Response to the proposed study by NIO on Setu channel

Sub: Response to the proposed study by NIO on Setu channel
Respected sirs,
The following note is submitted to NIO, Kochi and to NEERI, Nagpur in the context of the Press Report of January 14, 2010 (appended) that Rs. 9.45 crores are proposed to be spent by NIO and NEERI on an environmental impact analysis of Alignment 4a for the Setu channel in Setusamudram.
Whether it is Alignment 4a or Alignment 5, the project area is seriously impacted by geological and ecological factors unique to the Setusamudram bioreserve. These factors have been discussed in detail in the submissions made to the Hon’ble Supreme Court and to earlier Committees.
We suggest that the Setu Channel project be abandoned. This proposed study is a waste of public funds since the channel is in an ecologically fragile national biosphere and is also a sacred ecological zone with people travelling to Dhanushkodi to worship on Rama Setu according to the traditions for worship followed over thousands of years.
The note focuses on three issues: geoenvironmental, nautical and ecological concerns of any project in Setusamudram.
Geoenvironmental concerns
It is surprising that geologists are not included in the proposed study under NIO, Kochi.
Prima facie, the expenditure of Rs. 9.45 crores is a waste of public funds. Whether it is alignment 4a or alignment 5, the project are is a very fragile protected national bioreserve and a sacred tirthasthanam.
Government of India should be spending the money to provide for facilities to the pilgrims doing puja on Dhanushkodi sands and near Kothandarama Swamy temple. There should be unimpeded access to the puja areas on Dhanushkodi sands.
Government of India should be directing the scientists to study the implications of devastating impact of another tsunami with the ongoing subduction of Indian plate into Sundaplate which is a geotectonically active region and recommend protective measures.
Government of India may also consider setting up Marine Economic Zones, formation of Marine cooperatives, to provide for improved employment opportunities and living conditions for coastal people by taking advantage of the Special Territorial limit of 200 kms. from the coastline to exploit the resources of the Indian Ocean.
Alternative alignment does NOT make nautical sense
Capt. Balakrishnan has noted that as the alignment 4a is close to the coast line, there is a greater danger of ships getting grounded near the coast due to shallow water or squat effect.
Quote from Capt. Balakrishnan:
My findings from a navigational standpoint,which I have included in my speech for 29 AUG is as follows:
” I would term Alignment NO: 4 as a “NAVIGATIONAL HAZARD” for large vessels.This is on account of the following factors:
(A) When approaching PAMBAN ISLAND, the ‘closest point of approach (CPA)’ to land is between 1.6 to 3.8nautical miles. This is too close for comfort for large vessels.
(B) IN A CROSS-TIDE OR CURRENT OR WIND CONDITION, the vessel will find it extremely difficult to maintain the pre-determined track, with shallow waters outside the dredged channel.
(C) There is hardly any safe sea-room for a large vessel to manouevere itself safely if “drifted” on account of wind/tide/current.
(D) On account of the ‘venturi effect’ in the Gulf of Mannar / Palk Bay, wind velocity is very high in this region. I have experienced the same off Tuiticorin harbour / Keezhakarai. Further the “Bay of Bengal Pilot” (a navigational publication of the Admiralty) records that the winds blow in this area from all directions of the compass.
(E) The 11 AUG 2008, Chennai edition of “The New Indian Express” carried a report of high winds of 55 kmph covering the Rameswaram – Dhanushkodi Road with sand and the District Administration stopping even 4 wheeler traffic on the road. This phenomenon was on account of the ‘Depression’ in the Bay of Bengal off Orissa. Every time a pressure imbalance occurs in the Bay of Bengal, wind velocity picks up in the Gulf of Mannar / Palk Bay. What happens to a large vessel, navigating 1.4 to 2.0 nautical miles from land ?
(F) A 30,000 DWT fully laden vessel with a single propellor and rudder and a high freeboard , automaticaaly offers a large sail area for the wind. The effect is to “drift” the vessel off the pre-determined track. The only solution in such a situation, is for the vessel to put on speed to increase its manoueverability. However, higher speed induces the “Shallow Water or Squat Effect”. Truly a HOBSON’S CHOICE for the Master of the vessel!!
Ecological concerns
Rama Setu, sacred ecology. Drop setu channel project
http://sites.google.com/site/kalyan97/setu
Rama Setu, sacred ecology of Setusamudram

