Rama Setu: fishermen’s livelihood

September 30, 2007

Fishermen want Sethusamudram Project scrapped
The question of livelihood
By Uday Patwardhan

Across the world high sea fishing trollers have caused havoc with fishing communities.

A Wesome and stunning demonstration across the country sent the shockwaves for men in power at the Centre. The agitation was token ‘chakka jam’ for few hours and it went off well without violence & vandalism. But it contained squirt message for the policymaker who chartered development plans from their ivory towers. The corridors of power were shaken as the intelligence report revealed the spread and scale of programme.
Suffice it would be if said that some 81 places in West Bengal alone have seen the ‘chakka jam’ having been done where peasants and workers participated peacefully and of course without support of either local police-force or political protection which otherwise the ‘bandhs’ get when Left front calls for a strike.
The writ petitions filed in by Dr. Swamy and by AIDMK supremo Ms. Jayalalitha are with a prayer, which if succeeds may force government in changing the current plan and save the holy Sethu.
As is perceived from the mood in Delhi, the winds of midterm poll are very evident. In such delicate situation no political party can afford to be adamant and thus some political solution also could be round the corner.
In fact the stories of drudging fiasco making rounds around Rameshwaram, if are to be believed, then the Sethu is fully intact and no appearant damage could be done to the Sethu. The drillers at the work have failed to proceed. The fishermen believe that gods are not very happy with UPA government’s policies and are very much annoyed with the arrogant and contemptuous behaviour of the Union Minister Mr. Balu. Across the world high sea fishing trollers have caused havoc with fishing communities. Hither to fishermen have lived in co-assistance with mother nature and never have intended to exploit nature and disturb the ecology.
But on account of high sea fishing the collection of fish in shallow waters is restricted. The holy Ram Sethu has been the greatest shelter of fishermen and is protector of lacs of fishermen families, irrespective of faith and cult. Reciprocally, all of them pay Godly respect to the Sethu.
This great wall provides place of fish and other sea species as their breading station. The waters are not turbulent, thanks to the holy Sethu. The disturbance in the vicinity of Ram Sethu is not there because there is not any channel through which ship could pass.
Here is the ditch. Even if the holy Sethu is protected and from other means a passage is created allowing ship to enter these waters, then the peace is gone and so gone would be chances of retaining fixed area as breeding stations.
Slowly over a decade or so there won’t be any fish in shallow water of southern shores of TN and Kerala.
Country would pay a heavy social cost for lust of trade, profits and dollors.
The whole of the fishing community is against any such project and oppose totally the so-called Sethusamudram Project.
The trade unions affiliated to BMS and other social organisations of fishermen and the community organisations all in unison supported the agitation of September 12, 2007, chakka jam only out of gratitude as the Samiti was trying to save the holy Sethu, who in turn was god living for lacs of fishermen families, protecting them from tsunami and providing them with shelter and livelihood.
A small creature squirill helped Sri Rama, construct the bridge and in return Lord provided shelter of bridge for men and creatures.
Now fishermen with help of fresh lease of life of another three months would press hard upon society as a whole to leave the project in toto that helps none and harms everyone.
(The writer is general secretary of BMS)

http://tinyurl.com/ypvsqf

Hindus say don’t mess with Rama’s Bridge
By Praful Bidwai (Sept. 25, 2007 Asia Times)
NEW DELHI – India’s plans to dredge a navigable canal between Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar (which separates India from Sri Lanka) in the face of strong economic and ecological objections have now run, of all things, into a religious obstacle.

This has taken the shape of fierce opposition to the project from Hindu fundamentalist or communal groups, which claim that the canal’s construction will damage a sub-sea structure of great religious-historical importance, popularly called Ram Setu (Lord

Rama’s Bridge) or (according to a Muslim legend) Adam’s Bridge…The UPA government has withdrawn a detailed affidavit filed by the official Archeological Survey of India (ASI) in the Supreme Court explaining why the Ram Setu is a natural, not man-made, structure.

Ironically, there is little debate on rational grounds on the real, substantive, critical issues involved: namely, the questionable economic viability of the canal, and the environmental destruction it would likely cause.

Nor is there a reference any longer to the disquiet the project may have caused in Sri Lanka. Government experts in that country are known to have apprehensions about the hydrological impact of the project…

Economists and environmentalists argue against the canal project on the ground that it would result in very little saving in terms of shipping distance or time, but would cause enormous ecological destruction.

Jacob John, an infrastructure economist, argues that the canal would cut transit time for coastal shipping, but would have little benefit for international shipping from Europe and Africa, which accounts for two-thirds of the maritime traffic. In fact, transit time from Africa to Kolkata would likely increase by 3.5 hours because piloting a ship through the canal, which would have a shallow draft, would be a slow process.

The economic rate of return from the project is estimated to be just 2.5%. But India is acquiring loans for the project at rates as high as 8%.

“The Sethusamudram canal is an economic deadweight,” said Sudarshan Rodrigues, a Chennai-based environmental economist and marine conservationist. “But its ecological impact will be utterly disastrous. The project area is part of the Gulf of Mannar marine biological reserve, which has over 3,600 species and major groups of biological resources, including precious mangroves, which protect the coast against storms and tidal waves. Some of them are endangered species. The canal’s construction will jeopardize their existence.”

Among the endangered species are sea fans, sponges, pearl oysters, chanks (conchs), holothuroids and, above all, coral reefs. Corals, sea fans, sponges and holothurians (sea cucumbers) are all “protected species” under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Corals belong to the same “protected status” schedule of the act as the tiger.

“The project is a recipe for destruction and ruin, and must be opposed on environmental and economic grounds. But superstition and blind faith guide decision-making in a globalizing India that aspires to become a modern economic superpower,” said Sudarshan.

(Inter Press Service)  

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/II25Df01.html

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