Sethusamudram News
 
2005, July 8, www.tamilnet.com

"No international legal action on SSCP project"- Kadirgamar

Sri Lankan government has rejected a suggestion to take up the controversial Sethusamudram Canal Project (SSCP) to the International Court of Justice. "With regard to the reference made by a parliamentarian to possible international legal action, it must be said that at this point it is some what premature and remains in the realm of possibility.

This is so because the Indian authorities at the highest level have indicated that they will co-operate with us and we hope they would agree to joint monitoring and assessment of any adverse implications,"said Mr.Lakshman Kadirgamar, Foreign Minister in a seven-page statement on the SSCP in parliament Thursday evening, parliamentary sources said.

Mr.Lakshman Kadirgamar said so in reply to a question by Venerable Athuraliya Ratana Thera that the government should take up SSCP to the international court of justice.

Excerpts from the statement follow: - The GOSL has for a long time been inviting the Indian government's attention to SSCP's implications for Sri Lanka. Our concerns were conveyed at various levels. The discussions were at the level of the President of Sri Lanka and the Prime Minister of Indian, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the senior officials of the two countries, at the Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Commission and at the Foreign Secretary consultations. Since the Government of India has now chosen to implement the Project on the Indian side of the Indo-Sri Lanka maritime boundary, no prior approval was sought or granted for the Project. However on the part of GOSL we have raised our concerns relating to SSCP's likely trans-frontier impact on Sri Lanka especially in environment and livelihood areas.

The GOSL has now requested the Indian government to schedule the next Expert Level meeting to discuss these concerns and reach a common understanding on measures to be taken to monitor and mitigate any adverse impacts.

Indian Prime Minister himself has stated that India would be ready to consider changes if it was found that the Project would have adverse environment and other implications for Sri Lanka or India.

It must also be said that in any such situation as the SSCP Project, the normal course of action between friendly countries would be to consult and co-operate in order to address common concerns and trans-boundary effects. We can also use these types of projects not as a hindrance or threat to each other but as an opportunity for joint activity, which could be economically beneficial to both countries. This of course has to be done without damaging the environment or jeopardising the livelihood of the ordinary people like the fisher folk on both sides of the maritime divide.

I am of course duty bound to the assure the House that Sri Lanka will take all the necessary steps to safeguard the well-being and the interests of our people and our country. We would naturally do this in a calibrated and graduated manner opting first for a co-operative and consultative approach. At the moment we are engaged in that exercise. We will consider further action thereafter if and when necessary.

This is quite a constructive understanding between the two countries on a very complex issue, which I would say is a hotly debated Project in both countries. You would have seen that a few days ago Tamilnadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha herself raised a number of concerns with regard to the Project. A study complied by an Expert Committee appointed by the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board has reportedly highlighted specific shortcomings in the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) Report. So have many other Indian and Sri Lankan people, civil society organizations and independent experts. We must therefore address these in a manner commensurate with excellent bilateral relations we have between India and Sri Lanka on the one hand and the economic and environmental interests of our countries and the peoples on the other hand.

I have no reason to doubt that the relevant authorities in our to countries will be able to proceed on this matter with due diligence and care. The GOSL is committed to continue the process of consultations with the Indian government to ensure that our concerns are addressed and any negative effects mitigated. The Gulf of Mannar and Palk Straits area is a shared biosphere for both India and Sri Lanka.

Its development and protection of its sensitive marine life should be carried our jointly and together. Should the canal be determined to pose adverse effects to Sri Lanka, the government will explore appropriate measures and take all necessary steps to safeguard our interests".

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2005, July 8, The Hindu

Sethu project: Sri Lanka wants "joint monitoring"

V.S. Sambandan

Approaching international courts about concerns "a measure of last resort," says Lakshman Kadirgamar

· Concerns relate to "likely impact on environment"
· "Will take necessary steps to safeguard our wellbeing and interests"
· Sri Lankan initiative to "exchange information and jointly assess risks"


COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Thursday pressed the case for "joint monitoring and assessment of any adverse implication" of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP).

In a written reply to Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar described as "premature" and one that "remains in the realm of possibility" a question raised by the Jathika Hela Urumaya on seeking international legal redress in the case of environmental destruction.