In a heartening development catalysed by the Movement, a group of scientists gathered in Londonin November 2008 to declare the imperative of saving and protecting Setusamudram as the world’s sacred ecological treasure.
Tsunami potential

Sacred ecology, sacred ocean, sacred Setusamudram

India urged to drop Sethu project
Press Trust of India
London (12 Dec. 2008, New Indian Express)
ASKING India to shelve the controversial Sethusamudram project as it could damage the productive marine eco-system, an international group of environmentalists has suggested the Gulf of Mannar region should be declared a cultural and natural world heritage site.
Requesting President of India Pratibha Patil to cancel the Sethusamudram shipping canal project, the ecologists and environmentalists group claimed that the Government’s decision to go ahead with the project, was based on legal flaws and would have inevitable and disastrous ecological and social impact.
“The project could disrupt and damage the productive marine ecosystem through a massive increase in the burden of silting and sedimentation,” the group said adding, it will also affect coral reefs, sea grass beds, oyster beds and food fisheries.
They said that the salinisation of the shallow aquifers on both sides of the channel could endanger and even lead to the extinction of the important local species, including dugong, green turtle and at least 25 different species of sea snake, resulting in collapse of the entire ecosystem.
It also asked India and Sri Lanka to write an application to the UNESCO to declare the Gulf of Mannar region, a mixed cultural and natural world heritage site.
Earlier, a resolution in this regard was adopted on the issue at a meeting here, attended by an international consortium of ecologists, academics, scientists and religious leaders.
http://epaper.expressbuzz.com/NE/NE/2008/12/12/ArticleHtmls/12_12_2008_009_010.shtml?Mode=1

http://setubandha.blogspot.com/2008/12/demand-for-sacred-site-status-for-setu.html
Demand for ‘Sacred Site’ status for Sethu
PTI
Tuesday, December 02, 2008 15:02 IST
LONDON: Campaigners protesting against the dredging of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel have demanded that Gulf of Mannar, which is home to the Ram Sethu, be designated as ‘Sacred Site’.
The announcement for seeking a ‘Sacred Site’ status was made by Martin Palmer, Secretary General of Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and religion and ecology advisor to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at a two-day meeting here.
“The Gulf of Mannar has enormous spiritual significance within both Hinduism and Islam,” he said during his announcement.
“The meeting erupted into applause when he made the announcement. To get the Gulf of Mannar recognised on the international conservation stage will be a huge step forward in preserving its sanctity and ecology for future generations,” Kusum Vyas, founder of The Living Planet Foundation, which organised the London meeting, said.
‘Sacred Site’ is now an international term of protection for sites that are spiritually, religiously, culturally and ecologically important.
Flowing between South-East India and Sri Lanka, the Gulf of Mannar is home to Ram Sethu or Adam’s Bridge, a site of immense spiritual significance for both Hindus and Muslims worldwide.
Situated in South-Asia’s largest biosphere reserve, it is also one of the last remaining biological hot-spots on the planet, offering sanctuary to numerous endangered plant and animal species such as the dugong and the green turtle.
http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1210895
Scientists converge in London to stop destruction of Setu Samudram
http://setubandha.blogspot.com/2008/11/scientists-converge-in-london-to-stop.html

