The navy has got environmental clearance from the Centre for setting up an operational base on an 11acre plot on Sagar island in South 24-Parganas.
The environmental clearance is the first of the mandatory nods required to set up the base in one of the most important geo-strategic locations off the Bay of Bengal. The strategic significance of the area stems from its proximity to the Bangladesh border.
Several rounds of environment clearances will be required in the subsequent stages before the naval base is set up.
Besides, officers said, a nod from the Defence Research and Development Organisation will be needed to launch missiles from the site.
Sources said the base at Sagar would have a radar surveillance system and the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for surveillance of ships and vessels passing through the region. The facility will have the infrastructure to host P-series missiles or missiles mounted on Mobile Autonomous Launchers (trucks).
In navy parlance, the base on the island at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal would be a “naval coast battery”.
Land-based naval coast batteries are installations that are usually set up to perform a defensive role against hostile warships and aircraft.
Officers overseeing opera- tions in the eastern naval command said trucks carrying supersonic missiles such as the Brahmos could be brought in, clamped on the ground and readied for launch at the naval coast battery.
It will also be used to fortify the zone by stepping up surveillance in the Sunderbans.
“The land identified is nearly a kilometre and a half from the Kapil Muni temple on Sagar island. The MoD (ministry of defence) has to now pay the price for the land to the Bengal government,” said Commodore Suprovo K. De, naval officer in charge of Bengal.
The defence ministry has started working on the modalities of paying the Bengal government for the land.
“The naval battery that we propose to set up will have facilities to launch missiles like the Brahmos and be of great help in carrying out salvage operations like the one that was done for MVSSL Kolkata in June,” said Commodore De.
“The location is significant for the navy given that the ships on their way to Calcutta take the Sunderbans route.” In mid-June, members of the marine commando unit, Marcos, had winched down to check whether anyone was trapped inside the cargo vessel MVSSL Kolkata after it had caught fire on the Bay of Bengal, not far from Sagar, on its way to Calcutta from an Andhra Pradesh port.
The Marcos commandos were flown in from Visakhapatnam, the headquarters of the eastern naval command.
“Once the Sagar base is ready, we will not have to wait for back-up from Visakhapatnam to tackle a similar emergency,” a senior navy officer said.
The 11-acre land parcel which the navy has been trying to get for almost four years was caught in acquisition issues.
Various state departments such as fisheries, forest and the Sunderban affairs worked together to resolve the issues and ready the land for the navy.
The eastern naval command has asked the state government to hasten the construction of the bridge over the Muriganga river to facilitate the setting up of the base.
A 3km-long bridge is being built over the river to connect Sagar island with the mainland. The National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation is building the bridge under the PWD’s supervision..
Source: Telegraph India