The territory comprises the six atolls of the Chagos Archipelago (Hindi and other North Indian languages:फेहंद्वीप Phehandweep ; Tamil: பேயிகான தீவுகள் Paeikaana Theevukal ; Dhivehi:ފޭހަންދީބު Feyhandheebu) with over 1,000 individual islands – many tiny – amounting to a total land area of 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi)
Formerly administered as part of the British Crown Colony of Mauritius, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) was established as an overseas territory of the UK in 1965. A number of the islands of the territory were later transferred to the Seychelles when it attained independence in 1976. Subsequently, BIOT has consisted only of the six main island groups comprising the Chagos Archipelago. The largest and most southerly of the islands, Diego Garcia, contains a joint UK-US naval support facility. All of the remaining islands are uninhabited. Between 1967 and 1973, former agricultural workers, earlier residents in the islands, were relocated primarily to Mauritius, but also to the Seychelles.
Geography & Conservation
An archipelago of 55 islands; Diego Garcia, largest and southernmost island, occupies strategic location in central Indian Ocean; island is site of joint US-UK military facility, The largest island is Diego Garcia, 44 km2 (17 sq mi), the site of a joint military facility of the United Kingdom and the United States.
In April 2010, an MPA (Marine protected area) was created in the BIOT that covers the territorial waters of the Chagos Archipelago, except for the area immediately surrounding Diego Garcia. This declaration doubled the total area of environmental no take zones world-wide. The benefits of protecting this area:
- Provides an environmental benchmark for other areas. Unlike the rest of the world, the BIOT has been relatively untouched by man’s actions.
- Providing a natural laboratory to help understand climate change.
- Opportunity for research related to marine science, biodiversity, and climate change.
- Acting as a reserve for species in danger in other areas.
- Providing an export of surplus juveniles, larvae, seeds, and spores to help with output in neighbouring areas.
The area had already been declared an Environmental (Preservation and Protection) Zone, but since the establishment of the MPA, fishing is no longer permitted in the area.
All economic activity is concentrated on Diego Garcia, where joint Anglo-American defence facilities are located. Approximately 2,000 native inhabitants, known as the Chagossians or Ilois, were forcibly relocated to Mauritius before construction of these facilities. Construction projects and various services needed to support the military installation are performed by military and contract employees from the UK, Mauritius, the Philippines, and the US. Some of the natural resources found in this territory include coconuts, fish, and sugarcane. Sugarcane is still a major export for this territory. There are no industrial or agricultural activities on the islands. The territory earns foreign exchange by selling fishing licenses and postage stamps.
The total population was reported at 4,000 in 2006, of whom 2,200 were American military personnel or contractors, 1,400 were Filipino contract workers, 300 were Mauritian contract workers, and 100 were members of the British Armed Forces. It is believed the population has significantly decreased since the end of US bombing operations from the island in August 2006.
Courtesy and Source : Wikipedia and Google (various sources)
- Diego Garcia on Grooveshark (grooveshark.com)
- Closing US Foreign Military Bases Could Help National Debt (globefrombismarck.wordpress.com)