BALASORE: The demand for renovation of the much awaited east coast canal of British era has resurfaced with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik proposing a coastal highway connecting Gopalpur in Ganjam district with Digha in West Bengal.
During his recent visit to New Delhi, Patnaik met Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and discussed construction of a coastal highway that would connect several existing and upcoming ports including Gopalpur, Astaranga, Paradip, Kirtania and Chandipur.
Experts demanded that the Government should initiate steps to build the coastal highway along the west side of canal after excavating it. They claimed that this project would facilitate transportation and increase tourist flow as well as revenue.
Seafarer Prasanta Kumar Padhi said, “After excavation of the canal, the soil can be dumped on the west side to construct the highway. As a result, we can have both roadways and waterways which would boost irrigation, navigation and transportation of goods at lesser cost.”
Sources said 217-km East Coast Canal stretches from Geonkhali in Bengal to Charbatia in Bhadrak district. Built parallel to the sea, nearly two kms from the beach, by the British Government in 1888 for transportation through steamers, the canal, which originally had a minimum bottom width of 40 feet, now lies in a dilapidated condition.
Once renovated, the canal would provide immense irrigation facilities and control floods in the region besides helping in transportation and increasing tourism potential. The experts have also demanded industrial enclaves along the canal to help the industrial units have their captive berths for cargo handling which will reduce their logistics cost.
Senior vice-president of a shipping company, Captain Nakiran Veluswamy said water transport and inland navigation can cut down the logistics cost which hovers between 28 per cent and 30 per cent in the country compared to international cost of 10 to 12 per cent.
Hydrographer UC Mohanty maintained that water transport is not as capital intensive as railway network or roadways and it hardly needs maintenance.
Welcoming the demands of experts, Collector Sanatan Mallik said he has apprised the Chief Secretary of the renovation work during his recent visit to the district. “If constructed along the renovated coast canal, the proposed coastal highway will be one of the best developmental projects of the State. However, the Government will take the final call,” he added.