Dredgers arrive at Haldia to rid port of siltation

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Kolkata, Oct 17 (UNI) Coming to the rescue of Haldia port, facing closure because of heavy siltation, two dredgers arrive here early next month, Shipping Secretary A P V N Sarma today said.

'' Altogether four dredgers will be released by the Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) for desiltation of the Hooghly river at Haldia dock. The first lot of two dredgers will arrive in early November, '' he told reporters here.

The Shipping Secretary's assurance came on the day Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wrote to Shipping Minister T R Balu, urging him to ensure that dredgers were sent within seven days to save the port from imminent peril.

The Chief Minister apprehended in his letter that unless dredgers were sent immediately, Haldia dock, the lifeline for many a industry in the eastern region, would close forever owing to acute draught.

A latest internal survey of the port recently revealed that the navigable depth of Haldia port was fast receding in the absence of adequate dredging.

The study found the depth (water level during low tide in the river) in one of the tracks in the guiding channel called Auckland to the port was only 3.6 mt as against 12 mt recorded in 1977.

The last survey done on the river on September 24 had found the depth in the track to be 4.5 mt.

Alarmed by the latest findings, the Haldia Dock Officers' Forum also wrote to the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Shipping Sitaram Yechury today, calling for their immediate intervention.

Blaming the Shipping Minister for the situation, Forum Secretary R K Burman said the dredgers were not coming to Haldia because the Minister wanted them for the Sethusamudram project in Tamil Nadu.

Calcutta Port Trust Chairman Anup K Chanda also admitted that indications from the survey were not good but said the port would not announce the official draught on the basis of it.

'' We will carry out a more detailed survey in a week. But the trend is bad, '' he said.

Mr Chandra held a series of meetings with port officials and pilots during the day to chalk out plans to stave off the crisis.

According to the contract with the PSU Dredging Corporation of India, five machines are supposed to work in the channel round the year and another is expected to be available for 120 days a year.

But only two machines of the Dredging Corporation of India are at work now.

Mr Chandra said work on an alternative channel for the port had been stepped up and expressed hope that the channel would be thrwon open to ships in the next few months.

UNI KDG SJC SS2134

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