BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha government on Thursday issued a gazette notification renaming Wheeler Island as APJ Abdul Kalam Island marking the second death anniversary of the former President of India.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik officially unveiled the notification by State Revenue and Disaster Management Department after obtaining no-objection certificate from Union Ministry of Home Affairs on July 13.
On September 4, 2015, Naveen, in a handwritten note, had announced to rename the island after Kalam as a tribute to the People’s President. Earlier the island was named after British commandant Lieutenant Wheeler.
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, fondly known as APJ Abdul Kalam had a strong association with the Integrated Test Range (ITR), the famous test range for long range missiles. At the Wheeler Islands, the ITR has one of its four missile launching complexes. The rest three are at Chandipur of Balasore.
Kalam, the first director of the then interim test range in 1982, was the brain behind the establishment of ITR. He was also instrumental in locating the island from a cluster of islands in Bay of Bengal off Odisha coast. After the island was located, Kalam had acknowledged the contribution of two scientists who headed the search mission.
In October 1993, despite the development of medium-range ballistic missile Prithvi being almost over, the Army desired to have a confirmatory test on a land range to validate the weapon’s circular error probability (CEP).As several efforts to conduct the test in a desert could not take off due to range safety problems, the DRDO started looking for an uninhabited island in the eastern coast.
On the hydrographic map supplied by the Navy, they located a few islands in the Bay of Bengal off Dhamra coast. Carrying a directional compass, the range team comprising S K Salwan and V K Saraswat, hired a boat from the Dhamra fishing harbour and went in search of the island. The geographical location of Wheeler moved them.
The island came into prominence after defence authorities found it difficult to acquire a large area in Baliapal block of Balasore district where National Test Range (NTR) was to come up in the mid 80s. Failing to pacify the agitation against displacement by locals, the defence authorities were forced to set up the interim test range at Chandipur.
Apart from missile science, Kalam was inclined towards wildlife conservation. He had initiated measures to keep the high mast lights focusing away from the navigational paths of Olive Ridley turtles which nest at Gahirmatha Sanctuary, close to the island.
Kalam too had developed a bird sanctuary and a deer park which is a testimony to his love, passion and bond for birds and animals. He had developed the sanctuary and the deer park inside ITR campus during his stint as director.