Answers to questions of Hon’ble CM Mu Karunanidhi
(see Dinakaran report above, also appended Tamil news report from Dinamani of 10 Oct. 2007 and other English news reports)
The answers to the political buck-passing indulged in by Hon’ble CM are very simple and straightforward. Any project is subjected to notings by many ministries at many levels in the GOI procedures. Mu Ka fails to note that as late as January 2005, PM Manmohan Singh raised 15 fundamental objections including the serious issue of the tsunami impacts and Prof. Tad Murty’s concerns which were NOT answered by the project authorities fully and convincingly. It is a matter for enquiry if PM exercised due diligence to the telegraphic answers provided to the 15 questions instead of subjecting the entire project to detailed re-evaluation by multi-disciplinary teams. It is a matter of serious concern that such a re-evaluation was NOT done, thus exposing the stability of the coastline and coastal peoples’ lives to risk. Why isn’t Mu Ka blaming PM Manmohan Singh for raising 15 fundamental objections — all listed at http://sethusamudram.gov.in ? Why weren’t any marine archaeological studies carried out before getting environmental clearance? The issue of man-made nature of the structure is a red herring and irrelevant for declaration as an ancient monument, as world heritage.
Mu Ka should read and respond to the points made by Smt. Nanditha Krishna in her article “Scrap the shipping channel project” (appended).
On the question of declaring Rama Setu a heritage monument, it does NOT matter whether it was man-made or natural. Madras HC judgement of 19 June 2007 should be studied by the Hon’ble CM where the evidences have been brought out that this meets the criteria for declaration as an ancient monument and a world heritage. Hon’ble CM fails to mention another British authority, Lord Pentland who was the Governor of Madras Presidency who wrote to the Viceroy that Rama Setu is an extraordinary heritage and that archaeological studies should be undertaken in the area instead of trying to build a railway line across the Setu or the bridge.
Mu Ka, as a Tamil scholar, should also explain the meaning of the Tamil word, ‘setu’ according to Abhidanakos’am. This encyclopaedia notes that setu means : man-made bund. (The word ‘bund’ comes from bandha as in setu-bandha).
The benefits listed by Hon’ble CM, such as building four-lane roads, can take place even without the Setu Channel Project. In fact, it would be advantageous to review the possibility of linking Tuticorin Port by land routes to the eastern ports and also deeping Pamban gap to allow for a depth deeper than the present 11 ft. Hon’ble CM does NOT mention a single new port coming up between Tuticorin and Nagapattinam; in fact such ports are not possible, given the fact the channel passage envisaged is about 15 to 20 kms. away from the coastline ! It will be a good step to give up the risky channel passage and re-evaluate a land-based canal, while citing Suez canal experience.
The demand for scrapping the project is based on sound economic and security considerations and also to avoid succumbing to pressures by USA.
Former Supreme Court Justice VR Krishna Iyer has provided succinct, emphatic answers:
Statement issued by Shri. V.R.Krishna Iyer former Supreme Court Judge on 14 August 2007
[beginquote] According to Mr.Cardoze, famous U.S legal luminary, ”Means un lawful in their inception do not become lawful by relation when suspicion turns in to discovery.”
These words come to me when I talk of the Sethusamudaram Channel Project. The callousness with which such a big project is conceptualized and implemented is an unpardonable act.
First of all I would like to state that neither I nor any patriotic citizen could support this project. It is a serious fault that neither scientists, technocrats nor Indian Navy had been consulted and sought their opinions before this project was conceptualized. More over the project is an open challenge to age old Hindu beliefs.
At least the opinion that the implementation of this project as envisaged now may lead to oceanic eruptions like Tsunami should be considered and studied.
According Shri Kalyanaraman, the reputed researcher, this project would invite disasters like Tsunami to our southern coast and pose as a threat to the valuable mineral sand deposits along this coast.
Unlike in the case of Suez Canal, this canal penetrates deep in to the seabed. All this testifies that the construction of the canal is unwarranted.
I suspect that the haste with which he project is proposed to be completed, ignoring the welfare and progress of he people of India may be to further the interests of countries like America . About this I had send an emergency message to our Hon. Prime Minister.