Mr. Kadirgamar, however, kept his country's option open by stating that countries could approach international courts as "a measure of last resort."

Mr. Kadirgamar said international conventions reflected concerns such as the impact of cross-border pollution and that some countries had "taken similar matters to international fora." "This is obviously a measure of last resort in the event of failure to resolve any issue through bilateral consultation and friendly cooperation," he said.

The SSCP has suddenly shot into the political spotlight with the JHU raising it in Parliament after Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) entered into an agreement to share international assistance for reconstruction of the tsunami-affected coastline.

The Ven. Rathana Thero asked , among other issues, if the Foreign Ministry was taking steps to go before an international court in case of "environmental destruction."

In a seven-page reply, Mr. Kadirgamar said Sri Lanka "will take all the necessary steps to safeguard the wellbeing and the interests of our people and our country." This, he said, would be in a "calibrated and graduated manner, opting first for a cooperative and consultative approach."

As Colombo was currently engaged in such an exercise, "We will consider further action thereafter if and when necessary," he said. After Sri Lanka had raised its concerns relating to the SSCP's "likely trans-frontier impact on Sri Lankan, specially in environment and livelihood areas," it was agreed that India would "facilitate continuing Indo-Sri Lanka consultations," including at the "expert technical level," to arrive at a "common understanding on the environmental concerns," Mr. Kadirgamar said.

The Sri Lankan initiative, he said, was to "build a mechanism for exchange of information and jointly assess risks through a common base of information." Such a mechanism, he said, would be "based on well-recognised principles of international law relating to the duty to have due regard to the rights of other states and to ensure that activities under the jurisdiction or control of a state are so conducted as not to cause damage by pollution to other states and their environment."

Hoping that India "would agree to a mechanism for joint monitoring" of any adverse fallout from the canal project, he said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had "very clearly stated" that the island-nation's "environmental concerns and possible adverse implications are receiving India's serious attention as well."

On the meeting between the Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, and Dr. Singh last month, Mr. Kadirgamar said: "We have to appreciate this constructive attitude and understanding shown by the Indian Prime Minister."

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2005, July 8, The Hindu

Willing to talk with Colombo

NEW DELHI: India is willing to discuss Sri Lanka's concerns about the Sethusamudram canal projectSouth Block officials told this correspondent.

Asked to comment on Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar's remarks that Colombo may take New Delhi to an international court as a "last resort," the officials said a meeting between India and Sri Lankan experts on the issue would take place soon.

A joint statement issued in Colombo on June 10, during the visit of External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh, said: "The exchange of views should continue with regard to the Sethusamudram canal project, as agreed during the meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and the Sri Lankan President in June 2005.

"Accordingly, the next meeting of experts to be held at an early date, preferably in July, will focus on environmental concerns with a view to reaching a common understanding for addressing them," the statement said.

In turn, the June 3 joint statement issued after a meeting between Dr. Singh and Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga, had stressed, "With regard to the Sethusamudram canal project, it was agreed that the exchange of views between the Indian and Sri Lankan technical experts should continue. This would be with regard to environmental concerns and prospects of closer economic cooperation between the two countries in the Palk Bay area."

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2005, July 6, www.newindpress.com

Indian Coast Guard for enhanced role in Sethu project

CHENNAI: The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) is all set to play an active role in the Sethusamudram canal project. Addressing mediapersons on the sidelines of the District Commanders Conference here on Tuesday, Commodore U N Chitnavis, Commander, Coast Guard Region (East), said both fishing and dredging operations need to go hand-in-hand at the Sethusamudram.


The ICG would do all in its powers to ensure that it went on smoothly. “Fishing in the region should not be hampered because of dredging. We will take steps to advice the fishermen not to fish in the same area where dredging is on, so that their livelihood is not affected,” said Chitnavis.


Apart from that, the Commodore said that once the canal was fully ready for sea traffic, ICG would have a larger role to play in terms of security in the area.


“Once the canal is ready, security implications and threat perceptions have to be studied. This will define our future role,” he said. Chitnavis added that the ICG was adequately equipped at the moment to provide cover to vessels passing through the area. For more manpower and weapon requirement, we have to make a security analysis as and when the traffic increases.


He dismissed the chances of upgrading the Mandapam base of the ICG in Ramanathapuram at the moment, but added that an Interceptor Craft (IC), the first of its kind, which has the ability to travel at 40 knots, would be stationed at Mandapam.


