After the government decided to explore the riverine island Nayachar off Haldia’s shores for setting up the proposed chemical hub, there has been quite a stir among the scribes to visit the place.
Nearly all newspapers have come out with details of the island, which is a largely deserted place presently lived in by some 400 fishermen families.
Nayachar, meaning new land, is about the size of 64 sq km or 16,000 acres, enough for the chemical hub. To its west it is separated from Haldia by the 3 km wide Haldi river. On the other side, across the much wider Hooghly river that is presently the navigation channel for ships to Kolkata port, is Diamond Harbor in North 24 Parganas.
Whether Nayachar will ultimately be selected for the hub will mainly depend on the environmental clearance from the center. As is usually the case in Bengal, several self-appointed people have already started smelling ecological disaster if chemical industries come up at Nayachar.
The fact though is that Nayachar is not the first of its kind. There are many instances of reclaiming land on water bodies near the shores to establish industries. A good example is the man-made Jurong Island off Singapore’s southwest coast, which is an extension of Jurong Industrial Estate on the mainland.
Jurong Island is an amalgamation of 7 offshore islets, which are being ‘bound’ together to form a unified land area of 32 sq km (see the picture below, marked red).
It is being specifically built for oil, petrochemical, and chemical industries. The mainland Jurong Industrial Estate is already home to who’ who of global majors like BASF, Du Pont, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, and others. The new island, which is due for completion in 2010, will accommodate several more.
There is no reason why Nayachar cannot be transformed on the lines of Jurong Island. Yes, a proper survey is needed for the protection of fragile ecology there. After that there shouldn’t be any stopping in setting up the hub there.
The chemical hub together with the proposed deep-sea port has the potential to radically transform Bengal’s industrialization scenario for the better.