Shades of Veeranam in Sethu? — WgCdr K Parthasarathi VSM (Retd.)

Shades of Veeranam in Sethu?
Wednesday October 3 2007 07:52 IST

Wg Cdr K Parthasarathi VSM (Retd)

THE DPA politicians who observed a one-day token fast on Monday keep asserting that the Sethu Samudram Canal Project (SSCP) is for the development of Tamil Nadu. There are a few secular questions to ascertain the veracity of their statements as well as the depth of their knowledge about SSCP.
Is SSCP going to be an international sea route like Suez/Panama canal?The depth of the canal being dredged is 40 ft (13 metres) for 75 km (half the length of the canal) under the water without banks. Can the ships more than 35000 DWT go through this canal? Ships plying in the international routes are normally 100000 DWT and more and not less 60000 DWT. Can these ships use SSCP?
Ships plying on international routes sail at a speed of 14 to 18 knots. Can the speed of ships going through SSCP be more than seven knots? These ships are required to embark a pilot. Are they not required to pay pilotage and additional marine charges like for the usage of tugs? No oficial document to date has indicated the rate to be levied for embarking a pilot and additional marine charges.
With a low transit speed 6-8 knots (50 per cent of the speed on any international route) can the saving of sailing time be more than four hours? Does this make any sense to vessels sailing for weeks and months?
The Bay of Bengal is a rough sea and Mannar Bay is a calm one. During the northeast monsoon (October to January) there will be heavy silting which will cause loss of depth below 40 feet. Can the canal be used during those four months?Is dredging possible during the monsoon? Will there be any revenue from the canal in the monsoon months when there is no dredging and the silting is high?Therefore, it cannot serve as an international sea route.
With all these constraints, will the revenue from ships using this canal (of course, below 35000 DWT) be sufficient for an economically viable operation? This is the vital question to be addressed by the pseudo-secular DPA politicians.
Can the Indian Navy which sails in formation use the canal which is 1000 feet (300 metres) wide and depth only 40 feet? As the role of eastern and western fleets is well defined, where is the need to use this canal? In the event of Indian Navy using this canal, it is close to LTTE sea hideouts. LTTE may create problems as they did during the IPKF operations.
Just a few years ago this area was declared a special biosphere park for conservation by T R Baalu himself. Will not the millions of cubic feet of undersea minerals and chemicals wealth scooped out permanently disturb this special biosphere park?
What will be the effect of millions cubic feet of sea wealth scooped out on the lives of rare living beings in the seas in these areas and how is it going to affect the livelihood of people both in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka? Since only ships under 35000 DWT can operate, this canal can be used only to bring coal to the Tuticorin thermal station. Should we spend nearly Rs 4000 crores (the project’s esclated cost today according to media reports) to bring coal to the Tutucorin thermal station? Dedicated rail wagons are sufficient for this purpose.
As the canal will function as a funnel under water between the Bay of Bengal and Mannar Bay what will be its effect on biological/ ecological aspects when the ocean currents are normal and during under-water earthquakes and tsunamis and the implications for Tuticorin and Rameswaram? Have the oceanographers and geologists studied these vital implications? Without bringing in Sri Rama or Ramar palam (Sethu), the whole concept has been discussed here. Will the DPA leaders dispassionately answer them point by point?
Let the people of Tamil Nadu know what purpose does the canal serve and whom it is meant to serve. The TN people are apprehensive of this project because of the fiasco of the original Veeranam project under the present Chief Minister.
The huge cement pipes on the way to Kumbakonam are stark reminders of the fiasco. SSCP should not become another such fiasco. That is the prayer of the people of TN to Sri Rama.


Friday, December 07, 2007


Sethu Samudram Project – Objectivity Required !

There is a lot of heat in India on the Sethu Samudram Project, because of the public outcry on the demolition of a revered structure by the project’s alignment. This structure (off the coast of Rameswaram) is called ‘Rama Sethu’ by the believers and Adam’s Bridge by the archaeological documents (most of which were written during the British occupation of India). The traditional Indian belief is that this structure is a bridge that was built by Shri Rama to cross over to Sri Lanka where his wife Devi Sita was held captive by the demon King Raavana. This belief has its roots in the Ramayana.

(This post was written a few months back in response to the fanatic anti-Hindu arguments which are put forth by the supporters of the project)

NASA clearly says that this structure is in existence for centuries. It also says that the origin of these structures can not be ascertained by its photography.

Which means that there is no verdict on whether this is a natural formation or a man-made structure. So each side is entitled to its claim.

The dating of the structure across various sources says that this may be a structure around 4000 years old. Anything above 200-400 years is a heritage structure in the US. Do we still want to destroy this ?

People say that these mounds have Thorium deposits on them. If you destroy this structure, then the sea water would wash away these deposits. When we are ready to accept an agreement suited more to US interests just for the sake of nuclear power, can we afford to let our Thorium reserves washed away ?

This location is one of the most renowned Marine Biology parks of the world. This construction would make the marine life at the Rameswaram sea to dislocate. What is going to be achieved by this ?

It has been said by many geologists and tsunami experts that this structure was the one which protected the southern tip of Tamilnadu (and the Indian peninsula) from the tsunami, which affected all its surroundings – the east coast, the Sri Lankan coast below and the coastline of Kerala. Be it natural, be it manmade – does it make sense to destroy this natural barricade which safeguards us ?

There are also doubts over the economical viability of plying ships through this canal. Of what use is draining thousands of crores of rupees into the sea if we are not going to achieve economic results out of that ?

We all know the situation in northern Sri Lanka which can affect us any time. If we have a shipping canal running between northern Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, think of the consequences :Our marine boundary with Sri Lanka at this place is right now smooth – this part is not an international thoroughfare. But once we allow international marine traffic there, we have to have a no-man’s land (sea!) in between. This may lead to some complications on India – Sri Lanka diplomacy. When ships start crossing through this route, we have to be mindful of the security threats from the situation in northern Sri Lanka. Can this route be safely used by our navy to transit from the western to eastern coast or vice versa ? What if a foreign ship meant for India is captured and held as hostage by the Sri Lankan militants ? We may also have any foreign power coming near our sensitive southern shores through this. Any marine tussle near the Lankan coast on this canal will hit us, creating a diplomatic tangle.

Does it make any military or diplomatic sense in jeopardising our security by wilfully landing into a potential minefield ?

If despite all these, the people in power are going ahead with this project, then the motive can not be national welfare. There must be more to it than what meets the eye.

But the people who oppose the anti-SSP group, attack only the Hindu claim only.

My request to people who blindly rebut the protests :

For a moment, forget the origins of the structure. Forget the emotional importance of the bridge. Just think of the other concerns and then rationally decide whether you still want to go ahead with the project.

Please, do not divert an issue of national & global importance (in terms of security, ecology, diplomacy, economy and culture) into a communal issue. Do not use this as another weapon for bashing Hindus and Indian Cultural heritage.

P.S. :
Some of the arguments say that there is no evidence to prove that there was a bridge there. Apart from the umpteen evidence given in various articles and write-ups, some more is here :

The biggest evidence is on the name of the project undertaken by the Govt. – “SETHUSAMUDRAM” Project.

All of us know – Samudram means sea. Sethu means ??? Bridge – right ? That place was always linked to Sethu. The kings of Ramanathapuram, whose reign Rameswaram was under, were called with the suffix “Sethupathi” with their name – meaning the people who ruled over the location of the Sethu.

(Written in Aug 2007)  # posted by VB @ 12/07/2007 09:41:00 AM


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