Rama Setu: shelve Sethusamudram project, say scientists
Call to shelve Sethusamudram
Special Correspondent (Sept. 21, 2007)
“Controversy over religious significance would only sidetrack real issues like environmental damage.”
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA), a city-based group of scientists, technologists and environmental activists, has urged the Central Government to shelve the Sethusamudram shipping canal project in view of its potential for ecological damage and socio-economic impact.
An expert committee of the CISSA academic council observed that the controversy over the religious significance of Ram Sethu would only serve to sidetrack the real issues including the environmental damage that could be caused by the project.
It called on scientists and environmentalists to express their impartial views on the impact of the project, especially on the Kerala coast.
A report released by CISSA here said the project had the potential to trigger a series of ecological catastrophes along the Indian coast in the long run. It warned that the environmental impact of the project during the construction and operational phases would be immense.
The committee said the proposed realignment of the shipping canal to avoid the Adam’s Bridge was not a solution. “From 1961 onwards, four alignments were considered for a navigable route connecting the east and west coasts of India.
Each of them had to be discarded due to the geological features and the biological sensitivity of the region. Even considering the amount that has already been spent on the project, it is prudent to review the project at this stage,” a report prepared by the committee said.
Chairman of the panel C.S.P. Iyer, former head, Centre for Marine Analytical Reference and Standards (CMARS), said the Environmental Impact Assessment report for the Sethusamudram project had failed to take into account the tsunami or the frequent cyclones hitting the east coast.
Dr. Rajendran of the Centre for Earth Science Studies pointed out that the EIA had not considered the high sedimentation rate of the Palk Bay.
Highlighting the ecological significance of the region, A.Bijukumar of the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, said the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve harboured a rich ecosystem.
“Continuous navigation will trigger devastating ecological imbalance, affecting the lives of millions of fisherfolk and endangering species like corals, sea horse and sea cow.
The excavation of the region and effluents from ships will impact on the rich biodiversity all along the Indian coast. Over 14,000 fishermen will lose their livelihood while 54,000 others will be affected indirectly..”
The CISSA report also points out that the high interest rates and the uncertainty in usage were likely to make the project financially unviable.
The report calls on the Government to scrap the project considering the social and economic costs and the environmental impact.