Regarding the tsunami research work carried out by the Indian Coast Guard in association with various agencies, Chitnavis said that the ICG would assist the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) in deploying buoys along the Indian coast for more research.


The two-day district commanders’ conference would discuss issues ranging from the country's maritime security concerns to anti-terrorist and anti-piracy operations and enhancement of search and rescue operations along the Indian coastline.



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2005, July 6, www.newindpress.com

LTTE no more a threat: Chitnavis

CHENNAI: Commodore U N Chitnavis, on Tuesday, dismissed apprehensions that the LTTE still posed considerable threat for the country along the western coast.

“We have had some security issues on the western coast with the LTTE. But this has come down considerably in recent months.”

Though some arrests had been made in the last few months, he said the Sea Tigers were not a match for the ICG.

“The damage suffered during the tsunami has indeed put the LTTE on the backfoot,” he added.

The LTTE airstrip was being continuously monitored by the Dornier aircraft of the ICG and no major activity had been noticed in the last few months.

However, Chitnavis did not rule out the possibility of the Tigers raising their head again after a brief lull, as had been their usual practice.

He added that the Indian Coast Guard was fully prepared to face any such eventualities in the future.

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2005, July 6, Deccan Herald

Coast Guard to review LTTE threat

With the LTTE setting up an airbase in northern Lanka, the Coast Guard has stepped up air surveillance of the Palk Bay.


The Sethusamudram project, work for which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, has added to the responsibilities of the Coast Guard patrolling the Palk Bay.


The Coast Guard will now have to look afresh at the threat perception from Tamil Tigers from northern Sri Lanka.


Moreover, it will have to see how best to protect the livelihood of fishermen in south coastal Tamil Nadu when massive dredging operation gets into full swing and how to check pollution when the project gathers momentum and ships from the west coast start using the canal to reach eastern ports.


This was stated at a press conference here on Tuesday by Commodore UN Chitnavis, commander of the Coast Guard’s eastern region shortly before the commencement of a two-day conference of eastern district commanders.


Com Chitnavis said the conference would discuss the security implications and concerns arising from the on-going Sethusamudram project. In this connection, he said the Coast Guard would see whether it will lead to an increase in infiltration of the LTTE and, if so, how to check it. Since intelligence was the key to such operations, the Coast Guard will interact with various Central agencies, he said.


Ever since the LTTE readied an airstrip in the areas under its control in northern Sri Lanka, the Coast Guard had stepped up air surveillance of the Palk Bay, with Dornier aircraft and Chetak helicopters conducting daily sorties from Chennai and Rameswaram.


Com Chitnavis said that as part of the modernisation process, the Coast Guard would acquire advanced off-shore patrol vessels and interceptor boats, besides three pollution control vessels.


As for the Home Ministry report that the LTTE was continuing to use Tamil Nadu as a base to smuggle out medicines and fuel to Sri Lanka, Com Chitnavis said the Coast Guard had indeed captured armed boats, but reiterated that such incidents were few and far between.


He also said that any mechanical activity on the sea, especially such massive dredging in different segments, will disturb the fish population and lead to their migration.


Though only 85 km out of the canal length of 163 km was to be dredged, the Coast Guard had to demarcate the area and see that fishermen were able to fish in other sections.


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2005, July 5, www.newindpress.com

DCI starts work on Sethusamudram

VISAKHAPATNAM:

The DCI has signed an MoU with the Tuticorin Port to be part of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project.

It has already commenced dredging in E3-E4 stretch of Palk Strait area at a length of approximately 13.5 km, with an estimated quantity of 13.55 million cubic metres.

It has deployed one of its trailer suction dredgers, DCI DR XII of 4,500 hopper capacity.

The operations will be augmented by deploying bigger capacity dredgers, to complete the assigned work in two years.


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2005, July 5, News Today

'CG has a big role in Sethu project'


NT Bureau Chennai, July 5:

Commodore U N Chitnavis, Commander Coast Guard Region (East), addressing the media in Chennai today. Also seen is Deputy Inspector General B S Yadav, chief staff officer, CG.


