OPINION | Rooting for a Sea Port in Thar Desert by Rear Admiral Dr. S. Kulshrestha, (Retd.), INDIAN NAVY
IndraStra Global

OPINION | Rooting for a Sea Port in Thar Desert by Rear Admiral Dr. S. Kulshrestha, (Retd.), INDIAN NAVY

By Rear Admiral Dr. S. Kulshrestha, (Retd.), INDIAN NAVY

The Government of India has granted ‘in principal’ approval to the Sagarmala project. This project envisages promotion of port led direct and indirect development as well as creation of an efficient cost effective goods transportation infrastructure. The aim is to develop new regions with enhanced connectivity to main economic centers and beyond through extensions of rail, inland water, coastal and road services. 

In view of the foregoing the aim of this article is to project a preliminary case for creation of a sea port in the Thar region in the state of Rajasthan by constructing a navigational channel from Lakhpat (near Kori Creek) in Rann of Kachchh, Gujarat to Sanchore (Jalore District) in Thar desert region of Rajasthan, India.

As per studies carried out by A S Gaur, et al, Harappans were considered to be great mariners and businessmen, since their society was mainly agrarian their interest in inhabiting the poor quality land of Kachchh could have been due to reasons of procuring minerals, lime stone, lead and agate. These have been found in the Harappan sites and could have come from Pachchham or Khadir islands in the Rann. Since the weight of lime stones found there is about 100 kg, these could have been transported using sea/riverine routes if the Rann was sufficiently inundated by sea during those times. The Harappans sites have been discovered around Little Rann and on the southern border of the Great Rann. Sedimentation rate studies in Little Rann indicate that it used to be submerged throughout the year until about 2000 years ago. In fact, the little Rann was navigable up to the 16th century. Similar results are applicable to Khadir Bet in Great Rann of Kachchh. The Rann of Kachchh was thus connected via Little Rann and Nal-Bhal to Gulf of Khambhat. Other evidences also support the theory that the Rann was navigable and an extended Gulf up to the early times in Christian era.

The Sanchore area in Jalore district is a low-lying area located at the northern tip of Rann of Kachchh. The navigational channel  would traverse a distance of about 300 km from Lakhpat to Sanchore in an area which is sparsely populated, under developed, and comprises of large tracts of barren land. The navigational channel would run parallel to the border with Pakistan well within the Indian Territory, and provide an efficient patrolling medium for the paramilitary forces. The excavated earth can be utilized for raising the level and reclaiming land adjacent to the canal for utilization in various ways.

The seaport at Sanchore would be a boon to the land locked states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himanchal Pradesh, Uttranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir. It would also reduce the load on the existing ports, roads, railways and provide a viable and cost beneficial transportation alternative for a variety of goods using the inland sea port. Development would get an impetus in the near barren landscape of Rann of Kutch as well as drought prone arid regions of Rajasthan.

Along the route of the navigational channel, minor ports can also be developed at suitable locations along with desalination plants. Agriculture can be planned utilizing drip irrigation techniques for bio fuel species like Jatropha. Chemical industries, salt pans, and salt water based Pisciculture can be set up in areas with population to provide stable livelihood. As far as power generation is concerned, it can be done on the lines of the famous ‘Canal Solar Power Generation Project’ on the Narmada Canal in Gujrat. Under this project, it is claimed that the one MW plant, set up over a 750 meter-long stretch of the canal, will generate 1.6 mn units of clean electricity and prevent evaporation of 9.0 mn liters of water from the canal annually. The Navigational Channel would thus provide an ideal base for locating the solar panels and generating electricity much in excess of the requirement of the port and could feed the national power grid if required.

Interestingly the above proposal ties in comfortably with the declared tenets of the Sagarmala initiatives that it “would also strive to ensure sustainable development of the population living in the Coastal Economic Zone (CEZ). This would be done by synergising and coordinating with State Governments and line Ministries of Central Government through their existing schemes and programs such as those related to community and rural development, tribal development and employment generation, fisheries, skill development, tourism promotion etc. In order to provide funding for such projects and activities that may be covered by departmental schemes a separate fund by the name ‘Community Development Fund’ would be created”. 

It is understood that a bird’s eye view of viability of such a project has been undertaken by some agencies (including one headed by an Admiral of the Indian Navy) and keen interest has been evinced in the same by national and international conglomerates. The preliminary development costs for a 350 km navigational channel and an inland seaport at Sanchore with 12 berths and 8 moorings is likely to be in the region of $ 2 billion.

The project warrants serious consideration and detailed studies by the government agencies so that the long overdue development of the barren Rann of Kachchh and the Thar desert regions of Rajasthan can be earnestly undertaken with the construction of the inland sea port at Sanchore and its linking navigational channel from Kori creek.

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Publication Details:

Kulshrestha, Sanatan. "OPINION | Rooting for a Sea Port in Thar Desertby Rear Admiral Dr. S. Kulshrestha (Retd.), INDIAN NAVY " IndraStra Global 01, no. 06 (2015): JUNE-23. http://www.indrastra.com/2015/06/OPINION-Rooting-for-Sea-Port-in-Thar-Desert-by-Rear-Admiral-Dr-S-Kulshrestha-Retd-INDIAN-NAVY.html