- India’s two largest island groups are the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the Bay of Bengal, and the Lakshadweep Islands, situated in the Arabian Sea.
- The formation of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is attributed to a collision between the Indian Plate and the Burma Minor Plate, both of which are part of the Eurasian Plate. This geological process parallels the development of the Himalayas.
- Extending southwest, Myanmar’s Arakan Yoma range also encompasses the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- In contrast, the Lakshadweep Islands are a cluster of coral islands located off the coast of India. These islands are associated with the Reunion Volcanic Hotspot.
- Additionally, there are other islands found in the Indo-Gangetic Delta and in the region between India and Sri Lanka, adding to the diverse island landscape of India.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
- The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, situated in the Bay of Bengal, form a narrow band running from north to south between 6° 45′ N and 13° 45′ N.
- This archipelago consists of approximately 265 large and small islands, stretching over approximately 590 kilometers between 6° 45′ N and 13° 45′ N latitude, and from 92° 10′ E to 94° 15′ E longitude.
- The Andaman Islands are divided into three main groups: North, Middle, and South. The Duncan Passage separates Little Andaman from South Andaman, while the Ten Degree Channel separates the Great Andaman group in the north from the Nicobar group in the south.
- The Grand Channel links the Indonesian islands of Great Nicobar and Sumatra, while the Coco Strait separates Myanmar’s Coco Islands from the North Andaman Islands.
- The capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is Port Blair, located in the South Andaman group. The largest of the Nicobar Islands is Great Nicobar, which is the world’s southernmost island, situated near Indonesia’s Sumatra. Car Nicobar is the northernmost of the Nicobar Islands.
- The majority of these islands are predominantly composed of tertiary sandstone, limestone, and shale, with basic and ultrabasic volcanoes forming their foundation. The Barren and Narcondam Islands, located north of Port Blair, are volcanic in origin.
- Many of the islands are fringed by coral reefs, while dense forests cover others. The landscape is generally mountainous, with the highest peak in North Andaman being Saddle Peak, reaching an elevation of 737 meters.
- The Andaman and Nicobar Islands experience a tropical marine climate influenced by the seasonal monsoon winds. The region is covered by lush tropical rainforests, and mangrove forests line the shores.
- Coconut serves as a staple food source for the inhabitants, and fishing and pig farming are important economic activities. The islands are also home to the Giant Robber Crab, the world’s largest and rarest crab, known for its ability to climb coconut trees and crack open their tough shells.
- Many of the islands remain uninhabited, and even the populated ones have relatively low population densities. The region is located in a seismically active zone, making it prone to earthquakes.
- The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are often referred to as the Emerald Islands.
- Notably, the Andaman Islands are home to the Sentinelese people, one of the last remaining uncontacted tribes on Earth, known for their isolation from modern civilization.
- The state animal of the Andaman Islands is the dugong, a marine mammal native to the Indo-Pacific coastal regions, particularly the Andaman Islands.
- The Lakshadweep Islands, situated in the Arabian Sea, constitute a group of 36 islands with a combined area of 32 square kilometers, spanning from 8 to 12 degrees north latitude.
- The primary islands that make up the Lakshadweep group are as follows:
- These islands were formerly known as Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi. The channels that separate these islands are relatively narrow.
- Lakshadweep is India’s smallest Union Territory, with its administrative capital being Kavaratti, also the largest city within the Union Territory.
- The Lakshadweep Islands consist of 12 atolls, three reefs, five submerged banks, and 10 inhabited islands, forming a single-district Union Territory. The name “Lakshadweep” means “a hundred thousand islands” in Malayalam and Sanskrit.
- Located between 280 and 480 kilometers off the coast of Kerala, these islands are part of the Reunion Volcanic Hotspot and are predominantly covered by coral deposits.
- Fishing is a primary source of livelihood for many inhabitants of these islands, and the storm beaches consist of unconsolidated pebbles, shingles, cobbles, and boulders.
- The largest island within the Lakshadweep group is Minicoy Island, situated to the south of the nine-degree canal. It is separated from the Maldives by the 8 Degree Channel (at 8 degrees north latitude) and from the main Lakshadweep archipelago by the 9 Degree Channel (at 9 degrees north latitude).
- The Lakshadweep region lacks forests and is characterized by low-lying islands that barely rise more than five meters above sea level. The landscape is predominantly flat, devoid of any notable relief features such as hills, streams, or valleys.
- Pitti Island is home to sea turtles and various pelagic birds, including the brown noddy, lesser crested tern, and larger crested tern. It has been designated as a bird sanctuary within the Lakshadweep Islands.
Other Significant Islands
New Moore Island (South Talpatti / Purbasha Island):
- New Moore Island, also known as South Talpatti or Purbasha Island, is a small uninhabited sandbar landform located in the Bay of Bengal, near the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta area.