What ever it maybe, it is the duty of every Indian to see that this historic and holy monument is protected. With out succumbing to the pressures from foreign forces all should strongly oppose this project.
I call upon each Indian to come forward and fight for such an important cause with out compromise. [endquote; Source: translation from signed Malayalam original.]
It is amusing to see Mu Karunanidhi trying to justify the Setusamudram channel project using 150 year old inquiries during the British regime.
It should be underscored that the British ABANDONED the idea of building a canal across Rama Setu because they found alternative ways to loot the nation’s mineral wealth: by laying a Railway line from Kolkata to Bombay. With the arrival of the Railways, the idea of a canal across Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait was given up.
However, the first committee which went into this proposal was after independence was the Committee headed by Sir A Ramaswamy Mudaliar, who submitted a report in 1956 recommending establishment of a port at Tuticorin and a land-based canal across Mandapam to connect Tuticorin port with eastern ports. Mu Ka conveniently forgets that Sir A Ramaswamy Mudaliar stated as follows in Para 16 of the Committee Report:
The categorical recommendations of AR Mudaliar Committee Report were as follows: [quote] We are convinced that the Adam’s Bridge site is unsuitable for the following reasons: First: The shifting Sandbanks in this area present a far more formidable problem – both at the stage of construction and during maintenance – than the sand dunes on the island site. Secondly: The approaches to a channel would be far too open with no possibility of construction of protective works. A channel at this site – even if it can be made and maintained (which is unlikely) – would entail definite navigational hazard. Thirdly: The channel would be bordering on the Setusamudram Medial Line. In these circumstances we have no doubt, whatever that the junction between the two sea should be effectd by a Canal; and the idea of cutting a passage in the sea through Adam’s Bridge should be abandoned. [quote]
By aligning the channel close to the medial line, an international waters boundary is likely to be created between India and Srilanka with serious consequences for National security, in violation of the consistent stand so far taken by the two countries, declaring (in June 1974) the Gulf of Mannar and Palk straits as Historic Waters, hence internal waters under the Law of the Sea (1958).
Four subsequent committees examined the canal project and all of the four committees recommended only a land-based canal (across Pamban, across Rameshwaram, across Kodandaramaswamy temple, across Dhanushkodi respectively).
It has transpired that, alignmen 6 is a radical deviation from the previous five alignments (AR Ramaswamy Mudaliar’s Mandapam canal + four other alignments). All five committees chose a ‘land-based canal’ across the Gulf of Mannar (since the first alignment proposed by AR Mudaliar Committee in 1956 across Mandapam). The character and scope of the project has been radically altered by the chosen alignment cutting a 300-metre wide, 12 m. deep passage across Ramasetu (Ramarpalam) thus attempting to create and maintain a ‘channel passage’ in the Indian Ocean.
See map for five alignments considered by the five committees at the top of this note.
The fifth alignment (Not shown on this map) was a deviation of alignment 4 and navigating around dhanushkodi). All these five alignments will be shorter than the alignment 6 by as much as 36 nautical miles, saving an extra 6 hours of navigation time. It is surprising that a longer route was chosen.
What is more surprising is that a channel passage cutting through Rama Setu was chosen, an idea which was specifically recommended by Sir A Ramaswamy Mudaliar to be ABANDONED.
The Madras HC in their judgement of 19 June 2007 also asked the question: why were Sir A. Ramaswamy Mudaliar Committee specific injunction against a mid-ocean channel passage ignored? There is no reference in any of the project reports in this regards.
Mu Ka ignores the more substantive issues related to national security and security of the coastline of Tamilnadu caused by the channel project.
Specific aspects of serious, almost criminal neglect, in pushing the Channel project in haste and in utter disdain for public sentiment are as follows:
1. Geological Survey of India was NOT involved in the project design/project monitoring. This is a serious lapse. GSI is mandated by its charter as a 200-year old institution to be consulted in projects like Narmada dam, Nagarjunasagar project. GSI has the equipment and scientists with expertise in seismology (earthquakes), oceanography. The project area is an intense heat flow zone (with hot springs in the coastline between Nagapttinam to Kerala) and mannar volcanics 105 m. years old have been identified. Any project work in such an area subject to serious fault-lines (apart from plate tectonics) of the type which resulted in the tsunami of 26 Dec. 2004 is likely to trigger mini-tsunami’s with devastating effect on the coastline. This issue of nation’s territorial integrity was never given any consideration in the project reports. The project reports do not even refer to recurring cyclones in the ocean region, the project area.
