Ceaseless march of hungry tides

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  • Published 21.12.05
(Top) Indira Point with the lighthouse before the tsunami. (Above) The half-submerged lighthouse and under-water Indira Point a year after. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Not Indira Point, which marked India’s southern limit, alone but also the last island and military operating base in this part is being devoured by the hungry sea.

Inhabitants of Great Nicobar island are deserting their homes 36 years after the first settlements struck root at government initiative.

Nearly a year after the tsunami, the sea has opened deep gashes into the oval-shaped Great Nicobar, as seen from a four-seater Dornier. As the pilot veered the aircraft towards the southernmost tip of the island and dropped it down to about 1,000 feet, the half-submerged lighthouse at Indira Point, completely under water, hove into view.

The area was also a favourite nesting ground for Olive Ridley and Leatherback turtles, but both have disappeared.

“We have just been able to retrieve Indira Gandhi’s huge copper bust from the place and nothing else,” said Major Kailash Nagarajan, of the infantry battalion.

About 4,000 settlers of Campbell Bay, the most important town of Great Nicobar towards the centre of the island, and adjoining areas have fled.

“The majority of the remaining 5,000 have lost their homes and are very afraid. The tsunami waves had such a devastating effect on their lives that they cannot forget even a year later,” said Nagarajan.

Even the Nicobarese population, who bore the brunt of the tsunami losing 500 lives, is afraid of the sea now. “We want to head to other areas,” Herbert Thomas said. The sea has come 500 metres inland and is only 150 metres away from the main runway of the country’s most strategically important airfield in the region.

“You can fight everybody, but you cannot fight nature’s fury,” said a despondent Lieutenant Aditya Singh Rana, officer-in-charge of the naval air station at Campbell Bay.