India – At a time when the Haldia dock is suffering from excessive silting, hopes are alive of saving the falling draught by re-establishing an alternative natural channel on the western side of Auckland, which has emerged as a new possibility. Images of this new channel has appeared in recent satellite pictures.
A team from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and engineers of the port’s own Chief River Hydraulic Department have already started work. The Pune-based Central Water & Power Research Station (CWPRS) is likely to take up a detailed survey of this new alignment next month.
“Though it has a 50 per cent chance to get a new channel, engineers are trying their best to open up the new route. If the new channel is re-established, the draft will be six metres at ‘zero’ tide and 10 meters in July. Since this new channel is a natural formation, it is more adaptable to natural forces,” said Mr Ramakant Burman, secretary of the Haldia Dock Officers’ Forum.
According to port officials, the authorities of Kolkata Port Trust are desperately trying to re-establish the channel by making successive blasts to remove the morum wall built a few months ago in the channel.
The authorities are of the opinion that if they can remove the wall successfully, the channel will open within six months. Currently, the engineers are conducting a survey about the nature of the channel bed. If the bed is flat, vessels will be able to ply, a Haldia dock officer said.
Mr Anup Kumar Chanda, chairman of Kolkata Port Trust, said: “Most of the components of the capital dredging initiative at the Balari bar taken up in the 1980s were not implemented which resulted in a reducing draft over the years. The cost of this initiative under the River Regulatory Measures in the Hooghly estuary has shot up to Rs 936 crore now. This cost is expected to reduce if the new channel is re-established”.
Mr Laxman Seth, a CPI-M MP and Haldia strongman, however, said lack of commitment is the reason behind the crisis facing Haldia dock.
“The port would have done better if it were in private hands. More innovative solutions are expected to come up in order to tackle the draft issue. Investments worth Rs 50,000 crore have been made in the region and another Rs 30,000 crore is expected to come in the next few years”.
“The port is a major infrastructure that draws investors to the region. It is good news that a new channel has appeared in the satellite pictures but it will take time to re-establish the channel. To prevent the dock from imminent closure, immediate dredging is necessary. For this purpose dredgers should be diverted to Haldia,” he said.