- It first emerged in November 1970, following the Bhola cyclone, and it periodically appears and disappears due to natural forces.
- Despite its lack of permanent inhabitants or installations, both India and Bangladesh claimed sovereignty over the island, driven by rumors of potential oil and natural gas reserves in the vicinity. This led to a dispute over maritime borders.
- Diu Island is situated off the south coast of Kathiawar, separated from the Gujarat Coast by a tidal brook.
- The island features limestone cliffs, rocky coves, and sandy beaches, with Nagoa Beach being a popular destination.
- Notable attractions on Diu Island include the old Diu fort, known for its stunning architecture, and other beautiful beaches like Ghoghla Beach.
- Majuli is a significant river island located on the Brahmaputra River in Assam.
- Its formation was influenced by the changing course of the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries, particularly the Lohit River.
- This island emerged as a result of historical shifts in the river’s course, likely triggered by earthquakes.
- Majuli is also a spiritual center for Assamese neo-Vaishnavites.
Abdul Kalam Island (Wheeler Island):
- Abdul Kalam Island, also known as Wheeler Island, is a small island off the coast of Odisha.
- It serves as India’s most advanced missile testing facility, playing a crucial role in the country’s missile development and defense capabilities.
- Sagar Island is a substantial island situated in the Ganga delta in the Bay of Bengal.
- It holds great religious significance for Hindus and is a major pilgrimage site.
- Halliday Island is part of the Sundarbans region in the state of West Bengal. It is situated in the Malta River and has been designated as a wildlife refuge.
Phumdis (Floating Islands):
- The state of Manipur is home to the unique Phumdis or Floating Islands, which are part of the Keibul Lamjao National Park.
- These islands are renowned for their biodiversity, particularly the presence of the Eld’s deer or Sangai.
- Munroe Island is an inland island group located at the confluence of Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River in Kerala, South India.
Significance of Island Groups:
India possesses two primary island groups: the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep Islands, which hold considerable significance in various aspects:
- National Security: These islands serve as important naval and military bases, enhancing India’s security and surveillance capabilities in the surrounding oceans and seas.
- Communication and Trade: They play a vital role in communication and trade routes, functioning as naval ports and facilitating maritime trade.
- Tourism Potential: The islands can be developed as tourism destinations, creating employment opportunities and boosting the local economy.
- Defense Platforms: During both symmetric and asymmetric conflicts, they can be used as launch platforms for defense operations.
- Strategic Locations: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands serve as entry and exit points to the Pacific Ocean from the Indian Ocean, holding strategic importance.
- Maritime Surveillance: The Lakshadweep Islands provide a vantage point for monitoring vessel activities in the Arabian Sea.
- Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): These islands encompass a vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with abundant natural resources, contributing to India’s economy.
- Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs): Due to their proximity to critical choke points, these islands are essential for managing Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) during times of conflict or crises.
India is politically divided into 28 states and 8 union territories, with Delhi serving as the national capital. Among these union territories, two stand out as India’s island groups: the Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These island clusters hold immense significance for the country’s strategic interests, boasting diverse flora and fauna within their archipelagos.
Q1. What are the key features and attractions of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India?
Ans. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, situated in the Bay of Bengal, are renowned for their pristine beaches, rich marine life, and lush tropical forests. These islands are known for their vibrant coral reefs, making them popular destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. Additionally, the islands have a significant historical significance, with remnants of colonial structures and a past linked to the Indian independence movement. The indigenous tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands contribute to the cultural diversity of the region.
Q2. How many islands comprise India, and what are some of the significant ones?
Ans. India is comprised of numerous islands, both in the mainland and in the surrounding seas. Some of the significant ones include the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands, and various smaller islands in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal. These islands contribute to India’s rich biodiversity, offer unique tourist attractions, and play crucial roles in the country’s maritime and defense strategies.
Q3. What are the notable characteristics and attractions of the Lakshadweep Islands in India?
Ans. The Lakshadweep Islands, located in the Arabian Sea, are known for their stunning coral reefs, tranquil lagoons, and picturesque sandy beaches. These islands offer a serene and secluded getaway for tourists seeking a tropical paradise. With their clear blue waters and rich marine biodiversity, they are ideal for activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and water sports. The islands also have a distinct cultural identity, with influences from various neighboring regions contributing to their unique traditions and cuisine.
Q4. What is the significance of these islands for India’s cultural and ecological diversity?
Ans. These islands play a significant role in enhancing India’s cultural and ecological diversity. They house diverse communities with distinct cultural practices and traditions, contributing to the multicultural fabric of the country. Ecologically, these islands support rich marine life, unique flora and fauna, and delicate ecosystems, making them essential for conservation efforts and research initiatives aimed at preserving India’s natural heritage.
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