To stop the destruction of the Sethu Samudram – Scientists, Academics and Religious Leaders Converge in London
Tue, 2008-11-25 05:23
By Walter Jayawardhana
London, 25 November, (Asiantribune.com) Ecologists, academics and scientists and religious leaders around the world organized by the US based living Planet Foundation are meeting today (November 25) at London’s historic Linnean Society, Burlington House in Piccadilly to ask Indian and Sri Lankan governments to persuade UNESCO to designate the Gulf of Mannar a World Heritage site and stop the imminent devastation that could cause to the environment by the controversial Sethu Samudram project. The seminar will last two days continuously.
The organizers said, “The aim is to prevent the destruction of the Gulf of Mannar , one of the last remaining intact eco-systems of the world and home to the famous Ram Sethu or Adam’s Bridge , a site sacred to one billion Hindus worldwide.”
“The gathering is set to provide enough multi-disciplinary evidence to persuade” the two countries to ask UNESCO to grant World Heritage designation to the Gulf , the Living Planet Foundation said.
Interviewed in a London Hotel, one of the participating scientists of the seminar Dr. Ranil Senanayake told this correspondent, “Sethu Samudram canal project is a 140 years old idea proposed by the British imperialists not compatible with the thinking of the 21st century. Today, much better things could be thought about for better results. Dredging through this geological formation would cause innumerable damages that cannot be reversed.”
Asked to pinpoint one, Dr. Senanayake said that the present waves in the gulf bring the mineral sands from which Thorium could be processed. The sea currents deposit tons of mineral sands on the South Indian and North Sri Lankan beaches .He said Thorium processed from these mineral sands is believed to be the source of energy of the future, from which atomic power could be produced without allowing any chance of producing nuclear weapons. Once, the bridge is destroyed such sand deposits would stop by the gulf basin currents, the scientist warned India and Sri Lanka.
Many scientists have assessed the Gulf of Mannar is a shallow stretch of water separating India and Sri Lanka. Despite its important ecological and cultural significance as one of South Asia’s largest biosphere reserves, the Indian government, under pressure from Tamil Nadu state politicians, is pressing ahead with plans to build a shipping channel called Sethusamudram , right across it, threatening the numerous endangered plant and animal species that live there as well as livelihood of local fishermen.
The proposal has been met with a chorus of international disapproval. It has also become the subject of a case in the Indian Supreme Court, which has temporarily delayed the devastating dredging.
Scientists have said the Gulf , free from oceanic currents , provides the calving grounds for a substantial part of the diverse whale population of the bay of Bengal. It is also identified as the habitat for rare and endangered plant and animal species including the threatened green turtle and dugong. The sea grass meadows of the gulf are the largest remaining feeding grounds for the globally endangered dugong. The centuries old pearl and conch shell fishing still exists there.
“The dredging will destroy this fragile eco-system. What we need is not an industry that will benefit only few shipping companies and dredgers. When, ships starts sailing along the canal even the limestone wells of Jaffna could become salty. What we need there is a sustainable development project,” scientist Ranil Senanayake said.
– Asian Tribune –
http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/14376
Text of the News Today article of 15 December is appended. (Figures in the attached zip file).
http://newstodaynet.com/col.php?section=20&catid=29 15 December, 2008 (News Today)
In a heartening development catalysed by the Movement, a group of scientists gathered in London in November 2008 to declare the imperative of saving and protecting Setusamudram as the world’s sacred ecological treasure.
Location map of Rama Setu: bathymetry map ofSetusamudram (reproduced from Murty et al., 1994)