2. There has been a total failure to study the cultural and national wealth aspects of the entire project area south of Rama Setu with placer deposits of very rich heavy minerals and rare earths: ilmenite, monazite, rutile, zircon, rutile sands containing thorium and titanium — nuclear resource and space age metal respectively. The whole region echoes the cultural memory of Shri Rama, the rashtra purusha, enshrined in the photolithographed version of the Constitution of India with paintings by the national artist, Nandalal Bose. Even the geological composition of the project area was not analysed in the project reports with scant regard for geophysical, geotectonic, geothermal, tsunami-cyclone experiences on the indian ocean. It should have been known to the project designers that the 150 kms. stretch south of Rama Setu is nuclear region of the world accounting for 32% of the thorium reserves of the world– thorium which is critical for ensuring energy independence for the nation.
2. Nature magazine reported on 6 Sept. 2007 that another tsunami more devastating than the Dec. 2004 tsunami is likely putting at risk over 6 to 7 crore people in the Bay of Bengal coastline. This warning by scientists should have resulted in immediate suspension of all project works along the coastline (including Rama Setu) until scientists investigate the report and incorporate safety measures, saving lives and property along the coast.
3. The project design was frozen before Dec. 2004 and was NOT re-examined in the wake of the impact of the tsunami of Dec. 2004. Tsunami impact has been so severe that the bathymetry of the indian ocean had changed drastically, resulting in the rise of the seabed by as much as 200 m. in some regions. The whole project should be scrapped and re-evaluated reviewing the impact of this tsunami and future tsunami-s.
4. It is the responsibility of any civil government to incorporate tsunami warning systems and tsunami protection systems in the project area. Failure to do so is criminal negligence. There are NO tsunami or cyclone protection measures in the project design.
Japan has provided for huge walls like dams to protect their coastline against recurring tsunamis. Mu Ka should explain why such safeguards have not been incorporated to save the lives of coastal people of Tamilnadu and Kerala.
5. Public hearings held in January and February 2005 were a farce since the people along the coastline were still recovering from the Dec. 2004 tsunami devastation. This puts in question the very nature of civil dialogue which should be in place in a civil society. Many issues related to India being a signatory of many international conventions such as World Heritage, Underwater Cultural Heritage, Law of the sea (protection of the habitats of aquatic and marine resources), Wild Life protections have been given the short-shrift as evidenced by the evidence produced in the courts.
6. Sir A Ramaswamy Mudaliar Committee (1956) had categorically ruled out a channel cutting through Rama Setu citing three reasons: a. shifting sandbanks in the project area which is the world’s sedimentation sink; b. impossibility of providing protective works and locks in a mid-ocean channel passage as distinct from a land-based canal; and c. creating an international waters boundary. This recommendation accepted by four subsequent committees has been disregarded by choosing alignment 6 under US diktat (US Navy operational directive of 23 June 2005 and inauguration of the channel project on 2 July 2005). This arbitrary and high-handed decision to create an international waters boundary where none existed (under Sirimavo Bandaranaike-Indira Gandhi declaration of June 1974, the area was declared as ‘HISTORIC WATERS’ that is, waters shared as a commonwealth between India and Srilanka under UN Law of the Sea 1958). The violation of this declaration under US diktat which refused to recognize this declaration and sent their naval ships to operationalise their assertion of these being international waters is an assault on nation’s sovereignty, national security and survival.
7. Srilankan experts’ concerns on the impact on environment have been ignored. The concerns included the possibility of impacting fresh-water supplies to Jaffna and Rameshwaram by the desiccation of limestone freshwater caves in the project area during project dredging/blasting work.
