Setu: Baalu Committee Report, misleads

Baalu Committee report shockingly indulges in suggestio falsi, suppression veri, is a misleading document and should be dismissed with contempt as a command performance

Cabinet Secretariat Order No. 652/2/1/2007CA –III, dated 5th October, 2007:

“The terms of reference of the Committee will be to invite objections and suggestions from all concerned including the writ Petitioners having interest in the subject matter and to consider all suggestions/proposals/documents after giving them a personal hearing as per submissions made before Supreme Court contained in its Order dated 14th September, 2007 in WP © 413/2007, etc. The Committee will decide its own procedure for conducting its proceedings, personal hearings and dealing with the petitions..” (Page 16, Vol. II of Report of Eminent Persons on Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, November 2007 – hereinafter called Report).

The Committee’s Report includes powerpoint presentation slides on Pages 49 to 69. These are the same presentation slides already included in the Sethusamudram Corporation website and which was made in a seminar held with Mr. Sibal, Min. of Science and Technology on 2 June 2007 (Press onference by Min. of Science and Technology kept at http://sethusamudram.gov.in/English_Index.asp )

According to the Project Status recorded on this website dredged quantity is reported as follows:

As seen from the slide on Page 61 (Report Vol II), canal’s width is 300 m. for 2 way traffic and depth of 12 m, project cost Rs. 2427.40 Crs..

Total length of the canal is 167 km.

Length of dredging required at Adam’s Bridge 35 km

Length of dredging required at Palk Strait 54 km.

North of Adam’s Bridge (B-C Stretch) 13.38 Kms Dredging done 24.76% till 17/9/2007

Palk Bay/ Palk Strait (E-E4 Stretch) 54.25 Kms Dredging done 46.07% till 10/10/2007

As noted on Page 89 (Report Vol II), the Committee had received huge volumes of materials upto 31 October 200 and there were annexures running into almost 2000 pages in one court itself and public hearing continued only for 7 seven days upto 6th November 2007 only in Chennai. Even though advertisements were issued in all national language dailies, submissions were requested only in English and hearings were not held even in the cities near the Project area. The hearings were closed and not open to the media. This procedure prevented from many members of the public and experts from making their submissions.

The report shockingly indulges in selective dissemination of received submissions, culling out only submissions which support the case of the Respondents and which justify only the 6th alignment. This is absolute lack of transparency and honesty in dealing with the submissions in a rational and systematic manner. Given the enormity of the documentation submitted, it is surprising that within one month the Committee was able to evaluate all the submission. In fact, the Committee’s Terms of Reference DO NOT include such evaluation and such value-judgements by the Committee, the composition of which itself is biased including atheists and who had worked for the project thus compromising their integrity with conflict of interest.

The Committee did NOT include experts from the areas of marine archaeology, navigation (mariners and merchant navy), national security, geology (GSI), oceanography (NIO), tsunami, trade unions or members of fishermens’ federations. The warnings contained in the Nature magazine of 6 Sept. 2007 have just been ignored. These warnings are so serious related to an impending tsunami more devastating than the 26 Dec. 2007 tsunami, that any project work may put the entire coast line property and lives of people at risk.

Geopolitical experts should also be consulted on the implications of virtually creating an international waters boundary since the 6th alignment chosen is simply marked as running 3 kms. west of the medial line between India and Srilanka (a line drawn in a declaration called Indira Gandhi-Sirimano Bandaranaike Declaration of June 1974). Srilanka has indicated that it may go the International Court of Justice on their interests adversely impacted by the Project.

We clearly see that eminent scientists and experts have made submissions which have not been deliberated upon by the Committee.

It is necessary that all the submissions made to the Committee to establish that the Committee has indulged in a command performance and taken only references which support the case of the Respondent. Requests for copies of the submissions have NOT been complied with so far.

Even requests made under Right to Information Act made by one of the Petitioners and AK Venkatasubramanian, IAS (Retd.) of Catalyst Trust have not been complied with so far by the Respondent, Union of India.

