of outsiders, as efforts at befriending them have proved successful. They have been provided with pucca houses, food, clothes, medicine etc. by the Administration. They eat turtle, fish, roots and jack fruits etc. They have developed artistry and crafts. The Onges can make canoes. A primary school has also been functioning at the Dugong Creek settlement of Onges. The population of this tribe is stable and is at present 110.
The Jarawa tribes with an estimated population of 341 inhabit the Western coasts of South & Middle Andaman islands. They are leading their normal life of hunting and gathering. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, in consultation with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and A & N Administration had finalized a policy on the Jarawa Tribe of Andaman Island, on the basis of the recommendations of the experts in various fields. The policy was notified in December, 2004 and is being implemented strictly to ensure protection and welfare of Jarawas. In order to ensure a rich resource of forest based traditional food like wild pig, turtle, honey and fish etc, the Jarawa reserve area has been increased from 847 to 1028 Sq. kms. Exclusive marine resource base has also been increased by declaring coastal water upto 5 km from High Tide Line as tribal reserve. Exclusive Wards at Primary Health Centre, Tushnabad, Kadamtala and G.B. Pant Hospital, Port Blair for Jarawas have been provided and such Wards are declared as tribal reserves to prevent curious non-tribals from interacting with them. The Jarawa patients are being treated at these Centres. A buffer zone of 5 km radius has been notified around the Jarawa reserve, to ensure that they do not become unwitting targets of large scale tourism or commercial activities.
The Sentinelese are the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island. The area is about 60 Sq. Kilometers. They are probably the world’s only Paleolithic people surviving today without contact with any other group or community. They are considered as an off-shoot to the Onge Jarawa tribes which have acquired a different identity due to their habitation in an isolated and have lost contact with the main tribes. The Sentinelese are very hostile and never leave their Island. Very little is known about these hostile tribes.
The habitation of Shompens is the Great Nicobar which is the largest among the Nicobar Group of Islands. Like the Nicobarese, they belong to the Mongoloid race. The Shompens have two divisions, the smaller division being known as Mawa Shompens. They inhabit areas very close to the coastal region along the river valleys. They are very shy. They are quite intimate with the Nicobarese. The major group of shompens are the hostile Shompens living in Alexendra and Galathia river areas and also on the east coast of the area in the interior of the island. In the past, frequent attacks are believed to have been made on the Mawa Shompens by the hostile Shompens. But now such hostility has stopped. It is probably because they have been largely reduced in number due to various diseases. The Shompens are the victims of disease, and physically very weak. With the establishment of the settlement at Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar, Shompens have been visiting the settlers and they are gradually shaking off their shyness and indifferent attitude towards the civilized people.
These Islands are blessed with a unique' luxuriant evergreen tropical rainforest canopy, sheltering a mixed germ plasm bank, comprising of Indian, Myanmarese, Malaysian and endemic floral strain. So far, about 2200,varieties of plants have been recorded out of which 200 are endemic and 1300 do not occur in mainland India.
"The South Andaman forests have a profuse growth of epiphytic vegetation, mostly ferns and orchids. The Middle Andamans harbours mostly moist deciduous forests. North Andamans is characterised by the wet evergreen type, with plenty of woody climbers. The north Nicobar Islands (including Car Nicobar and Battimalv) are marked by the complete absence of evergreen forests, while such forests form the dominant vegetation in the central and southern islands of the Nicobar group. Grasslands occur only in the Nicobars, and while deciduous forests are common in the Andamans, they are almost absent in the Nicobars". This atypical forest coverage is made-up of twelve types namely (1) Giant evergreen forest (2) Andamans tropical evergreen forest (3) Southern hilltop tropical evergreen forest (4) Cane brakes (5) Wet bamboo brakes (6) Andamans semi-evergreen forest (7) Andamans moist deciduous forest (8) Andamans secondary moist deciduous forest (9) Littoral forest (10) Mangrove forest (11) Brackish water mixed forest (12) Submontane hill valley swamp forest. The present forest coverage is claimed to be 86.2% of the total land area.
Andaman Forest is abound in plethora of timber species numbering 200 or more, out of which about 30 varieties are considered to be commercial. Major commercial timber species are Gurjan (Dipterocarpus spp.) and Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides). Ornamental wood such as (1) Marble Wood (Diospyros marmorata) (2) Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides), (3) Silver Grey (a special formation of wood in white chuglam) (4) Chooi (Sageraea elliptical and (5) Kokko (Albizzia lebbeck) are noted for their pronounced grain formation. Padauk being steadier than teak is widely used for furniture making. Burr and the Buttress formation in Andaman Padauk are World famous for their exceptionally unique charm and figuring. Largest piece of Buttress known from Andaman was a dining table of 13'x 7'. The largest piece of Burr was again a dining table to seat eight persons at a time. The holy Rudraksha (Elaeocarps sphaericus) and aromatic Dhoop/Resin trees also occur here.
This tropical rain forest despite its isolation from adjacent land masses is surprisingly enriched with many animals.