8. Salvage operations for a grounded naval vessel have NOT been discussed in any of the project reports. In Suez canal, special arrangements using bollards every 200 ft. and metal wires are in place to salvage a grounded ship in any segment along the entire stretch of the canal. No such arrangements exist in the channel project; in fact, such salvage operations are virtually impossible in a mid-ocean channel. There is no experience anywhere in the world for maintaining the stability of such a mid-ocean channel passage. Suez and Panama canals are land-based canals. Any prudent designer should have carefully evaluated the option for a land-based canal and issues of navigational hazards, before venturing into creating a veritable international boundary exactly 3 kms. west of the medial line between India and Srilanka and calling it a Setusamudram Channel.
9. Project cost-benefit estimates were padded. One instance is the wrong computation of time saving through this channel. It is clear that for navigation between Kolkata and Tuticorin, the proposed channel will save only one hour and 45 mts. as Capt. Balakrishnan has demonstrated. This fundamental parameter puts the economics of the entire project in question. Another instance is the wrong computation of maintenance dredging. In this sedimentation sink, perpetual dredging will be needed to keep the channel stable and open. Costs of such dredging could be prohibitive rending the entire project a sick unit from day one.
10. Whether man-made or vaanara-made or a combination of natural geological features and artificial bridge structures, Rama Setu has performed a role as tsunami-protection wall saving the coastline of Tamilnadu and Kerala south of Rama Setu. Care should have been taken before recommending desiccation of such a protective structure. Rama Setu has a role in the accumulation of mineral placer deposits, unique in the whole world creating a veritable nuclear coast of the world. Without undertaking detailed multi-disciplinary studies, such a structure which has ensured nation’s coastline integrity and nation’s wealth should not have been interfered with.
For these charges of criminal neglect, errors of commission and omission, Government of India should provide the answers by appointing a Commission of Enquiry under Supreme Court monitoring.
A state which behaves like the Taliban destroying the Bamiyan buddha will not gain recognition in the comity of nations as a civil state. It is the responsibility of every citizen (under Fundamental Duties enshrined in the Constitution) and hence of the state to protect nation’s heritage. There is no greater heritage than Rama Setu, spanning the ocean between India and Srilanka and enshrined as a divyakshetram in the hearts of every citizen of the world.
It is the duty of the state and the samajam to protect, conserve and cherish a heritage such as Rama Setu evoking Shri Rama who is vigrahavaan dharmah, the very embodiment of dharma. Forgetting dharma, we forget our very identity and meaning of our very social life, either for nihs’reyas or for abhyudayam. We are trustees of the punyabhumi for the present and future generations; a trust which can be betrayed only by rendering the state as an instrument of high-handedness, arrogance and utter disregard for human sentiments. A state which is meant to protect cannot become an instrument of destruction, trampling sentiments. The state has chosen to ignore the thousands of pages of evidence produced in courts about this world heritage monument.
Mu Ka also ignores the recommendations of Prof. Tad S Murthy (a scientist who was engaged by PM for setting up a tsunami warning system).
Prof Tad S Murthy of Canada has raised serious concerns about the devastation of Kerala through the proposed SSCP which will suck in the next tsunami waves if the present alignment is retained, completely blasting out the coastline of Kerala from Cochin to Thiruvanandapuram. The Chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust has completely ignored the scientific and technical warnings given by Prof. Tad S Murthy of Canada.
If the Setusamudram Shipping Canal is dug through the bridge, it will act as the channel for the waters to flow directly into the entire Southern India coastline beyond Dhanushkodi and into the coastline of Kerala right into the Konkan region. The resultant devastation will be incalculable. Keeping this aspect in mind, Dr. Tad S. Murty, an acknowledged international authority on the ‘Tsunamis’ has clearly indicated that building the Setusamudram Canal as per the existing alignment will only lead to unprecedented disasters during the next Tsunami which can happen at any time. To quote his exact words of warning in this context: “I like this Setusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP) but there is a flaw. The entrance to the channel should be re-oriented towards the eastern side. Otherwise, there is a chance that it may create a deepwater route for another devastating tsunami. This may cause huge destruction in Kerala”. Taking note of this ominous warning, Government of India should immediately stop the construction of the project till this technical point raised by Dr Tad S Murty is carefully considered by a team of experts drawn from all the concerned technical fields, including the whole gamut of Earth Sciences.
