Setu project: a debt trap, say experts

Sethu project will trap government in immeasurable debt: experts

Special Correspondent (The Hindu, Feb. 19, 2008)

They claim little attention has been paid to scientific and shipping data

Weight restrictions and slow speed in canal offer little gain for shipping industry

Hundreds of crores of rupees will be spent annually for maintaining clear waterway

CHENNAI: The Sethusamudram project will run the Indian government into immeasurable debt as little attention has been paid to scientific and shipping data, a panel of scientists and experts from the Coastal Action Network concluded at the release of their book on the project.

While weight restrictions and slow speed in the canal mean there is little gain for the shipping industry, hundreds of crores of rupees will be spent every year for maintaining a clear waterway against natural movement of sediment from India and Sri Lanka. This would aggravate tectonic plates in the quake-prone region, destroying sensitive ecologies and ruining the livelihoods of those dependent on fishing in the area.

Removal of natural barriers may also mean disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis, they claimed.

The panel, which included John Jacob Puthur, Commander (retired), Indian Navy; H. Balakrishnan, retired naval officer and master mariner, merchant navy; K. Gopalakrishnan, Director (retired), Geological Survey of India; R.S. Lalmohan, chairman, Conservation of Nature Trust, Nagercoil; and M. Arunachalam, Centre for Environment Sciences, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, urged the government to allow experts and the media access to the worksite to verify how much of the Rs.2,000-crore project had been completed.

“Fraudulent project”

“It is a fraudulent project,” Mr. Balakrishnan said. “As a mariner, it just does not make any nautical sense [to me].”

“When the time comes, we will come to Delhi, we will expose these anti-fisherfolk policies,” Anton Gomez, president of the National Union of Fishermen told The Hindu.

“And when elections come, we will not allow political parties into the coastline,” he said.


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