The Coast Guard would have a major role to play in Sethusamudram project in seeing to it that the dredging activity at the channel was not hampered and at the same time fishermen were not put to hardship because of it, Commodore U N Chitnavis, Commander, Coast Guard Region, East, said today.


Addressing the media on the occasion of the two-day district commanders conference of CG of various eastern States, he said the meeting was an annual feature that would deliberate on the operations, maintenance and logistics of the fourth armed force that performed multiple duties in securing the maritime zones of the country.


Different regions varied in operational requirements from Andhra Pradesh, Orissa to Tamilnadu. Various issues related to welfare of officers and their accommodation would also be looked into at the conference, he said.


On the type of responsibility the CG would be entrusted with at the recently-commissioned Sethusamudram project, he said, 'once the channel dredging gets momentum, a fair amount of work on pollution control, ensuring fishing activity, and security maintenance could be undertaken.'


As of now the CG had faster aircraft, continuous patrolling along the project area, especially in the Mandapam region, 'but the kind of traffic the project would attract, and the threats expected out of it, have to be analysed with a long term view for arriving at additional requirements of manpower and infrastructure to patrol the project areas,' he explained.


However, he added the CG had not so far quantified the force level requirements and was working in coordination with State and Central level agencies like narcotics and intelligence wings to clamp down on arms smuggling, piracy and other illegal trafficking into the mainland.


'In recent times, we have made several arrests and seized arms and ammunitions based on strong intelligence reports from various sources,' he said.


The emerging threat perceptions, including the one from the LTTE, had to be taken into account for building long-term requirements on the part of the CG in the region.


As dredging of the channel would take time, the CG would be in need of resources to keep the fishermen away from the project site and to keep pollution in check. Any mechanised activity would affect marine species and how it would affect the livelihood of fishermen had to be seen before charting out support measures for the fishing community, he said.


On modernisation and expansion of CG fleet, Chitnavis said acquisition of AOPVs (advanced offshore patrol vessel), PCVs (pollution control vessel), FPVs (fast patrol vessel) and interceptor craft (ICs) was going on in phases with replacement and new addition.


The conference would also deliberate on CG development and perspective plan in this regard.


The meet would also take up issues like search and rescue mission, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations, environmental protection and safeguarding fishermen's livelihood.


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2005, July 5, sethunews exclusive

Research Papers challenging Tuticorin Port Trust's observations on Tsunami, Cyclones and Sedimentation issues related with SSCP and Palk Bay

Links:

1. Indomer-Alkyon’s tsunami simulation model reveals the contrary! It reveals that Sethu Canal will be dangerous to both Indian and Sri Lankan Coastlines instead!! in http://www.asiantribune.com/show_article.php?id=2475


2. http://lareef.blogspot.com/2005/04/sethusamudaram-in-time-of-tsunami.html (This article 'Will to Disaster' was subsequently published in 'The Economic and Political Weekly' dated 25 June 2005 - www.epw.org.in


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2005, July 5, www.sethusamudram.gov.in


Response of Tuticorin Port Trust to Prime Minister's Office's note (dated March 8, 2005) of reservation on SSCP



Answers given to Prime Minister’s Office by the Tuticorin Port Trust (probably in late April – early May) and most likely to be responsible for gaining a clearance from it, has been released in the official website of Sethusamudram Project (www.sethusamudram.gov.in) on 30 June 2005.

(This response is most likely from Dr.P.Chandramohan of Indomer Hydraulics Pvt.Ltd., Chennai. It is noteworthy to remember here that he was an NIO scientist till 1997. In 1998 he had started his company ‘Indomer’.) (His company’s website:
www.indomer.com )


It is also likely, that Prof.Victor Rajamanickam, who currently heads the Department of Disaster Management at SASTRA Engineering College, Tanjore (and who had been the head of of the Department of Earth Sciences, Tamil University, Tanjore till 2003 – when he left for SASTRA) would have contributed to this text; but it is felt, that, it is Dr.Chandramohan, who is its author)


This resonse was made public on June 30, 2005, that is 2 days before the inauguration of the SSCP at Madurai.

www.sethunews.blogspot.com



Following is the text of the posting.


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PMO Note

1. Subsequent to the Tsunami calamity, certain urgent technical issues have arisen regarding the SSCP which have been noted with alarm in responsible sections of the scientific community of the country



Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

PMO Note is the summary of an article titled " Pre- and Post Tsunami – Is the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project Technically feasible ? " which appeared in the Economic and Political weekly dated January -22, 2005.

