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Tsunami deepened Tuticorin harbour

Tsunami's scouring effect has deepened the harbour by at least half-a-metre, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 14:56 IST

The December 2004 tsunami was not an unmitigated disaster. It deepened the Tuticorin harbour.

"The tsunami's scouring effect had deepened the harbour by at least half-a-metre," said NK Raghupathy, chairman of the Tuticorin Port Trust.

Speaking to Hindustan Times during a recent visit to Sri Lanka, Raghupathy said that tsunamis were not a threat to the Tuticorin port or the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP) thanks to the existence of the island of Sri Lanka.

"The canal is very well protected because of the existence of Sri Lanka," he said.

"At any rate, the possibility of another tsunami in this region is remote," he added.

Raghupathy is also in-charge of the Sethusamudram project.

On Sri Lanka's concerns in regard to the environmental impact of the SSCP, he said that these were being constantly addressed.

"As far as dredging and the dumping of dredged matter are concerned, they are monitored every day in terms of 1000 parameters."

"We have stipulated in the dredging contract, that dredging should stop if there is any adverse impact within a kilometer of the work site," he said.

Raghupathy said that India was sharing with the Sri Lankan authorities every bit of the data collected by the project and would continue to do so whether there was reciprocity or not.

So far, in the Palk Strait, the Dredging Corporation of India has dredged 4.4 million cubic metres of sand out of the 13.55 cubic metres to be done by it.

Initially, the dredged sand was to be dumped on Rameswaram island, but since the fishing communities objected, it was being deposited into the deep sea, well away from any land.

The second part of the dredging contract will be given on the basis of an international tender.

"We hope to start work on the second phase by October this year," Raghupathy said.

The 167.22 km long Sethusamudam Canal, cutting through the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka, is to be 12 metres deep and 300 metres wide.

It is presently designed to take vessels of 50,000 DWT only.

"This is the capacity that can be accommodated by Tuticorin port at present," Raghupathy said.

On the criticism that the SSCP is too small to make any economic sense, he said that it made very good sense because 84 per cent of the ships calling at ports on the east coast of India would be able to use the channel.

And Tuticorin has direct connection with 49 international ports.

"This is next only to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) on the Western Indian coast," Raghupathy added.

On the alleged adverse impact of Tuticorin's development on the prospects of Colombo port, he said that as compared to Colombo port, Tuticorin had a limited draft.   

Tuticorin handles 321,000, 20-feet TEU containers. But Colombo handles 2.5 million TEU.

But Tuticorin is the port of the future, says Raghupathy.

Of the Rs 55,000 crore set apart for port development in India, Rs 4300 crore are going to be spent on Tuticorin.

The draft at Tuticorin is expected to be increased to 14.5 metres.