If you happen to visit Old Mangalore Port you will see construction materials being piled up near the wharf. If you think they are meant for construction activities there, then you may be wrong. Many a times these construction materials happen to be the cargo meant for shipping.

If you wonder where these construction materials will go, you may get the answer “…to Lakshadweep”. A major portion of Lakshadweep’s construction sector is dependent on Mangalore.

Mangalore is a strategic location for Lakshadweep. The Old Mangalore Port in Bunder area of the city has been serving the needs of Lakshadweep in various sectors for many decades.

According to G.G. Mohandas Prabhu, President of the Old Bunder Wholesale and Kirana Merchants’ Association, Lakshadweep inhabitants have been using Old Mangalore Port for transportation of goods from time immemorial.

Importance of Karnataka

Before going further, let us take a look at Karnataka’s coast line. Karnataka has a maritime coastline of 300 km and New Mangalore Port is the only major port in the State. It handled around 32.94 million tonnes of cargo during 2011-12.

As many as 10 minor ports — Karwar, Belikeri, Tadri, Honnavar, Bhatkal, Kundapur, Hangarakatta, Malpe, Padubidri and Old Mangalore — are under the control of the State Government.

All the minor ports put together handled around 15.81 lakh tonnes of cargo during that period. Of this, Old Mangalore Port’s share was around 1.5 lakh tonnes of cargo a year.

The quantity of cargo handled by Old Mangalore may not be huge when compared to others, but it plays a vital role in a union territory’s development.

Madhusudhan, Conservator of Old Mangalore Port, told Business Line that nearly 98 per cent of the export-import activities at the Old Mangalore Port are linked to the union territory of Lakshadweep.

Essential commodities and construction materials are the major export cargoes to the island. Lakshadweep sends copra, scrap items and dry fish to Mangalore, he said.

Considering the importance of Mangalore in Lakshadweep’s welfare and development, Hamdulla Sayeed, Member of Parliament of Lakshadweep, had sought the establishment of a dedicated wharf at Old Mangalore Port to meet the requirements of the inhabitants in the island during his recent visit to Mangalore.

Problems in the system

According to Sayeed, Lakshadweep has been using Old Mangalore Port for transportation of essential commodities, items under public distribution system, river sand and petroleum products, among others.

Highlighting the role of Mangalore in Lakshadweep’s development, he said the Karnataka Government’s decision to ban transportation of river sand to Lakshadweep had impacted the non-commercial construction activities in the union territory.

It may be mentioned here that the Lakshadweep administration had approached the Planning Commission seeking solution for this matter.

River sand cargo contributes almost 20 per cent to the total cargo from Old Mangalore Port to Lakshadweep islands.

Mohammed Ameen, President of Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that Mangalore is strategically located for Lakshadweep, and people of the island are comfortable with doing business in Mangalore.

Symbiotic relationship

The proximity of some of the Lakshadweep islands to Mangalore is also contributing to the business growth of the two regions.

While Kiltan Island is 136 nautical miles away from Mangalore, Andorth Island is 139 nautical miles, Kadamat Island 159 nautical miles, and Amini Island is 162 nautical miles away from Mangalore. All the above islands can be reached in 24 hours from Mangalore.

Some other islands like Chetlat (143 nautical miles away from Mangalore), Bitra (170 nautical miles), Kalpeni (175 nautical miles), and Karavatti (187 nautical miles) can be reached in one-and-a-half day from Mangalore.

Minicoy Islandis around 290 nautical miles away from Mangalore, and takes two-and-a-half day journey in the sea to reach that place.

The draft proposal submitted by the Lakshadweep administration seeks the construction of a 300-metre-long wharf at Old Mangalore Port. The project cost for the construction of dedicated wharf is estimated at Rs 44.5 crore.

However, Sayeed had stated that the draft proposal requires some modification as there are some areas where Lakshadweep and the Karnataka Government differ.

Expressing confidence that differences could be removed after discussions, he had expressed hopes that the project would provide a major boost to the welfare and development of people of Lakshadweep, if implemented.

vinayak.aj@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 27, 2013)
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