Photographer's Note

Here is a view of the Sitapur Beach of the Neil Island, an Island in the Ritchie's Archipelago in the Andaman Islands lies 36 Kms away from Port Blair (110 48'N 93003'E). The Island was uninhabited and covered with virgin forest till 1964. The Ministry of Rehabilitation, Govt., of India, selected this island as one of the sites for 'colonisation'.Accordingly, 95 families of displaced persons from East Pakistan ( now Bangladesh) were brought and settled in Neil Island. Each family was given 10 acres of land for agriculture and horticulture. Milk cattle were also distributed.The virgin land yielded bumper crops initially and abundance of fodder ensured good production of milk. Since both milk products and vegetables grown in Neil Island found a ready market at Port Blair, the settlers became prosperous.Soon, the settlers decided to take it easy by hiring help to do the hard work on the field. The hired help worked for a season or two and then decided to become an independent farmer by himself by encroaching into the nearby forestland. The vicious circle started.More farmers meant more cattle. More and more trees were being cut for firewood. Increasing numbers of cattle devoured the greens all around. By 1978, the entire peripheral forest was gone and erosion had cleaned most of the topsoil.The only natural lake had dried up. In summer the temperature short up so high that the people were obliged to remain indoors, working in the mornings and evenings. The wells dried up causing serious scarcity of water. The situation was so grave that the Administration was forced to relocate some cattle in Little Andaman. Agriculture became heavily dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The main communication to Neil is the ferry service which reaches the island from Port Blair in about 3 hours,4 times every week.If you look closely,the ferry is seen in this picture above as a small bright white dot in the distant horizon at the middle.It will take about one and half hour more to reach the island from there,at around 10 am in the morning.Alternatively,every Tuesday there is a provision to reach Neil Island from Havelock,the nearby island,which is not more half an hour or so.

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Additional Photos by Paul Solitudine (soledad) Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 27 W: 0 N: 26] (140)
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