http://WWW.SETUSAMUDRAM.IN/HTMDOCS/ARTICLES/CP_RAJENDRAN_2.HTM
Setusamudram
The Gulf of Mannar and Palk Straits of the Indian Ocean separated by the causeway, Rama Setu is called Setusamudram. Setusamudram is a compound term: Setu + Samudram (Causeway + Ocean). Unlike the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the Setu has for millennia served as a causeway linking India and Sri Lanka. This sacred monument is venerated in the cultures of millions of people of many nations along the Indian Ocean Rim – nations which can be called the Indian Ocean Community, analogous to the recently constituted European Community. TheSetusamudram is so sacred that every year hundreds of thousands pilgrims assemble in the oceanfront near Rameshwaram (a jyotirlinga pilgrimage place) to perform samudrasnanam (sacred bath in the ocean) at a place where the Indian Ocean remains placid like a lake. This samudrasnanam is a celebration of and a homage to the ancestors of many civilizations, hindu civilization, in particular. This homage is called pitr-tarpanam reinforcing the identity of a billion people on the globe who revere the story of Rama and the history of Setubandha (the bund to cross the ocean built by the architect Nala, under the direction of the avatarapurusha, Sri Rama and by vanara army led by Sri Hanuman. Both Sri Rama and Sri Hanuman are worshipped in many temples across the globe. [vanara is erroneously translated as ‘monkeys’; va-nara literally means people-like speakers, evoking the evolution of man on earth.] The causeway is a physical structure superimposed over a ridge formed by collapsed canyons in geological past in an ocean zone exemplified by Mannar volcanic rocks, heat-flows of geothermal energy potential and plate tectonics (earthquakes caused by plate-movements).
Heatflow in Rama Setu 100 to 180 milliwatt per sq. m. comparable to Himalayan hotsprings. Will dredging in the area activate these heat zones?
Corals of Setusamudram
Setusamudram is home to corals. The coral conglomerates which are referred to as floating stones in many versions of the story of Sri Rama were used to construct the causeway, Setu (which is explained in Tamil encyclopaedia Abhidana Chintamani as ‘ceyarkarai’ that is, artificial, man-made bund). Setubandha is celebrated in ancient texts, in the song, dance and sculptural traditions of the Indian Ocean Rim states.
Setubandha construction shown on a 9th century sculptural panel in Parambanan (Brahmavana) temple in Indonesia.
The devastation warned, affecting over 60 million people should make every public official and scientist pause and consider the sacred ecology thatSetusamudram constitutes. Over the millennia, people have venerated the Indian Ocean as a life-source. Many young, married couples go for the samudrasnanam praying for the birth of children in their families. Millions of marine folk along the long 7,500 km coastline of India live off the marine wealth of the coastline including the wealth of corals. Corals have a particular sacred significance in Hindu civilizational traditions. The shankha or turbinella pyrum is also called the sacred conch. This sacred conch, shankha, adorns the hands of Vishnu and Bhairava, two divinities worshipped in thousands of temples all over the world. The shankha is also venerated as the conch-trumpet called Panchajanya used by avatara purusha Sri Krishna to call the troops to battle in the Kurukshetra war described in the epic Mahabharata. Sri Rama is also shown blowing the shankha trumpet in an exuiquite terracotta sculpture of the 3rd century in a village near Ayodhya.

Terracotta panel of Bhitargaon showing Vishnu blowing the conch, an event depicting Rama as Vishnu avatara, defeats the rakshasas led by Malyavan, Mali and Sumali and as narrated in the Uttarkanda of the Ramayana (Cantoes VI-VIII).http://ignca.nic.in/pb0020.htm
Quake-induced uplift of coral families in Sumatra Mentawai islands.

Setusamudram is an Indian Ocean region famous for the coral turbinella pyrum, shankha. At The devastation warned, affecting over 60 million people should make every public official and scientist pause and consider the sacred ecology that Setusamudramconstitutes. Over the millennia, people have venerated the Indian Ocean as a life-source. Many young, married couples go for the samudrasnanam praying for the birth of children in their families. Millions of marine folk along the long 7,500 km coastline of India live off the marine wealth of the coastline including the wealth of corals. Corals have a particular sacred significance in Hindu civilizational traditions. The shankha or turbinella pyrum is also called the sacred conch. This sacred conch, shankha, adorns the hands of Vishnu and Bhairava, two divinities worshipped in thousands of temples all over the world. The shankha is also venerated as the conch-trumpet called Panchajanya used by avatara purusha Sri Krishna to call the troops to battle in the Kurukshetra war described in the epic Mahabharata. Sri Rama is also shown blowing the shankha trumpet in an exuiquite terracotta sculpture of the 3rd century in a village near Ayodhya.

