BHUBANESWAR: Climate change and global warming have cast a shadow of erosion over India’s only long range missile test facility at Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast prompting the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to rope in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) for protection measures.
While hundreds of metres of sand areas have already been devoured by the sea and several patches along the coast submerged in tidal effect in the last few years, sand patterns around the island are changing rapidly posing danger to the missile launching complex.
The Kalam Island, formerly known as Wheeler Island, is located approximately 12 km from Bhadrak in the Bay of Bengal and about 70 km south of the DRDO’s Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur. The two km long island occupies around 390 acres.
The test facility consists of a launch pad, missile assembly building and store house besides several administrative and support buildings. Plants and vegetation have also been facing threat due to the change in the island’s topography.
Since the island is technically a shoal, seawater frequently causes sand-shifting. But it has been experiencing erosion mostly from east and south sides due to frequent tidal surge which has been higher during the recent years leading to submergence of more areas.
“Not only erosion, toxic effect generated out of routine weapon testing is huge in the locality causing widespread damage to the coastal ecosystem. Huge plantation of marine based plants is need of the hour to arrest soil erosion,” said Jayanta Das, president of Coastal Area Development Association (CADA).
Out of bound for public, access to the test facility is by water and air as there is no bridge connecting the island to the mainland. Missile airframes, supplies and equipment are, however, brought here by ships.
An MoD official said a special coast erosion control system has been adopted after consultation with experts from the IIT and NIOT. He ruled out the possibility of constructing protection wall as large number of Olive Ridley turtles visit the island every year for nesting.
“Erosion control armour blocks are being laid out along the coast of the island so that the impact of the waves would be less on the shore. The work has already been started and the entire coast will be covered with the interlocked concrete blocks very soon,” he said over phone from New Delhi.