India will soon erect a ‘floating fence’, anchored by submerged metallic meshes, along the disputed Sir Creek border area with Pakistan. The 96-km strip in the Rann of marshes is notorious for illegal crossings and smuggling of narcotics and arms and is patrolled round-the-clock by BSF marine commandos. Top sources involved in the project said after mulling over various options, the Union Home Ministry entrusted the CPWD and NBCC to install an all-weather ‘gabion box’ fence along the stretch.
While the National Buildings Construction Corporation will erect the fence on about 75 km of the watery strip, the Central Public Works Department has already started work in the rest of the area, sources said. A ‘gabion box’ is a meshed metallic box-like structure with hexagonal wire nettings and it is lowered down the bed of the water body after big stones are filled inside it. “The fence would be erected on the ‘gabion boxes’ which will have the usual all-weather concertina wires and poles. The Sir Creek area is characteristic with shallow and slushy water and these boxes would be the best material to be sunk under water considering the difficulty of the terrain to execute such a difficult project,” an official privy to the development said.
The ‘gabion box’ is a regular technology used for flood water control and prevention of rock breaking along coasts by the impact of the saline ocean water. India and Pakistan are continuously in talks with regard to the maritime boundary dispute in this area. Sources said the fence would be erected, despite the ongoing talks, in order to safeguard Indian security interest. Officials said a number of other plans, including erecting a pontoon fence, were also discussed with engineering experts but the Home Ministry found the ‘gabion box’ technique apt for this project. The entire project, sources said, would have an estimated cost of about Rs 1,200 crore and the financial sanctions in this regard would be granted soon to the executing agencies.
The Sir Creek area, including a particular stretch called ‘harami nala’, vulnerable for infiltration, will also be covered by the fencing. A number of instances of the Border Security Force apprehending Pakistani fishermen and trawlers are reported from the Sir Creek area regularly and hence the border guarding force has raised and deployed a special unit called ‘crocodile’ commandos in the marshy territory.