Terracotta panel of Bhitargaon showing Vishnu blowing the conch, an event depicting Rama as Vishnu avatara, defeats the rakshasas led by Malyavan, Mali and Sumali and as narrated in the Uttarkanda of the Ramayana (Cantoes VI-VIII).http://ignca.nic.in/pb0020.htm
Quake-induced uplift of coral families in Sumatra Mentawai islands.
Setusamudram is an Indian Ocean region famous for the coral turbinella pyrum, shankha. At Kizhakkarai, 15 kms. from Rameshwaram, West Bengal Development Corporation has an office for acquiring the shankha; the annual turnover is over Rs. 50 million ($1 million). The shankha is used to make bangles. Without shankha bangles, no Bengali or Oriya marriage is complete. So sacred are the shankha bangles.
Studies of the type carried out in Mentawai Islands near Sumatra have to be carried out inSetusamudram to record the upliftment, if any, of the coral reefs, in the region which is earth-quake prone, apart from being the only coastal region with evidence of Mannar volcanic rocks and heat-flows comparable to the heat-flows recorded in the sub-Himalayan hot-springs.
Setu as tsunami-protection wall
The Setu has served as a natural tsunami-protection wall in an ocean zone subject to many earthquakes and consequent tsunamis. The nearby region of Sumatra is also home to the world’s most devastating volcano, the Mount Toba which had a super-eruption about 74,000 years ago spewing volcanic ash to a depth of 6 to 12 inches all over South India south of the Vindhya mountains.
The Bay of Bengal part of the Indian Ocean is a trough subject to recurring, severe cyclonic storms from the area of depression near Taiwan. The storm surges get sucked into the trough of Bangladesh causing enormous damage to lives and properties. The tsunami which occurred on December 26, 2004 was an event triggered by the subduction of the Indian plate under the Burmese plate resulting in the displacement of water which surreptiously travelled as tsunami resulting in the loss of over 200,000 lives and the virtual disappearance of Aceh island. A tsunami expert, Prof. Tad S. Murthy notes that if any channel is laid across Setusamudram, the channel will act like a funnel absorbing the energies of the next tsunami and devastate the coastline of South India because of what is known as the ‘quarter-wave resonance amplification’. This is proved by the Alaska tsunami of 1964 which resulted in maximum devastation along the Alberni Canal in Canada and the destruction of the Alberni Port.
The sentiments expressed in the London seminar echoe the judgement of the Supreme Court of India which asked the Union of India to reconsider theSetusamudram Channel project and noted that a Pachauri Committee will go study the issue. Prof. Rajendra Pachauri heads the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an institution which received the Nobel Prize for Peace. Pachauri Committee should not only recommend the scrapping of the Setusamudram Channel project which will be a world calamity if carried through, but also recommend a serious, multi-disciplinary agency to study the impact of another tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Another tsunami in the Indian Ocean is not a theoretical model but a reality. Scientific advances have not been able to predict the exact date of the next tsunami but all scientists are agreed that another tsunami more devastating than the December 26, 2004 tsunami is a possibility.
This nightmare warning, this possibility has been studied by seismologists (researchers of earthquakes) and earth scientists studying corals. In a recent study published in the Science Magazine (December 16, 2008) scientists have observed that many coral colonies in the Mentawai Islands near Sumatra were killed in September 2007 when large earthquakes lifted the reefs 1 meter or more out of the water. Seismology studies show that an earthquake of magnitude greater than 8.8 on Richter scale, could rock the coastal areas of Bengkulu and Padang in the next 30 years (along the Sumatra earthquake belt), triggering a major tsunami which could put over 60 million people of the Indian Ocean, east coast of India, west coast of Burma and south coast of Bangladesh at risk.
Pachauri Committee will also be well-advised to review the creation of Marine Economic Zones all along the long 7500 km. coastline of India to create new economic opportunities for the coastal and marine people.
Tsunami-protection wall in Japan
A multi-disciplinary team of experts should be constituted IMMEDIATELY, by the Union of India to study the warnings of another tsunami which will devastate the nation’s coastline and lives and property of coastal people and establish Disaster Management Zones all along the vulnerable coastline with structures like tsunami-protection walls constructed in Japan.
Next tsunami
Sacred traditions help us remember the sacredness of the earth in which we are only trustees of the present and future generations. We do NOT have the right to destroy this sacred ecology and deny future generations, the privilege of worshipping sacred sites and remembering the ancestors who have given the humanity its very identity.
Indian Ocean Rim states impacted by the tsunami of December 26, 2004
http://nctr.pmel.noaa.gov/propagation-database.html
The next tsunami is likely to impact the same Indian Ocean region – a lesson learnt from history.
List and locations of catastrophic tsunamis of Indian Ocean
What the scientists tell us about earthquakes and tsunamis should make us pause and ponder.
The 9.0 Earthquake of December 26, 2004 at 6.58 hours at the epicenter (and in Sri Lanka) led to a sequence of 15 quakes across the Andaman region. While earthquakes could not be predicted in advance, once the earthquake was detected it was possible to give about 3 hours of notice of a potential Tsunami. Such a system of warnings is in place across the Pacific Ocean but is only being put in place in the Indian Ocean; this needs further cooperation among the nations of the Indian Ocean Community.
Nature magazine reports: “Tens of millions of people along the heavily populated coasts of Myanmar, Bangladesh and West Bengal could be living under threat of a tsunami as massive as the one that devastated the Sumatran coast in 2004, according to a report to be released by Nature on Thursday this week. The report claims that while the 2004 disaster took the scientific community by surprise many of the same warning signs currently exist in the Bay of Bengal.”
When the plate boundaries abruptly deform and vertically displace the overlying water, a tsunami occurs. A tsunami travels very fast as ocean waves, about 800 km/h, or 0.2 km/sec for a water depth of 5000 m. Seismic waves are faster and cause enormous upheavals on the earth’s crust and ocean-beds. Oceans are the treasure of humanity and it is our responsibility to harness the treasure in a sustainable manner through well-regulated Marine Economic Zones which have the potential to make the Indian Ocean Community a veritable powerhouse to create wealth of nations, while providing new livelihoos opportunities to over 2 billion people on the globe.
Tsunami impact on land cover of Indian Ocean Community
http://www.unosat.web.cern.ch/unosat/freeproducts/Tsunami/JRC/Asia_Tsunami_07January_landcover.pdf
http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/fullMaps_Sa.nsf/luFullMap/1724ADB850F3F30B85256F8E0055AB65/$File/EUJRC_tsu_cov_sasia070105.pdf?OpenElement Land cover / potential land affected by tsunami (26 December, 2004)
Details of scientific papers on “Sacred ecology, sacred ocean, sacred Setusamudram” are provided athttp://sites.google.com/site/kalyan97/setu
Dr. S. Kalyanaraman
Kalyan97@gmail.com
National President, Rameshwaram Ramasetu Protection Movement,
Former Sr. Exec., Asian Development Bank
https://kalyan98.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/setu-project/
Government plans environmental study of Sethusamudram channel
January 14th, 2010 – 10:28 pm ICT by IANS
Panaji, Jan 14 (IANS) The National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) will carry out an environment impact assessment of the Sethusamudram channel, which aims to dredge a navigable link through the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka, an official statement said Thursday.

