Katchal Island

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Katchal Island
कत्चल इस्लंद
KatchalIslandMap.jpg
Map of Katchal Island
File:India
Geography
Location Bay of Bengal
Coordinates 7°56′N 93°22′E / 7.933°N 93.367°E / 7.933; 93.367
Archipelago Nicobar Islands
Area 174.4 km2 (67.3 sq mi)
Country
India
Union territory Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Katchal is located in India
Katchal
Katchal
Location of Katchal Island in the Indian Ocean

Katchal (Hindi: कत्चल, Nicobarese: तिहन्यु, Tihnyu) is one of the Nicobar Islands, India. Its area is 174.4 km2 (67.3 sq mi). It is approximately 1,600 km (990 mi) away from mainland (India) and 305 km (190 mi) south to capital Port Blair.

Katchal was earlier known as Tihnyu, has been home to both indigenous and non-indigenous people. Katchal was one of the worst affected islands during the 2004 Tsunami. This region belongs to the Indian territory and comes under the Nicobar district.

Katchal is inhabited by Nicobari Tribes and Migrated Tamilians (For Rubber plantation workers under Sastri-Srimao Bandaranayaka Pact of 1964). The Island is not open to tourists and special permission is required from the local administration at Port Blair.

At sunrise on 1 January 2000, picturesque Katchal Island was in the news. Many rich and famous people from around the world had converged on it for a glimpse of the millennium's first sunrise.

The Tsunami of 26 December 2004 devastated the Island, disturbing the socio-economic set-up of its inhabitants. Of the 5,000 people missing (5000 is official - actual is more) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 1,549 were believed to be from Katchal.

To support the local population a sizable number of Govt. Staffs were posted to this Island prior to the Tsunami day. Most of the staff went missing as majority of the Govt. provided Staff Quarters were situated very close to the sea shore and a very few managed to escape to the nearby hill. To cite an example - not a single teacher out of 47 posted here prior to 26-11-2004 were found alive.

Some people managed to escape the waters by clinging over to coconut tree tops. Of the 344 people reported dead, only one body could be identified. Either the bodies were decomposed beyond recognition or there were no survivors to claim them. Post Tsunami relief camps are set up at E-Wall, MRN, Salo-Tikrey and Japan Tikrey.

After Tsunami almost all the tribal chiefs and their heirs were killed, leaving the tribals virtually headless. According to initial estimates, 112 hectares (277 acres) of land has been rendered useless due to salination, and 3.54 lakh coconut and an equal number of Supari (betel nut) trees destroyed.

The nearby Trinket island appears as it is divided into three. Tsunami waves came over it on December 26, 2004 and it was submerged under water for several days. It had two villages — Trinket and Safed Balu with an estimated population of 475. The total number of dead or missing is 102, survivors 374 — all of whom were rescued from the sea. Since the island was not considered safe any more by the natives, they initially wanted to settle in nearby Kamorta island.

The Nicobar Islands can be divided in three groups - northern, central and southern. Katchal is the largest island of the central group of islands and had 35 villages (of which six were main villages). After the tsunami, the natives regrouped and formed four tribal villages in the island viz. E Wall, Meenakshi Ram Nagar, Japan Tikry and Upper Katchal. Mildera is another village in the island inhabited by non tribal people (Tamil repatriates and Ranchi communities).

The highest peak of Katchal is 835 feet high. Languages spoken in Katchal speak Nicobari, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Santhali. Due to the remote location and lack of exposure with the rest of the world, outsiders economically exploited the innocent islanders for a long time. To stop their economic exploitation, the Government of India declared the Nicobar Islands an Aboriginal Tribal Reserve Area (ATRA) on 2 April 1957. This made the Nicobar Islands inaccessible to outsiders and currently even Indian nationals need a special tribal pass to visit the islands. Only Government Servants (outsiders) posted to Katchal Islands are allowed to stay in the Island.

Nicobar Islands have experienced all kinds of external influences for centuries, because they are located along an ancient international sea trade route and have been known to voyagers and scholars since ancient times. Due to this, the islands have been receiving external influences, which have affected their culture and race over the centuries. According to recent history, an archeological inscription dating to AD 1059 says that Nicobar was part of the overseas kingdom of Tamil Chola King of Tanjore. In 1869, the British took possession of the Nicobar Islands from the Danes and made them a part of modern India.

The Hills of Katchal are composed of Calcareous Sandstone and marble slates, and in the beautiful tropical forest of Katchal one will find lots of Pythons, Black Monkeys and Pigs. Katchal is full of natural beauty. The eye-catching scenery of the beaches, the jungle, and the sunrise and sunset are some of the things that make the island really worth visiting. The main stay of their economy is Coconut, Betelnut or Arecanut trade. In 1968, rubber plantation and subsequently Red Oil Palm plantation were established here.

Facilities at Katchal Island[edit]

Permanent shelters are under construction, with no foreseeable completion date.

Health: Primary Health Centre: 1 Nos Health Sub Centre: 3 Nos

Education: (Based on Indian Systems)

Primary School - 6 ( Kindergarten to 5th Standard), Middle School - 2 ( 6th to 8th Standard), Senior Secondary School - 1 (11th to 12th Standard)

Water Supply: Water supply is adequate and sufficient.

Power: Presently it is electrified but is proposed to augment the DG (Diesel Generators) capacity at Katchal Islands by 3x128 KW DG Sets.

Roads: 8.66 KM Pucca road.

Cooperative Societies: 4

Police Station: 1

Mode of transportation: By Ship (from Kamorta by Ferry).

Communication: Wireless Local Loop Phones and PSTN phones. Mobile phone signal strength is currently very low.

Information Technology: Proposed to connect by VSAT under E- Governance project of A & N Administration for speeding up the developmental works and effective monitoring .

Jetty (Small Ports) - A temporary Berthable Jetty is available.

References[edit]

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