Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has approved the diversion of 676 hectares of forest land needed to house a strategically important part of India’s nuclear submarine base, The Print has reported.
The nod, sought when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power, was delayed several times due to concerns about its impact on the environment.
Work on Phase I of the Naval Alternate Operating Base, which will come up at Rambilli in Andhra Pradesh, is going on in full swing. The naval facility will be located 60 km south of Visakhapatnam, covering an area of 1,590 hectares where the rivers Varahat and Sarada flow into the sea. Available satellite images show a large part of the work in the first phase has been completed.
Although areas near South Rayavaram, Dimili, Mamidivada, Sitapalem and Z Chintuva were surveyed for Phase II, only the forest land in Rambili was “technically and strategically suitable for the very important defence project under Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO”. According to the DRDO, the forest would help “act as camouflage for defence needs”.
The government gave the in-principle nod on the condition that construction activity in the forested area will be limited to a minimum and will not affect groundwater.
The naval facility, once constructed, will be home to India’s fleet of nuclear submarines. India’s costliest defence project — a Rs 90,000 crore push to develop and construct a fleet of nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarines monitored directly by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval — has been making progress away from media glare. The effort has borne fruit in recent years in the form of INS Arihant – India’s first indigenously built SSBN – a submarine that is powered by a nuclear reactor and is equipped with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. The second Arihant class submarine, Arighat, was launched by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during a low profile ceremony at the Ship Building Centre in Visakhapatnam on 19 November, a report in India Today has revealed.
On 1 December, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba revealed that a Rs 60,000 crore project to build six indigenous nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) had been kicked-off by the Navy. SSNs are conventionally armed submarines powered by nuclear reactors. Unlike the SSBNs, these boats do not carry nuclear-tipped missiles. Design work for the submarines, displacing around 6,000 tonnes, is currently underway at the submarine design centre in Gurgaon.
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