Nature magazine has reported on 6 September 2007 that another tsunami is likely, more devastating than the Dec. 2004 tsunami which will put 6 to 7 crore people along the coastline of Bay of Bengal at risk. This is such a serious situation that Governments (both centre and states) should immediately suspend all projects along the coastline and constitute a multi-disciplinary scientific committee to review the impact of another tsunami and to recommend protective measures needed in the projects.
The project reports do not take into account the impact of tsunami’s and cyclones in this cyclone-prone turbulent waters of Bay of Bengal.
The project DOES NOT include tsunami/cyclone protection measures.
The project DOES NOT include measures for salvage operations in case ships get grounded because of turbulent waves.
The public hearings of January and February 2005 were a farce because people were in a state of shock after the Dec. 2004 tsunami and were being rehabilitated and had no time to participate in such hearings.
The issue of US intervention haughtily dismissing the HISTORIC WATERS agreement between Smt. Indira Gandhi and Smt. Sirimavo Bandaranaike (June 1974) should be answered by Mu Ka. Is it because of this US claim that these are international waters that a channel passage running 3 kms. west of the medial line was chosen?
What are the security measures against LTTE operations in the Bay of Bengal side of the proposed channel?
Why hasn’t the project report analysed the mineral wealth accumulations in placer deposits south of Rama Setu including the ilmenite and monazite sands of Manavalakurichi and other coastal areas, where sand godowns have come up?
Mu Ka has to answer these questions and also the questions raised about the padded figures in the cost-benefit estimates of the project. Economists are claiming that maintenance dredging costs will be enormous and that the saving in navigation time is only 1 hr. 45 mts between Kolkata and Tuticorin. This is not likely to enthuse mariners to choose this channel passage at great risk and also paying pilotage charges. In any case, only ships of less than 30000 DWT can pass through this 12 m. deep channel and most of the ships plying in the region are larger dwt ships.
Today the Pamban gap (with the cantilever railway bridge) is in use for small ships with 11 ft. deep waters. Why can’t the possibility of deepening this Pamban gap be examined?
Mu Ka may be aware that Wild Lift Act clearance has to be obtained for such projects; this was not done in the case of this project, and hence is an illegal project.
Another illegality is that Law of the Sea commitments have been violated by adversely impacting the habitats of aquatic flora and fauna, an act prohibited under this international convention. By not providing for locks on the channel, Gulf of Mannar serene waters which are breeding grounds for many aquatic species will be devastated by the incursion of the turbulent waters from the Bay of Bengal through the channel.
Save marine wealth: Vegetarian sea-cow, green turtle
The only place in the world where s’ankha is available and where dugong lives.Dugong is a sea-cow which eats only sea-grass.
There are over 3,600 unique aquatic species in the Gulf of Mannar Bioreserve national parks.
Kilakkarai and other places produce s’ankha, a cultural symbol venerated in Bharatiya traditions (West Bengal Dev. Corpn. In Kilakarai has an annual turnover of Rs. 100 crores to procure s’ankha from Rama Setu coastal zone).
On these ecosystem considerations and the respect for the habitat of aquatic lives under the UN conventions to which India is a signatory and under UN Law of the Sea, the project should be scrapped.
On the question of heritage again, why is MuKa ignoring facts? He is a Tamil scholar and should know that Sangam literature is replete with references to Setu in Akananooru, Puranaanooru, and also in Tamil classics S’ilappadikaaram, Manimekalai. He is also a Tamil historian and should know that there are Setu coins found in thousands in Jaffna (Yaazhppaanam) referred to as Aryachakravarti coins of the 10th century. What, pray, is the meaning of the words, Setu, Setupati, Setusamudram? He is also versed in Tamil tradition and should know that Parantaka Chola I has a Velanjeri Copper plate inscription which refers to the monarch offering setutirtham and tulaabharam at Setukkarai. Isn’t all this history, tradition, heritage? He may not know that many Tamil saints had sung the praise of Setu, Setubandhanam and Setubandha Rames’waram as a tirthasthaanam. He may also not know that are sculptural panels in Prambanan (Brahmavana) temple in Indonesia showing Setubandhana construction — photographs of these sculptures are published by Archaeological Survey of India. Surely, MuKa should know the many epigraphs of Setupati Raja’s referring to their responsibility to protect and save Rama Setu. By indulging in suggestio falsi and suppressio veri, MuKa should not hide facts and place all the facts before the public about the Tamil tradition which cannot be separated from the traditions related to Shri Rama, Ramayana and Setubandhanam. Surely, MuKa has read Abhidaanakos’am which gives the meaning of the word, ‘setu’ in Tamil as ‘ceyarkkarai’ (meaning, artificial bund). The word, ‘bund’ as noted comes from bandha, setubandha. Surely, MuKa the politician should know that his colleague in the party Hon’ble TR Baalu went to Sarasvati Mahal Library and saw the 5X6 ft. map of 1788 showing Ramarcoil and Rama’s Bridge, a map drawn by Joseph Parks, an Australian botanical explorer. Was there really an attempt to destroy this map? Why not face the evidence, sir?