MAMMALS - About 50 varieties of forest mammals are found to occur in A&N Islands, most of them are understood to be brought in from outside and are now considered endemic due to their prolonged insular adaptation. Rat is the largest group having 26 species followed by 14 species of bat. Among the larger mammals there are two endemic varieties of wild pig namely Sus Scrofa andamanensis from Andaman and S.S.nicobaricus from Nicobar. The spotted deer Axis axis, Barking deer and Sambar are found in Andaman District. Interview island in Middle Andaman holds a fairly good stock of feral elephants. These elephants were brought in for forest work by a private contractor who subsequently left them loose.
Butterflies and Moths - With about 225 species, the A&N Islands house some of the larger and most spectacular butterflies of the world. Ten species are endemic to these Islands. Mount Harriet National Park is one of the richest areas of butterfly and moth diversity on these Islands.
Shells are perhaps the most colourful and fascinating objects known to man other than Gems since time immemorial. They served as money, ornaments, musical instruments, drinking cups, in magic and in the making of fine porcelains. They were also the symbols in rituals and religious observances, and the returning pilgrims wore them as a token of divine pardon.
These islands are traditionally known for their shell wealth specially Turbo,Trochus, Murex and Nautilus. Earliest recorded commercial exploitation began during 1929. Shells are important to these islands because some like Turbo, Trochus & Nautilus etc. are being used as novelties supporting many cottage industries producing a wide range of decorative items & ornaments. Shells such as Giant clam, Green mussel and Oyster support edible shellfishery, a few like Scallop, Clam and Cockle are burnt in kiln to produce edible lime.
The Univalve or one shell group belongs to the class Gastropoda having more than 80,000 species. Sacred Chank belongs to this group. Their body, in the course of development, go through a complicated process, 'torsion' i.e. the visceral mass is twisted though 90 degree together with the shell that covers it. Under mysterious circumstances many a time this process proceeds in the reverse direction thus creating an abnormal shell which otherwise lives like a normal shell. A classic example is the most wanted left-handed chank.
The Bivalve or Pelecypoda has about 20,000 living species. Majority of then burrows in sand or mud such as Pearl Oyster, Wing oyster, Giant clam etc. A third group, which is comparatively smaller, is called Cephalopoda, which includes Octopus, Squid, Nautilus etc. The soft body animal, which lives inside the shell, is covered with a thick layer of specialised epithelium cells known as rnantle, which in turn secretes a two tier shell material making the shell. The outer layer having a different colour pattern is organic in constitution, technically called 'periostracum'. Calcium ions from the environment are absorbed into the blood and deposited evenly under this layer. The next inner layer is called 'nacre' or 'mother of pearl' responsible for the pearly lustre common to many shells
Corals belong to a large group of animals known as Coelenterata (stinging animals) or Cnidaria (thread animals). Corals grow slow, they have type wise site specific growth rates. The massive forms may grow upto 2 cm. in diameter and upto 1 cm in height a year, whereas, delicate branching forms grow between 5 to 10 cm. per annum. A true reef building stony coral may be unisexual or bisexual. They breed together once in a year at a pre-determined time after dusk. This process, at places is so intense that the water stays pinkish till next morning. A large number of baby corals are released in the open ocean this way. After sometime these baby corals settle over a suitable substratum and start forming new colonies through asexual reproduction. Their morphological features change with the environment in which they settle. Due to this peculiar character they are often called 'Plastic animals'. Stony corals could be broadly divided into reef builders and non-reef builders, the reef builders are called hermatypic whereas others are known as ahermatypic corals. The reef builders possess hard calcareous skeleton and need sunlight like plants to survive. On the other hand, the non-reef builders are devoid of a true stony framework and can live well without sunlight. A few among them are capable of making protein based solidified skeleton.
Each life form in the sea is confined to its own particular zone, where pressure, light, temperature and salinity are more or less constant. In this stable environment some creatures have remained unchanged throughout their entire history. The now famous Coelacanth, one of the groups of fishes thought to have been extinct for 60 million years, has remained essentially like its relatives as they appear in fossils. Fishes are the masters of water world. For more than 360 million years they have inhabited it. Today we have about 40,000 varieties of fishes known to science. They range in size from 10 mm (Philippine Gobie) to 21m. (whale shark). Some are flattened, others inflated, many spindle shaped, a few snakelike, still others are compressed depending on the environment in which they live or particular way of life.
Marine fish and animal keeping still has a certain mystique attached to it. This is one of the most complicated aspects of live stock management. The animal husbandry involved in it is mainly nurtured through water chemistry and microbiology. The tropical coral reef inhabitants are generally maintained in glass boxes known to us as marine aquariums. These animals turn 'fragile' under captive atmosphere because the natural system to which they belong is so heterogeneous, complex and dynamic with every tide bringing in a different condition that is so difficult to create artificially. However, since May l853 when the first tropical marine aquarium was made public in London, much has been understood and we are now able to practice a system where these animals are acclimatized and taught to be happy in their new environs.
Courtesy -Fortress Commander, A & N Islands