Setu channel: NOT viable — Statesman, TOI edits

Setu channel: NOT viable — Statesman, TOI edits
SSCP is not viable (Statesman, Feb. 3, 2008 Edit)
Time to cut losses and wind it up

The Sethusamundram Ship Channel Project is ill conceived and serves no one in society except those pushing it. TR Baalu of the DMK, Union Minister for Surface Transport, managed to push it down the throat of the UPA government in which his party is a major partner, through misrepresentation and falsehood. Neither the Indian Navy nor the merchant navy has any use for it. The Indian Coast Guard find a security threat to the nation. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed the Lakshmi Narayanan Commission to study the feasibility of the project in the early 1980’s, the then Defence Secretary wrote that the project would not be in the interest of the country’s defence. This was long before the Palk Strait became the hunting ground of the Sri Lankan Navy, the LTTE and the Indian fishermen. Indira Gandhi shelved the project. MPs from Tamil Nadu, however kept the issue alive in Parliament claiming that a shipping channel by cutting the Ramar Sethu, historically known as the Adam’s Bridge, would enable ships from the west coast sail to the Bay of Bengal and vice versa without having to circumnavigate Sri Lanka.
Baalu has been misleading the public by daily issuing statements that the SSCP will be completed by November this year and that it will bring prosperity to the coastal villagers. On the contrary, if completed, it will deprive more than 500,000 people inhabiting these villages and engaged in fishing activities of their livelihood. The approved alignment of the channel runs too close to heavily populated coastal areas. According to a study by the American Chemical Society published in Environmental Science and Technology, about 100,000 people living in coastal communities along major shipping routes die every year as a result of high sulphate emissions from ships. Diesel-powered ships burn some of the worst fuel on the planet, having almost 2,000 times the sulphur content of highway fuel diesel. The Union Environment and Forest Ministry had in 1999 recommended to the Ministry of Surface Transport to give up the SSCP because it would be an environmental disaster. NEERI, which gave a qualified approval, said that no channel alignment should be chosen that required blasting of coral rocks with explosives as that would destroy marine life. Ramar Sethu is made up of coral rocks. Moreover, there is every possibility of SSCP opening the path to tsunamis and cyclones that could hit the coast with unpredictable ferocity. It is better to write off Rs.800 crores already spent on the project without any tangible evidence of it than throwing more money into the Palk Strait in the name of completing SSCP which no mariner worth his salt wants.
An Unviable Project forced on the nation
Government should rethink the Sethusamudram project
     DMK has set its eyes on the 2400 Crores project. What if the project is a dead waste , There is much money to be made. The time is short. Elections are due next year. Congressmen are in a bind. Lucre on one side, fear of BJP on the other.
An excerpt from TOI Editorial
        The Coast Guard chief has added a new twist to the Sethusamudram controversy. He thinks that the proposed shipping canal is vulnerable to terror strikes from non-state actors in the region. Recently, the naval chief was quoted as saying that the canal may be too small for large ships. The project has already attracted undue opposition from political parties, religious groups and environmentalists. So, is the canal project worth pursuing?
        Pro-project parties claim that Sethusamudram will boost shipping activities in the region. It can trigger an economic boom in coastal Tamil Nadu, they say. Experts have questioned these claims. The security threat may have come at a politically opportune moment for the UPA government that is under pressure from the DMK, an ally and the party in office in Tamil Nadu, to implement the project while the AIADMK, the main opposition party in TN, and the BJP, are opposed to the project for different reasons. But they have raised the security angle to push their case.
         The UPA government should ask itself if it is worth its while to push the Rs 2,600-crore project in the absence of a consensus on its viability. What is the project worth if large vessels can’t cruise through the channel? The security concerns are real; the LTTE operates along the route and can be a threat to trade in the region.
      These can be overcome but the added expenses of surveillance and patrolling will increase the cost of maintaining the channel. Environmentalists argue that massive dredging operations are necessary to prevent the natural formation of sand banks and to maintain the depth of the channel.      