Hon’ble Mu. Karunanidhi had cited, in 1972, in a forward to the Ramanathapuram District Gazetteer, evidence for Rama Setu, there is also evidence from Sangam literature Before Sri Rama embarked upon his journey to Sri Lanka, he sat below a big banyan tree on the banks of the sacred Setu (tiruvan.aikkarai) and was engrossed in conversation with his friends. The birds on the banyan tree were chirping. Sri Rama stopped the chirping by his command. • In a book titled, Ramanathapuram District Gazetteer published in 1972, Mu. Karunanidhi, the then Chief Minister writes a foreword and praises the contents• The book refers to Rama Setu (also called Adam’s bridge or Nala Setu). 1.kadunter iraaman udanpun.ar seetaiyaivalittakai arakkan vavviya jnaanr-ainilamcer madaran.i kan.d.a kurangincemmukap perunkil.ai izhaippolindaa anguaar-aa a varunakai yinidu per-r-ikume (Pur-anaanoor-u paadal 378) When Arakkan Ravana abducted Sita who came with Rama, the ornaments removed from her body and thrown by her to the ground, the monkey families adorned themselves erratically with these ornaments. People enjoyed seeing this sight. 2.venve_r- kavuniyar tonmudu ko_d.imuzhangirum pauvam iranku mun tur-aivelpo_r iraaman arumar-aikku avittapal veezh aalam po_lao_viyavintanr-aal iv azhunkaloore (Akanaanoor-u paadal 70) Since MuKa has cited the steps taken during the British regime, let me cite from some works of the British: Madras Presidency Administration Report, 1903 and a Travelogue, 1744 refer to the bridge Glossary entry: Adam. …”Called the bridge of Rama… It really joined Ceylon to India until 1480, when a breach was made through rocks during a storm. A subsequent storm enlarged this and foot traffic then ceased…Partly above and partly below water; but when covered has now here above three or four feet of water…” Source: Manual of the Administration of the Madras Presidency./C.D. Maclean (1903). New Delhi, AES, 3 Vols., 2440 p., Contents: Vol. 1: Chapters 1-9 Containing: The Principal Articles of the Manual Arranged so as to Conform to the Order of Subjects in the Yearly Presidency Administration Report. Vol. 2: Appendices Containing: Articles and Statements, Supplementary of the Articles in Vol. 1 Arranged Under General Heads. Vol. 3: Glossary of the Madras Presidency: A Classification of Terminology, a Gazetteer and Economic Dictionary of the Province and Other Information, the Whole Arranged Alphabetically and Indexed. Travelogue A book by Alexander Hamilton, 1744, A New Account of the East Indies: Giving an Exact and Copious Description of the Situation, P. 338 describes his visit to ‘zeloan’ (alt. spelling for Ceylon) by walking on the bridge.
Asiatic Society, 1799, Asiatick Researches: Or, Transactions of the Society Instituted in Bengal, P. 52 refers to the bridge called Setband (alt. spelling, setuband like Allahband; setu-bandha), broken in 3 places. It also notes “The people call it a bridge; or otherwise it appears to have wood growing on it, and to be inhabited.”
I request Hon’ble CM to bring these evidences to the notice of the Union Culture Minister, Smt. Ambika Soni ji.
