By bappaditya paul
The Indian Coast Guard will build a state-of-the-art forward operating base for hovercrafts at Frazerganj in South 24-Parganas district in West Bengal for surveillance over the Sunderbans ~ more than two-third of which lies in Bangladesh. The hovercraft base will come up on a 7.5 acre piece of land being provided by the West Bengal government free of cost.
The project is part of the integrated Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) that the Government of India formulated post the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. Estimated to be spread over 4,110 square km, water bodies occupy some 1,700 square km, Sundarbans is considered an easy transit route for seaborne terrorists as dense forests in Bangladesh surrounds it on the south, east and west.
At present, the surveillance over Sunderbans is carried out using hovercrafts that are based at the Coast Guard Station at Haldia in East Midnapore. But due to low endurance of the hovercrafts, they often face difficulties in covering such a long distance and this reduces the effectiveness of the surveillance.
The proposed hovercraft forward operating base will come up at Lakhipur Abad mouza under Namkhana police station in Frazerganj, which was named after Andrew Frazer, a lieutenant governor of Bengal in British India. West Bengal government is providing the Coast Guard free of cost a 7.5 acre plot worth Rs 32 crore for the purpose. The identified plot belongs to the state Land and Land Reforms Department (L & LR).
“Both the Finance and L & LR Department have cleared the land allotment and the matter is now awaiting a customary nod from the state Cabinet. Hopefully, this will come through by the first half of November,” said a senior official in the West Bengal Home Department. “The state government is keen to see the hovercraft base at Frazerganj operational as we too recognise the threat emanating from the Sunderbans.”
Once the Bengal Cabinet okays the allotment, the Home Department will issue a notification, and transfer the ownership of the land to the Coast Guard. “There is no encroachment on the plot and hence the Coast Guard will be able to start work at once,” the official said.
After coming into being, the hovercraft forward operating base at Frazerganj will in particular maintain surveillance over Frazerganj, Jambudeep and other swallow areas around the sand heads in Sunderbans. It will also supplement the Coast Guard’s air surveillance capabilities based at Haldia.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 31 October 2013.)