Naveen asks Centre for Mahanadi river mouth dredging

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Bhubaneswar: While BJD continues to be locked in a war of words with BJP-led Chhattisgarh government on Mahanadi river water-sharing, Odisha government today stepped up its demand for dredging of Mahanadi river mouth by dashing off a petition to the Centre.

Even as the Mahanadi water-sharing continues to a bone of contention, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik called upon the Union Shipping Ministry to take up the dredging work of the Mahanadi river mouth for unhindered discharge of river water into the Bay of Bengal.

In a terse letter loaded with facts on the precarious state of the river mouth, chief minister Naveen Patnaik urged Union minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari for the expeditious resumption of the dredging work.

“I request you to issue appropriate instructions to Paradip Port Trust (PPT) authorities to take up dredging of the river mouth and the navigational channel urgently for smooth and safe navigation of the fishing vessels”, Patnaik said.

It is reported that the depth available at the river mouth is less than 1 meter though the fishing vessels require a minimum depth of 4 meters for smooth and safe navigation. The fisherfolks have been demanding for dredging of the river mouth for reduction of accidents and casualties, which are showing an increasing trend, Patnaik expressed concern through the letter.

The Central Institute of Coastal Engineering for Fishery, Bengaluru, has reported that due to the beach nourishment work undertaken by the PPT for protection of the sea wall, the siltation at the Mahanadi river mouth has been aggravated and no remedial measures have been taken to arrest the movement of sand towards the river mouth and navigation channel, the letter iterated.

Siltation and sand casting of the basin and river mouth areas has adversely affected the smooth movement of crafts and fishing vessels.

“While the harbour basin dredging work is being done from state government funding, we have sought for central funding for the dredging of Mahanadi river mouth because of it involves at least Rs 50 crore cost. The matter has been brought to the notice of the National Fisheries Development Board. We have also sought the assistance of the Central Institute of Coastal Engineering for Fishery (CICEF). Besides PPT has also been urged upon to take up the river mouth dredging work”, said an official.

The Paradip fishing harbour commissioned in 1996 under Union Agriculture ministry funding continues to be Odisha’s largest marine fishing hub. The management of the harbour had taken a beating as it remains under the administrative control of the PPT while State Marine Fisheries department has little say in harbour development matters. As the dual administrative arrangement of this nature hit the harbour stakeholders a lot, the port had handed over the harbour to the state government in 2011. The Paradip fishing harbour continues to maintain its track record of being state’s largest exporter of marine produces mainly sea fish. An estimated 3,500 metric tonnes of high-grade shrimps are exported mainly to European countries every year from this fishing hub. The annual shrimp export turnover from the harbour is to the tune of Rs 150 crore which incidentally accounts for over 40% total annual shrimp export from the state.

“Siltation and sand casting of both the harbour the basin and river mouth areas has adversely affected the smooth movement of crafts and fishing vessels. The dredging of the river mouth had been undertaken way back in 1997. Since then the basin area and the river mouth has been left unattended without periodic maintenance”, said Executive Engineer, Marine Fisheries wing (Harbour and Dock), Nalinikanta Padhee.

The harbour basin area of the state’s largest fishing harbour and Mahanadi river mouth had undergone siltation over the year and it was proving hazardous and unsafe for navigation of fishing crafts. Incidents of mishaps had often grabbed the spotlight as fishing boats stuck in low water level due to underwater soil deposits. The crews of fishing trawls and crafts often faced turbulent situation as vessels crash against the uneven underwater surface resulting in the mid-water mishaps, he said.

The state government has already undertaken Rs 6.7 crore dredging project of the harbour basin from its own resources. It is expected to be completed shortly. However, dredging of the river mouth is the urgent need of the hour. The river mouth dredging is a high-cost project which may run to Rs 100 crore or more. We hope that the union shipping ministry would come forward to dredge the river mouth, the official added.

The fishing harbour also caters to the needs of nearly 640 sea-worthy fishing trawls and about 2,000 medium size vessels. It helps out over 50,000 marine fishing stakeholders in their daily quest for bread and butter.

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