There happens to be in force, an Ancient Monuments and Protection Act, 1958 which makes it the responsibility of the state to declare Rama Setu as an ancient monument and recommend to UNESCO to declare it as World Heritage. MuKa as a statesman talking of Tamilnadu as vallaras’u should take the lead in making this happen and also, like Hon’ble CM of AP, declare Rama Setu as a divyakshetram. This will surely earn him the political credits needed as a person who respects Hindu sentiments and Hindu civilizational ethos. Here is an opportunity, sir for you to seize and restore civil dialogue on steps needed to preserve, protect and cherish our great heritage, a heritage unparalleled in human civilization. Bharatam should become the vallaras’u, the akhanda bharatam and restore Tamil glory as kappalottiya tamizhan and create an Indian Ocean Community, Hindumaakkadal (Hindumahasagar) samudayam. Namaskaram.
CM: Sethu alignment okayed by NDA Govt Express news service Posted online: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 0000 hrs IST CHENNAI, OCTOBER 9
Continuing his tirade against those opposing the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on Tuesday said the present alignment cutting through the Adam’s Bridge was approved by the BJP-led NDA Government in 2002. In a nine-page statement, Karunanidhi wondered why the BJP had not raised the Ram Sethu issue when it was in power. “Why did they not raise the issue when they sanctioned the project in 2002? Would the issue have been raised by them if the project had been implemented under their regime?” he asked. Karunanidhi detailed the various committees that had been constituted since 1860, and the suggestions made by them and the various feasibility studies undertaken for the project since 1955. “But not once was any doubt expressed about the technical feasibility of the Project,” he pointed out. It was because studies and investigations had revealed nothing about any man-made structure under the sea that neither the NDA Government nor the present Government took steps to declare the so-called Ram Sethu a national heritage site, he added. He also allayed apprehensions about the fishing community being displaced pointing out that only Government-owned land would be used for the project proposed on 12.5 acres at Dhanushkodi and 2.5 acres at Kodiakarai. “There will be no displacement,” he assured. In fact, the plans, submitted to the Centre, to reclaim the 1,875 acres of land at Dhanushkodi almost wiped out by the 1964 cyclone, would only benefit the fishing community in Rameshwaram and help develop tourism, he said. The proposal envisages dumping the dredged sediment from the Palk Strait at Dhanushkodi. Meanwhile, MDMK leader Vaiko, a strident proponent of the project, on Tuesday urged the Centre to choose an alternate alignment that would not hurt religious sentiments. http://www.indianexpress.com/story/226658.html
Karunanidhi targets BJP on Ramar Sethu Special Correspondent (The Hindu, Oct. 10, 2007)
CHENNAI: Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said on Tuesday that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was now opposing the Sethusamudram project, had not raises the issue of Ramar Sethu when it sanctioned the project.In a statement, he said it was the BJP-led government that gave sanction to carry out many of the impact studies in 2001. It was when the BJP was in power that a detailed course was laid down for implementation of the project.He wanted to know if the BJP had not realised that there was Ramar Sethu when it gave the sanction. If the project were implemented during the BJP rule, would they have raised the issue of the Ramar Sethu? Studies cited Mr. Karunanidhi said none of the technical studies on the project had raised an iota of doubt about its feasibility. He detailed the studies carried out from 1860, and explained the sanctions accorded by the BJP regime for the project.Public hearings After the project was sanctioned, public hearings were held in 2004 and 2005 in five coastal districts. Three rounds of hearings were held in 14 places. The name Ramar Sethu did not come up at any of these hearings. He said no study undertaken so far had pointed to the existence of a man-made structure in the area. Since there was no proof of any such structure having been built, no government, including the BJP-led one, declared the area as a site of national importance. Fishermen reassured Also, the project offices would be located in Danushkodi and in Point Calimere on government lands. Hence, there was no fear of displacement of any fishermen from these areas. Even if there were some cases of fishermen having encroached on government land, they would be re-located at government expense.
