Rama Setu: scrap setu channel, create MEZ

Dec. 12, 2007, Chennai:

Press interview of Dr. Subramanian Swamy

To develop the marine industry, Gulf of Mannar-Palk Strait should be declared a Marine Economic Zone.

Marine people in the zone should be provided new fishing vessels equipped with sonar technology and other technologies, apart from new housing schemes.

For economic development of Tamilnadu, a coastal railway line may be established between Thuthukudi and Chennai. Between Madurai and Kanyakumari, a six-lane highway should be set up. There should be a new airport in Thuthukudi in the name of VUC (Va Vu Ci) — V. U. Chidambaranar.

Setu channel project is a disaster. For the sake of this project, a zone supporting many aquatic flora and fauna, coral ree3fs, Rama Setu, the ancient monument should not be allowed to be desiccated.

This Setu project will devastate the marine products industry and devastate the lives of 5 lakh fishermen and their livelihood.

Dinamani, 13 December 2007



1.                 The Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project[SSCP] is now doomed because the four main reasons:
First, the Environment& Forest Ministry had in 1999 recommended to the Ministry of Surface Transport that the then proposed project should be “given up altogether” because it is an environmental disaster. The NEERI whose 1999 Report was relied on by the Environment Ministry had also  recommended that no channel alignment should be chosen that required “blasting” with explosives of coral rocks since that would destroy marine life.
2.                 Second, the SSCP also requires banning of all fishing activities, thus destroying the traditional fishing activities of 500,000 persons in the Tamil Nadu coast.  This is unacceptable at any cost.
3.                 Third, the SSCP is an economic disaster which has been hid from the public by fudging the data on time and fuel saved by ships using the channel. A re-working of the data shows the SSCP will make a substantial loss of crores of rupees from the first year itself.
4.                 Fourth, the National Remote Sensing Agency of the Ministry of Space under the Prime Minister has categorically stated, as has the Geological Survey of India Report, that the Rama Setu is ancient and was constructed during the Ramayana period. Hence, it qualifies to be an Ancient Monument of national heritage, and cannot be damaged in any way under the Ancient Monument and Archeological Sites & Remains Act[1958]. This means that the SSCP is not permissible under the law and is an illegal project.
5.                 Yet Mr. T.R. Baalu, the present Shipping Minister is misleading the public by daily issuing a statement that the SSCP will be completed by November 2008, when in fact on current trends, the SSCP is suffering from time and cost overruns. Moreover, the government-appointed so-called Eminent Persons Committee on SSCP is thoroughly and openly biased. Its Chairman Dr.Ramachandran, the present VC of Madras University, has been photographed garlanding the TN CM Mr. Karunanidhi when the latter sat on a fast on October 2 this year, to protest Supreme Courts orders on the SSCP including the granting of a stay.  Hence the Committee report will be rejected in Court as vitiated by bias.   
6.                 I therefore suggest that the SSCP be scrapped, it’s sunk costs to date be recovered by attaching the properties of T.R. Baalu for telling lies to the nation, and getting the project sanctioned by fraud and falsehoods.
7.                 Instead, I suggest we develop fast rail connections between Thuthookudi and Chennai along the coast, a modern airport named after V.O Chidambaranar, and a six lane Highway connecting to Kanyakumari and Madurai. The entire Palk Straits and Gulf of Mannar be declared a Marine Economic Zone [as enclosed note by former Asian Development Bank official Dr.Kalyanaraman has prepared].  

12/12/2007 15:57
A “second tsunami” hits Sri Lankan fishermen
by Melani Manel Perera
Fishermen’s rights groups complain about the fate of one of the most marginalised social groups in the country. The government’s development policies favour the tourist industry and prefer agreements with large foreign companies to exploit the country’s waters. This is pushing more and more small scale fishermen into utter poverty. Whilst the government is building highways and hotels, thousands of families are still surviving in temporary shelters.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – A “second tsunami” has hit small fishermen in Sri Lanka, one of the country’s most marginalised social groups. Since 26 December 2004 when the tsunami struck the coastline of the country, another tsunami-like tragedy has hit them; it involves official indifference, red tape, multinational fishing interests and the tourist industry. Three years after the disaster thousands of people are in fact still living in ramshackle conditions, whilst the government is building highways and hotels and planning commercial fishing harbours.Various NGOs and the Catholic Church have denounced the tragic situation, but many have already given up the struggle. Even many of those involved in reconstruction have had to leave over the past year for lack of building permits and land.But the National Fisheries Solidarity Organisation (NAFSO) and the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) are among the groups that continue to voice the concerns of Sri Lanka’s fishermen at the national and international levels respectively.Post-tsunami programmes elaborated in Colombo expect free market forces to take care of reconstruction. They tend to promote the tourist industry at the expense of coastal communities who now find themselves displaced once again.Under current rules housing cannot be built in a 300-metre buffer zone along the coast. This has imposed heavy costs on local fishermen in terms of transportation, fuel and equipment. They received what is tantamount to a coup de grace when foreign fishing fleets were authorised to exploit Sri Lankan waters through joint ventures with the government. On top of that the government has increased the size of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where the state can exercise special rights in exploration and marine resource use. Last but not list fish imports from the region have cut prices so much that many local fishermen can sustain the competition.In addition to the marine fisheries Sri Lanka’s fishing industry includes coastal and inland aquaculture. Together they employ some 200,000 fishermen and their families in the country. Out of these some 150,000 are small scale fishermen. Another 30,000 work in deep sea fishing vessels as crew members. The other 20,000 are inland fresh water fishermen. Over all some 700,000 people depend on the fishery sector for their livelihood in a country where the annual per capita consumption of fish is around 14 kilograms. Meanwhile in the capital Colombo alone some 1,300 families are still living in the temporary shelters after losing everything in the 2004 tsunami.On the east coast situation is even worse since the government has failed to grant land to build new housing. After years waiting many NGOs have thus been forced to leave without completing their plans.



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