The list of materials supplied includes “Marine Geo-Physical Surveys carried out for the proposed Sethu Samudram Navigational Channel (Feb. 2005) by NIOT – 132 pages). A copy of the Report has been asked for and not given so far. This Report includes an evaluation by the Consultant of NIOT that there was human activity and that the lithologs of 10 bore wells indicate that rock layers were brought in from outside since they could not have been formed by the sea. Detailed Reportshas also been given for example, by Dr. CSP Iyer, Dr. Parchure and Dr. Gopalakrishnan on geotectonics, geothermal activity, geoencironment, oceanography and environmental impacts – reports which scientifically quesstion the reliability of the information provided powerpoint presentation mentioned earlier; by Capt. Balakrishnan on navigation and naval security aspects, by Dr. S. Kalyanaraman providing to the Committee recommendations of Dr. SR Rao, eminent Marine Archaeologist of the Country, on implications of another tsunami based on studies of Prof. Tad S Murty and other scientists including the report in Nature Magazine of 6 Sept. 2007, the International Law of the Sea and International Obligations under World Heritage and Underwater Cultural Heritage Conventions of UNESCO to which Indis is a signatory.. These expert submissions have a profound relevance in determining the viability of the project itself.

The Report fails to record that in 1999 the Environmental Ministry refused to clear the project on environmental considerations and recommended that the project be scrapped.

The Report fails to note that clearance was not obtained from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (as confirmed by the then CM Smt. Jayalalithaa in her affidavit to the SC). In Orissa, the Court had ordered the stoppage of a project which was approved without obtaining Pollution Control Board Clearance from the Govt. of Orissa.

The Report also fails to note that 37 Srilankan Experts had submitted a Report after one-year’s study and concluded, inter alia, that water supply to Jaffna and Rameshwaram will be adversely affected if dredging is carried out on Rama Setu.

The Report also fails to note the opinions of scientists like Dr. Kannaiyan who was Chairman of the Environment Monitoring Committee for the Project and Dr. Gopalakrishna, Dr. Badrinarayanan, Dr. Subramanian, who wre Directors in Geological Survey of India who have reiterated that blasting or dredging activity in the project area will devastate the coastal reefs and aquatic wealth, apart from causing coastal erosions, mini-tsunamis triggered by fault-lines and geothermal activity.

Ab initio illegality has been not involving Geological Survey of India and National Institute of Oceanography in this ocean project, an involvement mandated by law.

The Committee was also informed about the public sentiments, expressed through the movement of Rameshwaram Rama Setu Protection Movement (RRPM).

MS Karunanidhi of Rameshwaram had submitted objections during Public Hearings in 2004 that the Project would cut through the sacred Rama Setu. These were ignored.

RRPM had conducted two scientific and security seminars in Chennai and Delhi and a group of scientists had conducted a seminar in Trivandrum. Many conferences and public meetings were held all over the country including the Mahasammelan of 30 Dec. 2007 in Delhi which was attended by nearly 15 lakh people from all parts of the country and resolutions were adopted in these seminars, conferences and meetings and submitted to the Respondents. 35 lakh signatures were submitted to the President of India protesting the proposed destruction of Rama Setu. Seminar papers have also been published and submitted to the Respondents.

The Respondents went to the Supreme Court by having the cases transferred from Madras HC. Instead of responding to the orders issued on 19 June 2007 by Madras HC. this transfer move was made only on the request of the Union of India. So, it is misleading to state that the Petitioners came late to the Hon’ble SC with their petitions.

A 50-tonne, 15 metre long spud is still lying unsalvaged for over 10 months now. If this is the state of salvaging a Rs. 8 crore tool used by dredgers, one shudders at the prospectof navigating through the narrow channel in the mid-ocean with the clear and present danger of grounding with no possibility of mounting salvage operations of the type in place for example in Suez Canal.

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One Response to “Setu: Baalu Committee Report, misleads”

  1. M.Srinivaan Says:

    We should try our best to see the crook not gettilng away with muder, cheat and and loot.

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