The ministry of shipping has asked the NIO to conduct the assessment on the recommendation of an expert committee set up by the Supreme Court under the chairmanship of R.K. Pachauri in July 2008.
To carry out the survey, the NIO has tied up with the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Institute (NEERI) and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
“The NEERI will conduct the EIA over land through which the proposed channel passes. The IIM will carry out cost-benefit analysis,” the statement said.
The entire project, which will be anchored by NIO’s regional centre in Kochi, is expected to cost Rs.9.45 crore and will be completed in 18 months.
“The project involves collection and examination of extensive year-round environmental data collection in the Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, Adam’s Bridge and surrounding areas,” said the statement.
“It will lead to significant improvement in understanding the oceanography of this little studied region, besides determining feasibility of the Sethusamudram Canal from the point of view of environment and economics,” it said.
The Sethusamudram project plans to provide ships sailing between the east and west coasts of the country with a continuous navigable sea-route through India’s territorial waters, instead of having to circumvent Sri Lanka.
The project is facing opposition on environmental grounds. There is fear that the channel may result in tsunami waves hitting south Kerala more fiercely.
The dredging of Ram Sethu, a mythological bridge built by Lord Ram in the Palk Strait, has made the Bharatiya Janata Party oppose the project.
http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/business/government-plans-environmental-study-of-sethusamudram-channel_100303962.html#ixzz0dm2DQmIp

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