The Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprise around 572 islands formed by a submarine mountain range, which separates the Bay of Bengal from the Andaman Sea. The islands attain maximum altitude at (730 m), formed mainly of limestone, sandstone, and clay.
The islands have a tropical climate. There is medium to heavy rain during the monsoon, in the months from May to mid September and November to mid December. There is no extreme climate except rains and tropical storms in late summer often cause heavy damage..
Flora and Fauna:
The canopied rain forests of the islands harbor 3,000 species of plants including mangroves, epiphytes (130 ferns, 100 orchids), palms, woody climbers, timbers (teak, mahogany, Andaman paduk) and a wide variety of tropical fruits. Marine fauna is diverse including a wide variety of tropical fish and coral. Considering the diversity and uniqueness of fauna and flora and the fragile nature of the eco-system here, 96 sanctuaries spread over 466.218 sq km and nine National Parks spread over 1153.938 sq km have been notified on these islands..
Little is known historically about Andaman and Nicobar, a cluster of around 572 of which less than 50 are populated, stretching from the southern tip of Burma all the way down south till Sumatra in Indonesia. It is believed that was among the first from the West to set foot on one of the islands, a Maratha admiral had his base on the island in the early 18th century. From there, he attacked passing Portuguese, Dutch and English merchant vessels on their way to or from their various Asian colonies. In 1713, his navy even succeeded in capturing the yacht of the British Governor of Bombay. Despite many efforts by the British and later a joint military force of British and Portuguese naval forces, Kanhoji Angre was never defeated. He died in 1729. The British established their first colony in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1789, which was abandoned in 1796. The British finally annexed the islands in the 19th century adding them to their empire. They turned it into a penal colony for Indian freedom fighters. The construction of the infamous Cellular Jail was completed in 1908. Hundreds of anti-British Indians were tortured to death or simply executed here. With the Second World War, Japanese troops occupied the islands and the local tribes initiated guerrilla activities to drive them out. When India achieved independence in 1947, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were incorporated into the Indian Union..
Due to consistent emphasis of the government on progress and its encouragement to the mainlanders to settle there has resulted in the local tribes becoming a minority group in their own land.
The indigenous tribes are distinguished in two groups: the Onge, Sentinelese, Jarawa and Andamanese of Negroid descent living on the Andaman Islands and the Shompen and Nicobarese of Mongoloid descent living in the Nicobar Islands. Most of the tribes are on the verge of extinction. This sad destiny will most likely hit the Andamanese tribe first since their number is as low as thirty. The Sentinelese is the least studied tribe still living in isolation on the North Sentinel Island.Their number is estimated at 250. Outsiders attempting to make contact with them are driven away with bows and arrows. They continue to maintain a unique lifestyle living in harmony with nature just as they have done for thousands of years.
Arts and Crafts :
The main crafts of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands include shell and exotic woods crafted for the tourists, palm mats, and beautiful natural shells. Due to the fear of over exploitation of the Islands' natural resources, trade of some products is now banned..
Being far removed from the present civilization, the aboriginal people did not wear any clothes till recently. The Sentinelese do not wear anything even now while the Jarawas use only adornments of bark and shell, like necklaces, arm bands, waist bands etc. The Shompens are semi nomadic and cover their body below the waist only. The people of Car Nicobar Island have totally given up the traditional dress of tassel or coconut leaf petticoat and now wear modern clothes. The Onges survived without dress for centuries but have gradually adapted to the dress code of the mainland. Use of traditional items of adornment like necklaces made of shell, waistbands and headbands of bark fiber are now restricted to ceremonial occasions. .
The Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands has a vast forest resource base with 7,171 sq km of the total area of island covered by forests. A large variety of timber is found in the Andaman group of islands. The Islands have reported the occurrence of diatomaceous earth, gold, limestone, nickel, selenite and sulphur. The Oil And Natural Gas Commission is continuing the exploration for oil and gas there..
The Union Territory has a number of small scale, village and handicrafts units. The number of export-oriented units is also increasing in the agro-processing sectors. The Andaman and Nicobar Integrated Development Corporation has made its presence felt in civil supplies, tourism, fisheries, industries, and industrial financing activities.
Around 50,000 hectares of land is under cultivation here. Paddy is the main food crop and is mostly cultivated in the Andaman group of islands, whereas coconut and areca nut are the main cash crops of the Nicobar group of islands. Different kinds of fruits such as mango, sapota, orange, banana, papaya, pineapple and some root crops are also grown on the islands.