      The shipping canal, according to environmentalists, might affect the Gulf of Mannar biosphere reserve. The livelihood of hundreds of fishermen is also under threat.
         These issues merit consideration and detailed study. Instead, the project has snowballed into a confrontation between scientific logic and religious faith. The issue here is not whether Lord Ram built a bridge. Many scientific bodies have concluded that the Ram Setu or Adam’s Bridge is a natural structure formed of sand banks. But the economic gains from the project do not seem sufficient to merit so much investment in capital and time from the government.
      The Archaeological Survey of India can determine the origins of the setu to satisfy the curiosity of interested parties, but it amounts only to a wastage of public funds. A better option is to abandon the project and move on.
Sunday February 3 2008 00:00 IST (Dinamani)  
SSCP – A Tamil tiger’s and a Tamil spider’s trap
… In my view T R Baalu is patently not only anti-Tamils but also anti-National for the following reasons:
  a)   Why has he deliberately set aside the cogent and valid arguments presented by tsunami specialists like Dr. Tad S. Murthy of Canada who have clearly indicated that the alignment proposed for SSCP would pose a grave threat to the coast line both on the East and the West in South India in the event of the next tsunami?  Does this not show that T.R. Baalu has no concern for the safety of lives of millions of people living in the coastal areas of South India?  Does he have plenipotentiary superhuman powers to impose a ban on future tsunamis through a Government of India Notification?
  b)  Why has he not consulted the Union Defence Ministry before he started implementing the SSCP?  Why did he deliberately avoid the Naval Head Quarters?  Can we not view his planned avoidance of the Ministry of Defence in a vital Project affecting National Security, as an act reflecting the fact that he is not only anti-Tamils but also anti- National?
Read more…
Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s Press Conference iN Chennai on Feb. 2, 2008:
…On Sethusamudram project, he said that the project is in intensive care unit  and Karunanidhi was administering oxygen to it. There is every likelihood of the scheme being dropped once for all, he added.
Referring to the notice sent by Union Minister T R Baalu, he said that he would prove that the Minister is corrupt in court. In this connection ,he said that he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking permission for filing a case against him under Anti-corruption Act and IPC.
Friday, February 01, 2008 9:56:00 PM
Security threat but Sethu project manageable: Navy chief
NEW DELHI: The Navy admitted on Friday that there were security concerns in the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal project, but said the country should not bow before any threat and instead go ahead with such ‘good and viable’ initiatives.
“Undoubtedly there are security concerns, but we can manage  them. We are here to take care of all these issues…. that is what  we are meant for, Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said here.
He said the threats from terror outfits such as LTTE were always there. “But we are capable to meet such challenges.”
The Navy Chief was commenting on a statement by Coast Guard Director General Vice Admiral Rusi Contractor that the navigable route around the Indian peninsula could lead to ‘security issues,’ including terror threats.
“Security and environmental issues are bound to increase with the project. If the seaway is opened for transiting ships, you can have piracy. But then, terrorism is an omnipresent and universal  threat,” he said at an official briefing at the Coast Guard’s 31st anniversary here on Thursday.   
Terming the project ‘good and viable,’ the Navy Chief said it  was aimed at linking the east and west coasts besides helping  bolster the sea trade.
However, Admiral Mehta said the project would be viable only for small ships. “It will take care of 30,000-ton ships. But,  the big tankers will have to take a different route.”
He also sought to dispel apprehensions regarding traffic congestion in the canal once the seaway would be thrown open.


One Response to “Setu channel: NOT viable — Statesman, TOI edits”

  1. S.K.Bhattacharjya Says:

    Can anybody tell me why at all Lord Rama broke the Nala Setu himself at Dhanuskoti and made that existing channel?

    Once we find the above reason then we should go by the spirit in which lord Rama kept the small Channel. Was it because he wanted both the seas to meet there or for any other futuristic reason?

    Is the existing channel not adequate for the navy patrol vessels move across it. I understand there would be no economic viability for commercial vessels to pass through the channel if at all it is broadened.

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