Rama Setu: politicking by Hon’ble TR Baalu and Dr. PS Goel

‘I will go ahead with the (Sethu) project’

Krishnamurthy Ramasubbu and Ashish Sharma  12:30 AM | February 06,2008

Union shipping minister T.R. Baalu says he is optimistic about the prospects of the controversial Rs2,600 crore project

Krishnamurthy Ramasubbu and Ashish Sharma interview T.R. Baalu.

New Delhi, 6 Feb. 2008: Despite a pending Supreme Court challenge and seemingly weakening resolve within the Congress party to push for the Sethusamudram ship canal project, Union shipping minister T.R. Baalu says he is optimistic about the prospects of the controversial Rs2,600 crore project.

Right-wing Hindu organizations, including the principal opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have been opposing the project as they say it would destroy the walkway believed to have been built by Hindu god Ram.

Troubled waters: The problem in this issue is to decide between faith and science, shipping minister T.R. Baalu says. (PIB)

In a rare interview, the minister, who represents the powerful Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in the ruling United Progressive Alliance, brushed aside opposition to the project on the grounds of faith, security, utility, viability or politics. He pointed out that it was the previous BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre which had cleared the project, including the specific alignment it was now opposing.

Baalu exuded confidence that the project would resume as it had been cleared by the Union cabinet, which had also set time-bound targets. At the same time, in a not-so-veiled threat, he warned that it was up to the Congress party to decide whether it wanted to continue ruling at the Centre with the help of the DMK, which has 16 Lok Sabha members. Edited excerpts:

Has the government decided to go slow on the Sethusamudram project?

The highest authority in the country, the Union cabinet, has directed me to go ahead with the project, provided funds and set targets. When there is a target given by the cabinet, how does the question of going slow arise? Because of legal issues, some work has been stalled. But as soon as I get the necessary clearances I will go ahead with the project.

Don’t you think the Congress is doing a rethink on the project, in view of the upcoming assembly elections in key states in the north, where the BJP can exploit the issue?

The Congress is totally for this project. Don’t base your views on what some people in the party might say. We have absolutely no friction with the Congress on this issue. My leader (DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi) has full confidence in madam (Congress president Sonia Gandhi).

Yet, the Congress has made it clear that it does not want to hurt the feelings of any community on this account.


6 Feb. 2008


Dr. S. Kalyanaraman,

Former Sr. Exec., Asian Development Bank,

3 Temple Avenue, Chennai 600015 kalyan97@gmail.com


Hon’ble PM of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh ji, New Delhi

Hon’ble Union Minister of Earth Sciences Shri Kapil Sibal ji, New Delhi

Sub: Oncoming tsunami threat more devastating than the Dec. 2004 tsunami reported by Nature magazine and preparedness

Dear Hon’ble Union Minister of Earth Sciences and Science and Technology, Shri Kapil Sibal ji,

Saadar Pranaam. I am bringing to your notice a dereliction of duty by one of your officials.

I would invite the attention of Dr. PS Goel to the devastating report which appeared in the Nature Magazine of 6 Sept. 2007. Instead of indulging in media-attention-grabbing, he and his colleagues in his ministry should devote attention to studying this report of Nature magazine which reports that another tsunami will occur which will put at risk 6 to 7 crore people of the coastline from Kolkata to Kerala. What steps is the Ministry taking to review the security of the coastline and of the status of ongoing projects in case of such a major disaster? What steps does the Ministry contemple as tsunami protection measures? Are there plans to build tsunami walls like those built in Japan? Isn’t Rama Setu a natural tsunami wall?

It appears that Dr. Goel has not read the details given by Prof. Murty and also the note sent by PMO in March 2005 to the Chairman of the Tuticorin Port Trust referring to Prof. Murty’s views and asking for an answer. Did the Ministry of Goel get involved in providing the answers to PM’s questions? If Dr. Goel needs the references, I will be happy to provide them so that scientists can rationally answer the questions raised by PMO and also in Nature magazine.

Is Dr. Goel a tsunami expert?

It has become a fashion for everyone to grab media attention. I thought scientists were an exception. If Mr. Goel had problems, he should have contacted Prof. Tad Murty instead of going to press. Did Goel attend the Indian Science Academy session in Vizag, when Prof. Murty spoke? I don’t think science issues will be resolved by the media or even by the political minsiters. Mr. Goel should present his paper in a tsunami seminar.


Dr. S. Kalyanaraman, Former Sr. Exec., Asian Development Bank,

3 Temple Avenue, Chennai 600015 kalyan97@gmail.com

Govt. official refutes tsunami expert’s remarks

Chennai (PTI): A senior Union Goverment official on wednesday said the claims of a Canadian tsunami expert that Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP) posed an increased threat of tsunami to the region was ‘beyond any scientific reasoning’.

Reacting to the reported remarks of Prof Tad S Murthy, an Indo-Canadian oceanographer and expert on tsunami, claiming the canal would “suck in” the next tsunami waves if present alignment of SSCP was retained, P S Goel, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, told media here that tsunami strikes several thousands of kilo metres and not a small area alone.

Tsunami was a large phenomenon, “which would strike over thousands of kilometres and not just few 100 metres”, he said.

Murthy’s comments were carried by the local media recently.

“I dont want to comment on Murthy’s remarks… But, how can the dredging of a few 100 metres (to deepen the sea water) for ships to pass through have any significant difference, he said, adding that tsunami was a large phenomenon striking over thousands of kilometres.

“Iam talking only about the technical part… its beyond any scientific reasoning”, he said.

On the issue of the ASI mulling a survey on the structure, he said though there were many surveys in this regard, “there is no exhaustive one so far.”

“In fact, even the Ministry of Earth Sciences had conducted a survey in 2002-03 over some technical issues,” he said. Also even a realignment of SSCP would require a new survey for impelementation, he added.



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