Indian govt. floats Sethusamudram Canal project again ?


The controversial Sethusamudram Canal project is back on the Indian government’s agenda under pressure from some Tamil Nadu Political parties such as the DMK the Indian Media reported recently. This in turn has raised concern among environmentalists in Sri Lanka.

The project aims at shortening the sea route between India and Sri Lanka by dredging the canal as the sea is not deep enough for ships to navigate. Environmentalists are concerned that the project will destroy Adam’s Bridge, a natural chain of limestone shoals. According to the Hindu epic Ramayana the bridge also known as Ram Sethu was built by Prince Rama’s monkey army led by Hanuman. The project was started in 2005, but soon got into troubled waters as both environmentalists and many Hindu political parties such as the Hindu nationalist party BJP opposed it.

SethusamudramGraphicEnvironmentalists point out that the project would be detrimental as it would disturb the Gulf of Mannar one of the world’s richest marine biodiversity spots. The Indian side of the Gulf of Mannar is already a Marine National Park that was recognised as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve (MAB) in 1989. Research is underway to declare Sri Lanka’s side too as an MAB.

The proximity of the maritime boundary suggests that Sri Lanka must be wary of trans-boundary effects of the Sethusamudram canal, NARA founder chairman and specialist on Marine Affairs in the region Dr. Hiran Jayewardene has warned.

He points out that continuous dredging would result in soil being deposited on the bottom habitats such as coral and sea grass beds. Dr.Jayewardena also highlighted the need to conduct our own research in the area to get a better understanding of its ecological characteristics.

The Indian Supreme Court issued a ruling to suspend the operations, but according to Indian media, the central government was planning to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court to get the green light for the project.

This was is in spite of the R.K. Pachauri Committee, appointed by the government after the Supreme Court asked the government to explore an alternative route, pointing in its report that the project was not viable, the Indian media reported.

Let’s solve environment problems together, says expert

Dr.Hiran Jayewardene has called for a joint scientific body between India and Sri Lanka to protect the biodiversity of the Gulf of Mannar and its surrounding areas. Pointing out that some of the issues such as the problem of Tamil Nadu fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters using bottom trawlers resulting in the destruction of marine habitat and the Sethusamudram project had political implications for both countries and science may be able to provide an answer to these complex issues.

“A jointly managed regime with required conservation concerns may be a way out. This would allow scientists on both sides to work together to address and understand the environment allowing for sustainable use. Confidence building and finding alternative approaches such as conservation and ecotourism that can bring added value and much needed development alternatives to the area could be achieved through such a joint effort,” he said. 

Published on the SundayTimes 15.09.2013



One Response to “Indian govt. floats Sethusamudram Canal project again ?”

  1. Sumedha Says:

    I never though we got Dugongs there.. wondreing if anyone has done a systematic research on them

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