The article is contributed by Dr. R. Ramesh, M.B., B.S., who is a medical professional. His expertise in the complex phenomenon of Tsunami and its impact is debatable. His readings on the subject of tsunami and the project region are limited as evident from the references cited by him.

There have not been any observations made by any scientist on the basis of scientific evidence except for some statements in the media attributed to Dr. Ted Murty, NRI Scientist about the need for reorientation of the channel entrance in the Bay of Bengal. This is dealt with separately.



PMO Note

2. The Tsunami waves which were generated on December 26, 2004 by an earthquake of 9 Richter magnitude off the west coast of north Sumatra traveled westwards and eastwards. The eastern wave was blocked by the Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian landmasses. A portion of the undissipated energy of this eastern wave was transferred to the western wave front traveling towards Sri Lanka and the Indian east Coast.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

Yes.

This is also supported by animation models generated in India and also outside.




PMO Note

3. Before touching Sri Lanka, the tsunami was traveling westward. When it struck Sri Lanka and the east coast of India, a clock wise wind was created with the Palk Bay as it hub. Had the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal been operational at the time of this tsunami, the currents in the Palk Bay and the associated turbulence would have damaged the canal considerably and would have caused a wide disposal of the dredged material placed at sea.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations


A slide from an animation model by M/s. Indomer Coastal Hydraulic (P) Ltd., Chennai in association with M/s. Alkyon Hydraulic Consultancy and Research by the Netherlands is enclosed (slide 1) . This clearly establishes that Palk Bay and Palk strait were comparatively free from the turbulence caused by the Tsunami in the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. This slide is also supported by the animation model of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology , Japan (Slide 2)

In the case of tsunami, significant damages have been and will be seen only along the near shore beach areas because of resistance of near shore structures against the Tsunami passage. The very location of the Sethusamudram channel far away from the Indian or Sri Lankan coast pre-empts this possibility.

Scientists have also expressed the view that the channel situated in mid sea can not show any resistance displayed by near shore structures except for the possibility of bed scouring which may have the impact of increasing the depth of the channel as witnessed in Chennai Port.

Tuticorin Port, situated in the Gulf of Mannar and very close to the project region, did not experience any significant change in the bathymetry due to tsunami's impact.

If a clockwise swirl had indeed been created in the region with the Palk Bay as its hub ( as stated in the note but not supported by the animation models), such clockwise swirl would have taken the dredged materials placed at sea, proposed to be dumped in depths of about 20-30 M in the Bay of Bengal away from Palk Strait. A quantity of around 34.5 million M3 of dredged materials is proposed to be dumped in an area of about 25 Sq.KM, which will raise the sea-bed by an average of 1.4 M only. The clockwise swirl would have carried this deep into the Bay of Bengal, redistributing it over a very wide area making the impact of such redistribution, even if it would have taken place, insignificant in view of the wide area over which it would be redistributed and greater depths available North and Northeast of the proposed dumping location in Bay of Bengal

Therefore, there is no scientific basis for the apprehension that the shipping channel , if it were in place during tsunami, would have been damaged by the currents and / or associated turbulence. `Wide dispersal of the dredged materials placed at sea' would have had insignificant effect.



PMO Note

4. The SSCP is an off shore shipping canal project in the Palk Bay. It aims to shorten the distance navigated by ships sailing form the west coast and bound for ports on the east coast by avoiding circum-navigation of Sri Lanka. On the completion of the SSCP, ships would navigate through the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay and enter the Bay of Bengal directly

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations


Yes.



