Rama Setu: letters to committee (Oct. 28, 2007)

October 28,2007.

Secretary,

The Committee of Eminent Persons

On Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project,

“Malligai”, 30/95 P.S. Kumarasamy Raja Road,

Chennai, TN 600 028.

Dear Sir,

Kindly place the following objections and suggestions to, and for the implementation of the Sethusamundrum Channel Project (SSCP). I reserve the right to question the objectivity as also raise the matter of heavy bias and prejudice against the historicity of Sri Rama afflicting this Committee later before the Supreme Court.

I. OBJECTIONS:

1. It is false as declared by the Chairman of the Committee, Prof. S. Ramachandran to the media in a written statement, on June 11, 2007, that “There is no doubt that this chain of islands (i.e., Rama Setu) formed due to natural process” (Annexure 1). This creates an apprehension of bias and pre-judgment by the leader of this Committee on the issue whether or not a ship channel in the Palk Straits can safely and without causing public disorder, be dredged by cutting through the Rama Setu. The report prepared by the former Director of the Geological Survey of India, Dr. S. Badrinarayanan, is available with the Government and should be accessed by the Committee, to correct this erroneous view of the Chairman, which view has profound consequences. The President of India, on a reference to the Earth Sciences Department had received an opinion, submitted in March 2007, holding that the Setu is constructed and not “formed due to natural process” as the Chairman has held publicly. I am enclosing extracts of both these reports (Annexures 2 & 3). The media had made this disclosure on the basis of these reports as far back as May 8, 2007 (Annexure 4).

2. It is false as stated by the Minister of Culture, Ms. Ambika Soni in answer to a question in Rajya Sabha, that there is no “scientific evidence” to establish that the Rama Setu qualifies to be an ancient monument and that it lacks the essential ingredients required under law to be considered for inclusion in the list of ancient monuments. The evidence in Annexures 2 to 4 is sufficient under Sections of the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites & Remains Act (1958) requiring an investigation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in association with the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), to decide this question.

3. It is false as stated by the Minister of Shipping and Transport Mr. T.R. Baalu that the SSCP is environmentally sustainable, and cleared by the NEERI and other scientific establishments. The NEERI had conveyed in writing in a letter dated April 8, 1999 to the Government that prima facie the Institute was not in favour of the SSCP project at all. The NEERI also specifically rejected the Alignment No.5, circling Dhanushkodi because then the coral reef rocks beyond east of Dhanushkodi would have to be blasted by explosives, which would completely de-stablilize the marine environment and life.

On June 17, 2002, the NEERI did revise it’s opinion, in order to support the presently chosen Alignment No.6, but on the condition that explosives will not be used for cutting through the Rama Setu. However, the Minister of Shipping, Mr. Baalu has made a public statement that the Government (having failed repeatedly to cut through Rama Setu with dredger machines) proposed to use explosives to create a breach in Rama Setu. This is in violation of NEERI’s considered opinion. Moreover, as Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalitha publicly disclosed on September 2, 2005, an expert committee headed by the former Director of the NIOT, Mr. M. Ravindran in a report submitted on May 30, 2005 to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, well before the SSCP was inaugurated, had recommended more studies, tests and research as the NEERI 2002 study was shoddy, made without consulting the GSI, and professionally inadequate. Moreover, the NEERI failed to take into account as brought out by Shipping companies (Business Line, October 2007) that fishing activities in deep sea cannot be carried out after the SSCP becomes operational. That is, fishing and SSCP are mutually exclusive activities. This will cause monumental distress to the poor sections of Tamil society.

4. It is false to state that the SSCP is economically profitable. The rate of return calculation, the estimated time saved by ships in using the Sethusamudram Ship Channel, and the interest rate to be paid for loans to finance the project, are grossly wrong because these are based on contrived or bogus data. The studies of Captain H. Balakrishnan, and infrastructure consultant Dr. Jacob John may be referred to for more accurate calculation (See Annexures 5 & 6).

On the best and most favourable assumptions, the rate of return on the SSCP cannot exceed 2.75%, at which rate no public sector project can be sanctioned. It is then better to put the project funds in a fixed deposit and provide subsidies to ships to encourage them to dock at Thoothukudi port. Further, no ship of tonnage more than 30,000 DWT will be able to use the Channel, thus excluding the majority of ships plying on the Indian Ocean from the alleged benefits of the SSCP.

