Can Sethusamudram project afford to ignore marine life?
New Delhi: Environmentalists argue that dredging the ocean bed in the Gulf of Mannar is an ecological disaster in the making.
Spread over 10,000 square kilometers, this is India’s only marine biosphere reserve. With over 400 species of fish and 3500 species of marine life as varied as sea coral, dugongs and sea turtles, all under threat from the Sethusamudran project.
These corals will be dredged up to make way for the Sethusamudran project, a move that environmentalists say could wreak havoc for marine life here.
Over 6000 lakh cubic metres of sand will be dug out from the sea bed and nobody knows where it will all be dumped. The environment impact assessment undertaken by National Environment Engineering Resource Institute (NEERI) simply states – “The dredged up sand will be dumped on wasteland”
“The presence of corals are negligible but not absent but there are sea spunges and sea cucumbers along the canal which are all scheduled specials under the Willife Act 1972 which needs separate clearance which has not been sought,” said senior research associate Sudarshan Rodriguez from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.
The EIA strangely, has missed several key points. For instance, blasting the seabed will impact marine mammals like whales and dolphins. five whales deaths have been observed since dredging started. Oil Tankers and Bulk ships will severely pollute the Biosphere Reserve. Dredging will block sunlight that would be fatal for coral formations.
“There are problems with the EIA. They haven’t collected any primary data. How can they go ahead with the project?” asked acitivist Ossie Fernandes.
Sea-turtles, dugongs, coral and whales: clearly not a vote bank but can the Sethusamudram project afford to ignore them?