Scrap the shipping channel project
Monday October 1 2007 12:07 IST
THE Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP) seeks to carve a shipping route through the Palk Straits which separates India and Sri Lanka. In doing so, the government is blatantly disregarding three important reasons for not going ahead with the project: the faith and belief of millions of Hindus, for whom Rama’s sethu (bridge) is as sacred as the Kaaba for Muslims; the environment, particularly the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve (GOMBR), whose survival is threatened; and the defence of our southern shores, which will now be thrown open to the whole world.First and most important is the belief that Rama built the bridge. It does not matter whether Rama did or did not exist. That his followers believe that Rama is divine and constructed the bridge is sufficient reason to halt the destruction of the bridge immediately. Swami Vivekananda, the icon of the present government, wrote of the Sethu that ‘‘There Rama’s monkeys built a huge bridge, called the Sethu Bandha, connecting India with Ceylon. In very low water even now it is possible to cross from India to Ceylon over the sandbanks there. Now Rama was God incarnate, otherwise, how could he have done all these things?”Even Sri Lanka, a Buddhist nation, takes care of its Rama sites, such as the cave at the Ravana Ella Falls where Ravana hid Sita to prevent Rama from finding her, and the Sitai Amman Temple at Nuwara Eliya, situated near the Ashokavana where Ravana held her prisoner. They are still visited by devout Tamil pilgrims. The route from Ayodhya to Rameshwaram is dotted with tribes and places with living memories of Rama’s visit and thereby sanctified, from Ayodhya to Dandakaranya in Central India to Nasik on the Godavari; Kishkinda, home of the Vanaras, described by the Jaina Ramayana as a tribe of brave warriors with the monkey flag; Anjanadri, near Hospet, where Hanuman was born; the Sabara (or Saora) tribe of Orissa to which Sabari belonged; and Rameshwaram, named after Rama who made it so sacred that it is second only to Kashi.
The second issue is environmental. The SSCP will ring the death knell of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, which lies to the west of the Sethu. It is a paradise of coral reefs and mangroves and 21 uninhabited islands. Covering an area of 10,500 sq.km. and surrounded by a 10-km buffer zone, it was a famous pearl fishing centre that traded with Rome in the first century A.D. The ‘shankha’ in Vishnu’s hand is found here.
The endangered species in the GOMBR include the dugong or sea cow, protected under CITES, seahorses, five species of marine turtles, ten species of whales and two species of dolphins. The balanoglossus (Ptychodera flava), a unique species of ‘living fossil’ that links vertebrates to invertebrates, thrives among the mangroves and sea grasses that surround the islands. Fortyfour species of soft corals are found here. The coral reefs support over 3000 species, besides providing nurseries and breeding grounds for several marine species, including 143 species of crustaceans, 183 species of molluscs, 113 species of echinoderms, gastropods, 109 species of sponges and tiger prawns, besides 704 fish species, 105 species of marine birds, 15 species of marine reptiles and 27 species of reptiles.
Kurusadai island, a part of the GOMBR, has been described as a ‘biologist’s paradise.’ Tamil Nadu has 20 per cent of India’s marine fauna, with the greatest diversity in the Gulf of Mannar.
As one actively involved in the efforts to have the Gulf of Mannar declared a Marine National Park in 1986, I find the Ministry of Environment and Forest’s clearance of the project shocking, but not so surprising if we remember that the Ministers of both Shipping and Environment belong to the DMK. The project involves both dredging and blasting, which will surely endanger the flora and fauna of the Gulf. The threatened entry of oceanic and alien species into the Gulf and the effect of blasting on the fauna have been ignored. The BJP has suggested a realignment which will be as detrimental to the GOMBR as the present alignment. For the sake of the unique biodiversity of the Gulf of Mannar, the project must be scrapped.
To imagine that India needs the 30-kilometre, four-hour advantage that the SSCP will provide is ridiculous. Transportation of goods from eastern India to the western coast will still be much cheaper by rail, which transporters prefer. The major ships to use that route will be oil tankers travelling from the Middle East to the Far East. They will leave behind oil slicks that will destroy whatever is left of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve.
The third reason to scrap the project is the defence of the southern shores. The existence of the Rama Sethu prevented enemy ships from reaching the southern shores of India. Presently, the Palk Straits are used by the Sri Lankan Navy to chase LTTE boats. Imagine aircraft carriers and warships floating in the Gulf of Mannar! We are asking for trouble.
The Sethusamudram Project is a disaster in every possible way. Every environmentalist is protesting. Hindus are protesting. And I wonder whether the Navy has considered the defence dangers the channel will open up.