5. The Minister of Shipping Mr. T.R. Baalu, through relatives and benamis has commercial interests in the shipping industry through a company which charters ships of less than 30,000 DWT, which raises a serious question of conflict of interest on part of the Minister.

II. SUGGESTIONS:

1. If the Committee would want to be objective and just, then it ought to recommend to the Government to set up a multi-disciplinary agency (MDA) to re-calculate the economic returns, maintenance costs, environmental implications and social benefits of the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project. This MDA consisting of experts from GSI, NIOT, and overseas Indian origin consultants, should explicitly recognize that issues of public order and national security will matter in making its final recommendation.

2. The Committee in view of the irrefutable objections given above, has to rule out Alignment No.6 as impossible to implement, in view of the Rama Setu being an inalienable legacy of the nation that cannot be in the slightest desecrated and that too merely to satisfy perverse desires of a few atheistic persons in office or those ignorant or unaware of how deeply the nation worships Sri Rama. The nation-wide public order will be jeopardized if the Rama Setu is damaged in any way. Moreover, if the ASI finds that Rama Setu is indeed qualified to be an ancient monument, the SSCP cannot touch it under law. Hence Alignment No.6 must be abandoned forthwith as impossible to implement in Indian democracy. I have however no objection to Alignment No.1 being chosen (Annexure 7).

3. The Committee ought to recommend to the Ministry of Culture that it may immediately declare and notify the Rama Setu as an “Ancient Monument” within the meaning of the law laid out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (1958). The Committee should also recommend to the Government to approach the UNESCO to declare the Rama Setu as a ‘World Heritage Site’, and take necessary steps to provide the essential infrastructure to render Rama Setu as a ‘Tirthstan’ and ‘Divya Kshetra’.

Yours Sincerely

(Subramanian Swamy)

Encls: a/a

Dr.T.S.Ramakrishna, Director(Retd), Geological Survey of India,

Founder & Secretary, Earthsystem Sciences Awareness And Research Association.

1250 B, Road 62, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad-500 033.

Email<hyd2_tsramk@sancharnet.in> Tel: 2360 8890 / 94402 85483 ____________________________________________________________________________________

25 October 2007

To

The Member Secretary,

Committee of Eminent Persons on

Sethu Samudram Channel Project,

The Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University,

Post Graduate & Research Dvelopment Block,

“Poompozhil”, 5 Greenways Road, Chennai-600028.

PETITION AGAINST THE CONSTRUCTION OF

SETHU SAMUDRAM CHANNEL PROJECT

Since India’s independence in 1947, there have been some genuine efforts to meet the urgent requirements of the country and its people. And thus started India’s Five Year development plans. No doubt they have made a lot of difference to the country’s economy. These development plans while improving marginally the life of a section of the population, a thin stratum of people who wielded power in the country found these development plans very handy to make megabucks in short span of time. And thus started a conspiratorial onslaught on the land and people of India. Huge developments works and projects, ostensibly aimed at alleviating the problems of the so called common man, have been schemed to benefit the aforesaid stratum of people who wield enormous power to bend the governments to their advantage. Unfortunately there are such strata of people in every developing country and now in the name of globalization, they are ganging up to internationalize the loot and destroying land and people all over the world.

In the name of development, India has undertaken several projects that are environmentally hazardous, but which are cleared by hand picked experts who are ready to bend backwards to please the governments. A hopeless culture is overtaking the world where only money matters. To assume that the intelligentsia is not aware of it will be ignorance. On the other hand if the intelligentsia is pretending to be unaware, then only God save this country. The ultimate sufferers are the poorest of the poor people in the country.

The construction of Sethu Samudram Channel Project is a glaring example of an assault on the nation and people. It is for the first time that the government is not only throwing away the environmental aspects but shockingly even the religious sentiments of a majority of population in the country. All this due to political expediency, both internal and external, and for the benefit of a few people in the country,

The fact that the Sethu Samudram Chanel project was first envisaged as far back as 1860 and not built till now for 140 years it self shows that there is some flaw in the project. There is absolutely no comparison between Sethu Samudram Channel and Panama/ Suez Canal where one has to go round entire continents, in the absence of these canals. Further they are land canals and not sea channels.

