Indian Army’s munitions disposal to take three months

Monday, November 22, 2010

CHANDIGARH - An Indian Army operation to dispose off 17,000 pieces of scrap ammunition of unknown origin weighing some 50 tonnes begun earlier this month will last three months, an officer said Monday.

Operation Saiyam was begun in Ludhiana district Nov 10 in association with Punjab’s civic authorities and the police. The authorities found the dangerous scrap at a dry port in the industrial hub of Ludhiana in 2004 but it took nearly six years to start the process of disposing it off.

The requisition for the disposal of the munitions was received by the army in June 2004. Although the preparations for conducting Operation Saiyam were carried out four times, it could not take off because of one or the other reason. On Jan 6, 2009, we got the final sanction from the ministry of defence to start Operation Saiyam, Major General V.K. Bhatt, chief engineer of the Chandimandir-based Western Command, told reporters here.

The operation is going on at the Mattiwara forest area from 8.30 a.m. to 4.15 p.m. everyday. There are three phases of this operation. The first is to transport the munition from the dry port to the disposal area. The second is the physical disposal and third is the sanitisation of the area, he added.

There are two villages - Shekowal and Kalewal - in close proximity of the disposal site. Everyday at 8.30 a.m., 738 residents and 2,500 animals of these villages are evacuated by the police to nearby gurdwaras and other safe places to avoid any untoward incident.

“We have to halt the operation from Nov 24 to 28 as there are two marriages scheduled in the villages. The operation will take over three months,” Bhatt said.

As for the source of the ammunition, Bhatt said: The material was imported into the country in the grab of metal scrap to be recycled into steel. It was stored in five containers, four of which were 20 feet long and one was 40 feet in length, at the dry port, which is located amidst a populated area in Ludhiana.

The scrap weighs around 50 tonnes. It consists mainly of mortar bombs, projectiles, grenades, rockets, detonators, artillery shells of various calibers and other unknown munitions of foreign origin. The scrap was imported through a Gulf nation but its origin cannot be established with certainty, Bhatt added.

According to Indian Army officials, incidents have been reported since 2004 of explosive material, ammunition and discarded bombs being found in scrap imported by Indian industries.

Operation Saiyam will cost Rs.13.5 million and the authorities have levied this penalty on the eight private individuals who imported the scrap. Around 50 army officers and 40 police officers are involved in the operation.

will not be displayed