Progressive Strategy Transforming Andaman to Mega-city

“IT inventions are the bedrocks are the base of smart cities development. Andaman has a submarine under-cable project underway, and by June 2020, the lack of connectivity may be a thing of the past. We are in the process of bringing about Rs 20,000 crores of investment to the islands from private stakeholders in the next 4 years, and Rs 30000 crores till 2025”, asserted an optimistic Chetan B Sanghi, Chief Secretary, Andaman & Nicobar Administration in a tete-a-tete with Poulami Chakraborty of BW SmartCitiesWorld. Excerpts below:

As the bureaucratic chief of Andaman and Nicobar Island, please elaborate to us of the key strengths of the Union Territory, over its mainland counterparts or states.

Though detached from the mainland of the Indian sub-continent, physically by the oceans, Andaman and Nicobar Island enjoy its share of unique advantages over its other mainland counterparts or states in several ways. The union territory, being surrounded by water on all its sides, adds on to the benefit of the landscape of being more connected and viable through waterways to its neighboring lands of Indonesia and other foreign countries. This enables us to establish business and bureaucratic relationships with these countries, thus empowering us to have sustainable growth of the economy of the region.

Besides this Andaman and Nicobar is known as the unexplored paradise on earth, where urban citizens across the mainland subcontinent. The region’s air and water quality is pretty much on the higher side of the air purity index, rendering an added value to the citizen’s and tourist’s quality of life.

Owing to its climatic advantage, the region receives ample rainfall of 3000 mm per year over a period of eight months, thus, registering a significant supply of water. The main source of freshwater for municipal supply is an impounding reservoir of capacity 8554 millilitre at Dhanikhari. 

It is needless to mention that Port Blair is one of the cleanest towns in the nation with hardly any littering or dumping in the region. As a matter of fact, Port Blair has been announced as the ODF (Open Defacation Free) town in a recent announcement by the Government of India in January 2018 and now ODF+ too.

What are the key industries in the Andaman and Nicobar Island that are contributing to the Union Territories economic growth?

Being blessed with a beautiful scenic and natural view and resources, Andaman and Nicobar Island witnesses huge influx of tourist every year. The city’s population accounts for about 1.5 lakhs and a similar number of tourists visiting the place every year. The ever increasing tourist scenario in the Union Territory also boosts the region’s economy by several folds.

The Union Territory is also a hub of heritage spots related to pre-independence era and our freedom movement. Cellular Jail is one of the premium heritage sites declared by the Government of India and attracts a lot of tourists every year. The Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Island have immense collection of natural resources. The fishing industry supports a significant portion of the economy of the island territory.

Agriculture is a major revenue earner for the local economy. Seasonal oilseeds, vegetables, pulses, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon are some special crops cultivated here. The economy here to some extent depends on the red oil, rubber, palm and cashew nut that are grown here marginally.

What strategies is the UT administration leveraging to empower its tourism industry further for its economic growth?

Andaman and Nicobar Administration is in the process of initiating an adopting a slew of initiatives for enhancing its tourism industry further, in a bid to boost the tourism sector for its economic growth. The region is now introduced with electric rickshaws for ease of commutation for tourists and localites. This measure is in a bid to curb complaints that we have received from time to time about incessant pricing and unruly etiquettes adopted by local drivers and cabbies. As a matter of fact, the UT administration in the island is soon to introduce electric vehicles compulsorily, shipping services to be introduced on green energy and the existing boats will be soon converted to electric vehicles (EV).

We at Andaman and Nicobar Administration promotes much on eco-tourism and have been promoting complete ban of plastics. Port Blair is producing 93 percent electricity from diesel, but will be producing it from green energy resources in another two years. The city administration is prompt in its action towards enabling local tourists with any type of help from time to time, as required.

Lastly, the region has a major drawback of nil internet or proper network connectivity and is a major challenge for ensuring last mile connectivity. We have already adopted for undersea high speed internet connectivity with optical fibre network, which is pretty much matching its expected timeline and is soon to device the region with superior network connectivity by June 2020.

What challenges do you face while boosting up the UT Administration under its various domains?

Off course the challenges are many and the UT administration in Andaman has taken several measures to bridge the gaps, as and where required. One of the most crucial challenges is poor internet and network connectivity in the region; for which we have already started the process of laying under-sea optical fibre network to facilitate high speed last mile connectivity in the region. The same project is supposed to be completed by June 2020, as per proposed timeline.

Besides this, the island being disconnected from mainland is commutable by air and water ways only. Hence, transportation cost poses to be pretty much on the higher side. Transportation of food supplies from neighbouring regions of Kolkata and Chennai also poses to be too high for regular consumption.

There is no doubt that Citizen Interface is severely important for e-Governance in any scenario and here, the challenges are multifaceted. The challenges of mega policies are humongous, however the solutions are indigenous and simple, which kind of enhanced our processes, resulting in enhanced qualitative services to the citizens.

Due to poor connectivity the similar facets are a bit under looked upon, which we are expecting to streamline in the coming years, effectively.

What business tie-ups and MOUs are you planning or the UT Administration is focussing on to empower its economy?

We have stopped using certain types of plastic, and the amount of plastic you bring is the amount you will have to take back. We have converted into an opportunity. This is a blessing and opportunity to take smart cities mission to a logical system. Earlier, we never had this opportunity to think of such opportunities, and never had such resources

We are in the process of bringing about Rs 20,000 crores of investment to the islands from private stakeholders in the next 4 years, in a recently held meeting of the UTs. We are working on Rs 30000 crores till 2025. We are leveraging investment opportunities, and Andaman will be a huge opportunity for everyone.

On the other hand cleaning of coastline and beaches is an ongoing process. As a matter of fact, due to tidal activities, lots of marine wastes are thrown up on our coastline, for which we are soon to engage in GIZ for cleaning up our marine region for a better future. We are also concentrating on building bio-methanation plant in our territory, taking cue from some of the region in Madhya Pradesh, which have successfully implemented the same.

IT inventions are the bedrocks are the base of smart cities development. Andaman has a submarine under-cable project underway, and by June 2020, the lack of connectivity may be a thing of the past. Port Blair is ready to put its foot forward, and bringing citizens in the development process and projects is important.

There are a few ambitious tourism projects currently underway and would depict the enormous potential. He also asked people to soak in the place, and be their ambassadors to bring in more opportunities to the islands.