PMO Note


5. The total length of the canal in the Palk Bay is 152.2 Km. This is divided into three legs – the Southern leg in the Adam's Bridge area which is 20 KM, the northern leg in the Palk Strait area which is 54.2 Km and the central portion which is 78 Km in length. Dredging would have to be done in the southern and northern legs to dredge the shallow sea bed of the Palk Bay and Adam's Bridge to a depth of 12 metres in order to make navigation possible. The central leg does not require dredging as it lies the adequate depth of 12 metres.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

The statistics furnished in the Note are based on the Techno-Economic Feasibility Report prepared by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur in July 2004. The Detailed Project Report since submitted to the Ministry of Shipping, RT & H, has suggested some minor changes in the channel alignment on navigational considerations. The length of the proposed channel now is 167.57 Km , with the southern leg at Adam's Bridge area having a length of 34.92 Km, the northern leg in Palk strait 54.33 Km, and the intervening stretches of Palk Bay, not requiring any dredging, having a length of 78.32 Km




PMO Note

6. This is the first effort by the India to dredge a navigation channel, which is located 30-40 Kms off shore. It is also the longest sea bed dredging project undertaken by India.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

Yes.



PMO Note

7. The problems that will be faced by SSCP are expected to be

(i) problems due to sedimentation

(ii) problems due to tropical cyclonic disturbances and

(iii) issues related to dumping of the dredged materials

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

Significant issues relating to the SSCP, which has a major dredging component, are :-

i.Sedimentation in the Channel which will determine the stability of the channel and maintenance dredging.

ii.Identification of dumping locations for dredged materials disposal with the objectives of -

a)minimising environmental impact to manageable levels and

b)ensuring that the dumped spoils do not re-enter the dredged channel.

Though the National environmental Engineering Research Institute had scientifically identified the dumping areas supported by modelling studies, further modelling studies were carried out by Tuticorin Port Trust during September 2004 – January 2005 with involvement of Alkyon Hydraulic Consultancy and Research bv the Netherlands for validation and verification of NEERI's findings, and for optimisation of distance to dumping locations. While validating NEERI's findings the studies have indicated the possibility of opitimising the lead distance. However, considering the environmental sensitivity of the project region, it has been decided to retain the dumping locations suggested by NEERI.



PMO Note

8. In order to tackle these problems, detailed information and knowledge needs to be gathered regarding sedimentation and cyclone disturbances in the Palk Bay

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

Tuticorin Port Trust has carried out detailed wave modeling studies, tide and current circulation modeling studies, nautical studies and sedimentation modeling studies inter-alia analysing in-depth the sedimentation regime along the entire channel length.

As regards tropical cyclonic disturbances, " information on the normal wave conditions is required for further studies on sedimentation and erosion and to establish the limiting conditions for navigation through the channel. Information on the extreme wave conditions is required for the design of various structures, like groynes and bank protection," (Report of Indomer Coastal Hydraulics (P) Ltd., Chennai on Hydradynamic modeling and ship Maneuvering studies for the SSCP). Wave modeling studies of international standards, involving an internationally acclaimed organisation, have been carried out to meet these requirements.

The following findings of the modeling studies are relevant vis-a-vis sedimentation in the channel in Palk Bay / Palk Strait which the Note primarily deals with-

"Based on the computed sediment transports, it can be concluded that the incoming sediment volume (23,100 m3 ) is of the same order of magnitude as the transported sediment along the channel (32,500 m3). This would imply the following -

•At the shallow zone of Palk Strait, the channel depth will remain constant at CD (-) 12m (the incoming sediment volume from long shore transport approximately equals the outgoing sediment volume due to transports parallel to the ship channel). This implies that no maintenance dredging is required along this channel section (at Palk Strait).

•East and west of shallow zone, however, the transported sediment volume will deposit due to reduced sediment transport capacities. The deposited sediment volume equals to 32,500 m3/y."

The relevance of the findings is two-fold:

(i) Detailed field investigations/ modelling studies have been carried out in the project region.

(ii) There will be very little sedimentation in the channel in Palk Strait, compared to other approach channels in the country.

The general philosophy followed worldwide in designing an off shore structure is that predictions about the ocean environment have to be made first, ideally based on the history of the environment for 'hundreds of years of data' (A.K.Malhotra – "Ocean Science and Technology" p 32, 1980)". "In actual fact, the data for a particular location usually cover a much shorter period and, therefore, are a poor basis for predicting the future from the oceanographer – statistician's point of view. Despite this, valid operating and design values can be obtained by one of several methods" (A.K.Malhotra). This is normally done through predictive modelling, as carried out by Tuticorin Port for SSCP.

The issues relating to cyclonical disturbances are discussed in Section 12.