….2

In this petition, we will not discuss about whether Lord Sri Rama existed or if he had ordered and supervised the construction of Ram Sethu. Trying to prove these facts tantamount to taking cognizance of irresponsible comments of immoral people. Although similar questions can be raised against other religious beliefs also, we will not do so because we know the value of sacred Faith. Man grew from Faith and will end up in Faith only. In between for some fleeting moments we feel we have become knowledgeable, thanks to an incomplete and immature modern science, which goes on revising its concepts every now and then. It is common knowledge that even a space engineer or a cardiac surgeon also has return to Faith when he approaches the limits of his knowledge.

In the following sections a strong appeal is made against the wisdom of constructing the of Sethu Samudram Channel Project, purely on scientific grounds!!!

Advantages Disadvantages

Saving in distance Unwanted climate changes

Coastal development Vulnerability to Tsunamis

of Tamil Nadu Oil spills

Dredged sand disposition

Coastal erosion

Loss of biological species

Loss of thorium deposits

Fisherman affected adversely

Toxins

National security

ADVANTAGES

Saving in distance: The saving of distance in going round Sri Lanka is mainly for the foreign ships, which also will save only marginally. Considering that large ships of more than 30,000 tons cannot pass through the channel and that they need to be navigated through the channel by local captains authorities by the channel authorities further reduces the benefit of a shorter route. For Indian ships, the saving is unwarranted considering the enormous problems the project will rake up. For ships traveling from southern to eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, the benefits are too disproportionate, considering the availability of land transport within Tamil Nadu, which can be further improved easily.

Coastal development: True that innocent people can be easily misguided by the term ‘development’. Development of Tamil Nadu minor ports is quite likely but at what cost ? The traditional and peaceful lives of coastal population involving fisheries and other professions will be drastically altered. Sure they will loose their independence and happiness! It is likely that they turn in to blue collar port workers and suffer all the ills of urban slum dwellers in respect of air, water, food and other essential commodities.

…3

DISADVANTAGES

Dredging : The material to be dredged for 150 km channel, 300m wide and 12m deep amounts approximately to a billion tones of sand. Where it is going to be dumped? Dredging could raise enormous dust and toxins. With a large fleet of ships passing through the channel, dredging is going to be continuous process if the channel is to be kept navigable through out. Already the estimated cost of the project is going to be Rs 4000 crores instead of the original Rs 2500 crores and already the IRR of the project is around 3%!!!

Climate changes: With the opening of the channel and continuous run of the ships, the climate of the region is bound to change causing environmental degradation.

Vulnerability to Tsunamis: The pattern of ocean currents is certainly going to change with a long narrow channel providing a conduit. We have heard of how the southern coast of Tamil Nadu and Kerala was saved during the 2005 Tsunami because the Ram Sethu or Adam’s bridge.

Marine Pollution: The volume of sea traffic is bound to pollute the waters of Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar irreversibly. Although large oil tankers may not be able to pass through the channel, enough oil spills are certain to pollute the area. Air and water pollution is certain to disturb the ubiquitous marine life in the area leading to serious ecological balance.

Coastal erosion: Coastal erosion is going to be a very serious concern for the people living all along the southern coast of both Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This is going to be an eternal problem.

Loss of thorium deposits: It is well known that India possesses a third of the world thorium deposits, all concentrated in a short span of the coast under consideration. It is also well known that India is developing strategies for using thorium for their Fast Breeder Reactors. Dredging the channel and allowing fleet of ships daily through the channel will disturb and dissipate the thorium deposits.

National security: National Security is another very very important aspect that is going to be seriously affected by the channel. The historic waters that are now the exclusive property of India and Sri Lanka will be invaded by foreign ships that may include that of US military fleet. This may lead to a dangerous incursion by terrorists.

TAIL PIECE

All this without considering the religious sentiments of a vast of majority of Indians who are against the construction of the Sethu Samudram Channel Project. Let us not forget that when science and technology are going on rampage, it is perhaps only the religion, notwithstanding some aberrations now and then here and there, that can control the human greed and put the society on a safe course.

….4

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Considering the above facts, it is very clear that for the benefit of a few individuals and vested interests, India can ill-afford to go ahead with the Sethu Samudram Channel Project. We strongly feel that the project should be shelved with out further delay to save the country and a large chunk of its people from disaster. We strongly appeal to the Committee of Eminent Persons to do the needful in this regard.

Yours sincerely,

S/d T.S.Ramakrishna.

Founder & Secretary,

Earthsystem Sciences Awareness And Research Association

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