Rama Setu: impossibility of locks in mid-ocean channel

http://tinyurl.com/2zljpy Rama Setu: impossibility of locks in mid-ocean channel

The great contribution made by Rama Setu is in creating an effective barrier to the turbulent waters of Bay of Bengal and maintaining the serenity of Gulf of Mannar waters as setutirtham. The ongoing project in the selected alignment desiccating Rama Setu will eliminate this barrier.

In addition, if the choice is a land-based canal (instead of a mid-ocean channel passage), protective works such as lining on either bank of the canal can be provided. Such protective measures including building of tsunami protection walls become impossible in the chosen alignment, exposing the entire coastline of southern Bharatam to great dangers due to frequent cyclones and even tsunami-s.  

Here are excerpts from the sethusamudram.gov.in website. An important component of the project was to provide for ‘locks’ on either end of the land-based canal to ensure adherance to the provision of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (to prevent migrations of aquatic species from one habitat to another).

Why has this component been given up by deciding upon a mid-ocean channel passage instead of a land-based canal as recommended by Sir A Ramswamy Mudaliar Committee, 1956?

Because of the impossibility of locks in mid-ocean channel passage in the chosen alignment creating an international waters boundary.



2. Post Independence Proposal

  The proposals considered after independence are as under :-  



2.1. Sethusamudram Project Committee – 1956


               The committee was headed by Sir A. Ramaswamy Mudaliyar and the committee contemplated a 26 feet draft land canal crossing the main land at Mandapam estimated to cost Rs.1.8 crores.  Capt. H.R. Davis carried out further survey in the year 1959 and suggested certain modifications, regarding alternative alignment across the main land maintaining the same draft.   


            The Government of Madras under the guidance of State Port Officer explored the possibility of increasing the draft from 26 feet to 36 feet in the year 1963 at an estimated cost of Rs.21 crores.  


2.2. Nagendra Singh Committee Report – 1967


            Government of India constituted a committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. Nagendra Singh, Secretary Ministry of Shipping and Transport  in the year 1964. Shri C.V. Venkateshwaran, Retd. Development Advisor, (Ports)  was appointed as the Chief Engineer  to take up the investigation work.  Shri R. Natarajan was appointed as the Project Officer to collect the statistics of shipping and to determine the economic viability of the project. The committee completed its report in 1967 and the draft contemplated was 30 feet at an estimated cost of Rs.37.46 crores. The committee examined both the alignments suggested earlier and due to the presence of layers of  sand stone in the Madapam alignment, suggested an alternative alignment  in  the  Rameswaram Island Crossing called the DE alignment near Thankachimadam.  The main components of the project involved were  


        Excavation and dredging of the canal

        Construction of a lock

        Construction of a bridge

        Construction of breakwaters

        Procurement of a dredger and

         Land acquisition and procurement of harbour crafts, construction of buildings, model studies etc. 



2.3. Lakshminarayan Committee Report – 1981



            The committee under the Chairmanship of Shri H.R. Lakshminarayan  Development Advisor (Ports) was constituted in the year 1981.  The committee collected the opinions and representations of the leading public, industrialists and Government officials of the State.  All of them unanimously urged the Government to take up the scheme immediately.  The prominent citizens of  the Rameswaram island represented that the canal would serve better if located to the east of Rameswaram town as far as possible, as  it would otherwise affect the movement of the pilgrims of the temple town.  After detailed investigations a new alignment was proposed across Dhanushkodi, 1km. west of  Kodandaramasamy Temple across the narrow land strip known as the ‘K’ alignment.   The committee also appointed a Navigational Expert Group to finalize the bottom width of the channel and the under keel clearance.  The committee recommended construction of two channels called the south and north channels and also construction of a lock in the land portion connecting both the channels.   


         The salient features of the scheme were as under :-  


Section of the Channel  Length
in nautical miles
Bottom width
in meters 
Dredging depth in meters chart datum
Bay of Bengal channel




North approach




Lock in land canal




South approach






         A side slope of 1:6 was considered.   

         The estimated cost of the project was Rs. 282 crores with a foreign exchange component of Rs. 3 crores.   


2.4. Pallavan Transport Consultance Services Report – 1996


           During 1994, the State Government of Tamil Nadu felt that Sri. H.R. Laxminarayan Committee Report of 1983 has to be up dated and directed M/s. Pallavan Transport Consultancy Services Ltd.(PTCS), a Govt. Tamil Nadu undertaking, to reappraise and revalidate the 1983 report.  Fresh particulars of cost and traffic were collected and incorporated in the report.  


PTCS Report Considered Following Project Components :  


Apart from the construction of the proposed canal, which constitutes the major component of the project, a number of infrastructural facilities as listed below are envisaged to be created under the project :  

  • Construction of a “lock”

  • Construction of rubble mound type breakwaters on either side of the land canal
  • Navigational aids
  • Lighted beacons/buoys
  • Racons
  • Satellite based differential global system
  • Improvements to Pamban light house
  • Flotilla
  • Harbour tugs
  • Pilot, mooring, survey-cum-lighting launches
  • Despatch vessels
  • Shore facilities

  • Two service jetties
  • Slipways
  • Buoy yard
  • Repair workshop
  • Staff and administration buildings  


    2.5. Tuticorin Port Trust as Nodal Agency

               In February, 1997,  the Ministry of Surface Transport  made Tuticorin Port Trust as Nodal Agency for the Project,  and  subsequently the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute  (NEERI), Nagpur was appointed by Ministry of Surface Transport in July 1997 to prepare the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) of the Project   The IEE study report indicated that the Project is environmentally safe with negligible effect on the eco system and the Marine National Park of the Gulf of Mannar.  The report also recommended a particular alignment of the canal cutting the   Pamban Island, east of Kothandaramasamy temple, which will cause least damage to the biota  and the environment .  As per instructions of the Ministry in February, 2002, NEERI was entrusted to conduct the following studies:-  


               (i)   Techno-economic viability, and

               (ii)   Environmental Impact Assessment.  


Tuticorin Port Trust later engaged M/s. L & T-Ramboll Consulting Engineers, Chennai  in 2004 for preparation of a Detailed Project Report, which has clearly established the financial viability of the Project and has also prescribed a stringent Environmental Management Plan for preserving and conserving the rich bio-diversity in the project region.


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