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Wildlife Board okays Andamans’ Rutland Island for DRDO’s missile testing project

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Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife has given clearance for Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO’s) long-range missile test facility at South Andamans’ Rutland Island. This clearance was pending since year 2012.

More Details about proposed missile test facility at South Andamans’ Rutland Island: 

The proposal involves diversion of 49.978 acres forest of which 0.84 ha falls in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park and 49.138 ha reserve forest within 10km of the Eco Sensitive Zone.

  • The island is very rich in marine life and was once home to the indigenous Andamanese group ‘Jangil’ or Rutland Jarawa.
  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had been trying to get its long Wildlife Board okays Andamans’ Rutland Island for DRDO’s missile testing projectrange missile test facility since 2012 when UPA Govt was in power. With NDA Govt. coming to power in 2014, it had to move the proposal once again.
  • The proposal had been repeatedly put on hold on account of objections by the environment ministry. However it has been approved considering the strategic importance of the project for country’s defence.
  • Along with several term and conditions to be observed while constructing the facility, Chief Wildlife Warden of Andaman and Nicobar Islands has recommended having specific marine and terrestrial wildlife conservation plan and installation of essential deflectors and anti-radiation screens around satellite antennas to reduce the impact of radiation on biodiversity in the proposed area.

Need for land-based test area for long-range missile tests:

Currently, long-range missile tests carried out by DRDO from the Odisha coast are tracked by naval vessels on a trajectory into the Bay of Bengal.

  • Long-range tests for missiles like Agni IV and V have to be tracked over sea, with the help of specialised vessels which note the ‘hit zone’ into the water.
  • DRDO also needs to check accuracy of long range missiles for land-based targets.
  • South Andamans’ Rutland Island is located at an ideal distance from the mainland where tests are typically launched from.