Wandoor is a scenic village of 1,500 people on South Andaman Island, between Thailand and India. It is surrounded by extensive mangrove forests, littoral forests, rock and sand beaches, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs. Most people make a living by fishing or farming—but some farmland has been spoiled by brackish water, a result of sea level rise and tsunamis.
In the forests, there are multiple species of orchids, canes, and palms, mammals such as the Andaman palm civet, and saltwater crocodiles and king cobras. Dugongs and green sea turtles forage in the bays, and sea snakes nest in the supratidal vegetation. The shallow water is a nursery for many kinds of fish, particularly sharks and rays.
Some of the forest and marine areas enjoy legal protection on paper. But on this remote island, there is little protection on the ground. Under economic stress from declining fisheries and unprofitable farms, people cut mangroves and fish illegally.
A looming threat to this exceptional island is development for tourism that ignores both the environment and the wishes of the local people. Unless the community can protect its habitats and livelihoods, the development will bring only low-paying jobs, pollution, ecological degradation, and a loss of cultural integrity.
Village authorities will protect a four-kilometer stretch of coastland adjoining Wandoor Village. They will protect and replant about 50 acres (20 hectares) of mangrove and littoral forest and organize regular beach clean-ups.
With Seacology’s help, the Andaman Nicobar Environment Team (ANET) will work with the community to build a center where youth can get environmental education and specific training related to tourism. They can learn to be forest guides, fishing and snorkeling guides, dive operators, craft-makers, and more. This will let them participate in—and help shape—the coming tourist boom.
The center will be powered by solar energy and include simple cottages for program participants. It will be built in the local style, with local renewable resources.