Sunday, November 16, 2008

View of the World War II origin Port Blair airfield.

The historical Aberdeen Village became the Aberdeen Bazaar of today. Simply referred to as 'Bazaar' by local populace, concrete monstrosities are fast replacing the quaint wooden structures.


Archipelago of 572 islands /islets/rocks comprising 0.2% of landmass of India and 50% of total islands of India.

Bounded by Latitudes 6° N and 14°N, Longitudes 92° E and 94° E which translates into a rectangle of 900 km North to South and 220 km East to West.

Combined area of 8250 sq km approximately. Andaman Group of islands account for nearly 6400 sq km and Nicobar Group accounts for 1850 sq km approximately.

A total of 36 island are occupied, 24 in Andaman Group and 12 in Nicobar Group. However significant human settlement is only in 22 islands.

The islands have International Maritime Boundary Lines (IMBL) running between Landfall island, it’s Northern extremity, and Coco Island of Myanmar (through Coco Channel) and also between Indira Point, it’s Southern extremity, and Banda Aceh, Indonesia, through 6oN channel .The minimum separation from neighbouring, countries across IMBL are as follows:-

* Coco island -42 km

* Banda Aceh -163 km

The islands provide India with approximately 30% of it’s entire Exclusive Economic Zone, i.e., 6 Lakhs sq km. Considering the undersea mineral ,fisheries and hydrocarbon potential of this area, the islands are economically important.

The islands are laid out in a bow shape. The Andaman group has a slight NE to SW alignment and is bounded by Coco channel to the North and Ten Degree channel to the South. It comprises of two administrative districts, i.e., North & Middle Andaman District with District HQ at Mayabunder and South Andaman District with District HQ at Port Blair. The Nicobar group lies between the Ten Degree and Six Degree channels with District HQ at Car Nicobar.

The archipelago is in Seismic Zone 5 (Most Active) with a fault line (extension of Sunda Trench) running parallel and approximately180 nautical miles West of the archipelago. The volcanic belt runs a similar distance East of and parallel to the island chain. The volcanic islands of Narcondum and India’s only active volcano, Barren Island, lie on this belt.

Port Blair is the largest town and main communication centre located equidistant (approx 1200 km) from Kolkata, Vishakhapatnam and Chennai, the three embarkation points for shipping , Air embarkation is only ex Kolkata and Chennai. An international air route does overfly Port Blair. Port Blair is in principle cleared to be upgraded to international airport.

The islands boast of 91% forest cover out of which 11.5% alone is Mangrove forest. The animal kingdom displays a high degree of endemism –nearly 30% of the animal species are endemic.

As per the latest population statistics suitably extrapolated, the island territory has a population of over 4.5 Lakhs , 80% of which is in Andaman Group. The South Andaman district alone has a population of nearly 2.5 Lakhs, of which approximately 1.7 Lakhs are in Port Blair district.

The islands are a ‘Mini-India’ where it’s peculiar style of Hindustani is the spoken language. However the distribution of population by mother tongue is as follows :-

* Bengali - 23%
* Hindi - 20%
* Tamil - 19%
* Telugu - 12%
* Malayalam - 9%
* Nicobari - 8%
* Others - 9%
The distribution of population by religious denomination is as follows:-
* Hindu - 67%
* Christian - 23%
* Muslim - 9%
* Others - 1%

The significant ports in the islands are :-
* Diglipur (North Andaman Island)
* Mayabunder (Middle Andaman Island)
* Port Blair (South Andaman Island)
* Hut Bay (Little Andaman Island)
* Car Nicobar island (Nicobar group)
* Kamorta island (Nicobar group)
* Campbell Bay (Great Nicobar Island)

All airfields/ airstrips in the islands are Defence assets shared for use by civilians.

The islands are home to aboriginal tribes some prized for being the oldest home sapien race on the planet. They are as follows:-
* Great Andamanese. Current population of 43; Negrito stock; originally occupied South Andamans but now restricted to strait Island of Andaman. Access is restricted.
* Jarawa Current population of 240; Negrito stock; and oldest known race; occupy reserves of Middle and South Andaman. Access is restricted.
* Onges. Current population of 97; Negrito stock; occupy areas of Little Andaman. Access is restricted.
* Sentinelese. Current population estimated at 39; Negrito stock; occupy North Sentinel island. Access is DENIED.
* Nicobarese. Current population of about 29.000; Mongoloid stock; population in mainstream and accorded Scheduled Tribe status; occupy all inhabited islands of Nicobar group and own tribal land.
* Shompen. Current population of about 400; Mongoloid stock; occupy area of Great Nicobar Island (GNI). Access is restricted.

With the exception of Nicobarese and Great Andamanese all other tribes are semi nomadic hunter-gatherers.

Though the islands find mention in historical records of up to 18 centuries, the British colonised it in 1857 primarily to establish a penal colony after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The famous Cellular Jail was built in 1906. The islands were captured by the Japanese in 1942 and vacated in 1945 at the end of World War II. The British re occupied it till 1947, when it came to India .

BSNL has a GSM mobile coverage in all large population centres of Andaman and Nicobar groups. A&N telecom Circle has two sub divisions – Andaman (STD Code 03192) and Nicobar (STD Code 03193). Interdialling between the two is by using prefix code ‘95’ instead of ‘0’. BSNL also has WLL networks at Port Blair and Diglipur. Airtel, Vodaphone and Reliance are recent entrants with mobile coverage in Andaman group only.

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