The 23-m tower that stands on top of a shallow coast near Tarapur illuminates the Arabian Sea at night and warns ship captains to avoid shoals in the area. But within a year this lighthouse, which came into existence in 1960, will be crucial in helping plug the gaps in the country’s coastal security.
Tarapur lighthouse is one of the 46 lighthouses on India’s coastline that will soon house an all-weather 24x7 surveillance system.
After the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, the Central government had allocated funds to implement a coastal surveillance scheme to watch over India’s coastline.
Captain AM Surej, director general of lighthouses, said, “We have currently identified 37 lighthouses that will house the surveillance systems. Another 74 lighthouses across the Indian coast will soon be under the surveillance of the automatic identification system (AIS).”
The project, which is expected to cost around Rs350 crore, is to be completed by May 2012, Surej said. The surveillance system is an integrated network of radars, day and night electro-optical equipment, AIS and meteorological equipment.
“The system has been successfully tested in Gujarat and at Tarapur. Not only can it spot a small fishing ship, it can even give you clear visual of a human body within 20 nautical miles of the coast,” said a Coast Guard official requesting anonymity.
“Procurements of necessary systems and equipment will follow, and we plan to implement the system at the earliest.”
The surveillance systems would be wired to transmit data to the base stations along the entire coastline with radio data links. The base stations in turn would be connected to the national integrated network that would allow authorities to monitor the sea in real time.
“While the radar would identify vessels, the AIS would provide it identity, type, position, the course it is on, speed at which it is travelling and other safety-related information to the shore stations,” said a Navy officer on condition of anonymity.