PMO Note

9. Palk Bay is one of the major permanent sediment sinks of India. In a study entitled " Littoral Drift Sources and Sinks along the Indian Coastal by Chandramohan and others in 2001, the sea depth reduction due to sedimentation in the Palk Bay has been estimated to be 1 cm per year Marine and riverine sources contribute to these sediments. In a publication entitled " Rapid Land Building Activity along Vedaranyam Coast and its Possible Implications" brought out by Ramasamy and others in 1998, the sediment building activities due to sea currents in the Vedanarayanam-Jaffna peninsular stretch of Palk Bay has been estimated to be 29 metres per year. Similarly in another study on the Sethusamudram Canal published by Rajamanickem in 2004, the sedimentation rate has been estimated to be 24 cms per year in the Manamelkudi area of Palk Bay

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

The Note refers to findings reproduced in some research papers which are based on micro-regional studies or application of mathematical formulae.

The study of Rajamanickam has been mentioned. Rajamanickam says in his paper – "Sethusamudram Canal: The life line of Tamilnadu" (National Seminar on Ecological balance and Sethusamudram Canal, 1-3rd October, 2004, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Area Studies, Alagappa University), that "it is interesting to see that the maritime surveys conducted between 1960 and 1986 reveal the change of contour to the tune of 6m shallowness in the Palk Strait. That shows that around 24 cm per year is being silted off in the Strait." The Note only quotes this part of his observation but fails to add that he has actively supported the construction of the navigation channel to remedy his natural phenomenon. In his paper, Rajamanickam visualizes "the merger of this two (spit from Thalaimannar side in Sri Lanka and spit from Manalmelkudi in India) within the next 50 years. Once these spits join, the Palk Strait will become into two lagoon of the north and south. The flushing of waters from Gulf of Mannar to Bay of Bengal will be stopped". He has further opined -"Because of such ocean circulation, Tamil Nadu is getting monsoonal rainfall. The day siltation initiated, one must have observed the drifting of cyclones and low depressions to Nellore and Orissa.

Slowly the quantum of rainfall in Tamil Nadu and the order of cyclones in delta region have been in the decreasing order. If the flushing is completely stopped, the monsoonal winds and ocean circulations may not be directed through this Strait. If such action takes place, Tamil Nadu may not get proper rainfall and subsequently the granary of rice, the Cauvery deltas will become a desert by the turn of this century.

The moment, Sethusamudram Canal is brought in force, that Canal may become the draining canal first for all the silts dumped along the coast of Palk in the past. There is every possibility to retrieve back the clear water and comparatively deeper shelf in many areas. Such increase of depth and clarity of water may enable the delicious fish varieties to get more populated and fishermen in this region can do the fishing right in front of the hamlets as in the case of 19th century. The per capita income of the fishing community of nearly 40,000 people may go up many times. The delta region may get good rainfall and may plan to go for cultivation without the dependence of Mettur water. In the beginning, the Sethusamudram Canal may face frequent dredging due to the sliding of the silts dumped earlier. In few years this will be settled. The fear complex developed among the fishing community is baseless. Instead of loosing their fishing and trawling, they will get more catch due to the International navigation as in the case of Panama.

Therefore, scientific evidence is being cited against the project when the scientist who has produced such evidence goes on to say in the same research paper that the scientific evidence leads him to believe that an environmental and ecological disaster is waiting to happen unless the Sethusamudram Ship Channel is urgently created to provide a draining canal for the silt in Palk Bay/Palk Strait.

For a dredging project involving creation of a navigation channel, sedimentation in the project setting and in the channel as a result of sedimentation regime in the area need to be studied. In the case of SSCP,, sedimentation transport rate along the channel and long shore sediment transport across the channel need estimation for computation of annual maintenance dredging requirements. Such estimation has been done in the past (earlier studies) through modelling and radio-active tracer analysis. Tuticorin Port Trust has carried out sedimentation modelling in the project area involving a world-renowned organisation which has clearly established that sedimentation transport rate along and across the channel is insignificant.



PMO Note

10. Those findings indicate that there are specific regions in Palk Bay where the annual sea depth deduction is 25-75 times higher than the average value proposed by Chandramohan etc. for the entire Bay. The two legs of the SSCP where dredging is required happen to cross two such micro regions with high sedimentation rates.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

The legs of the SSCP where dredging will take place pass through two micro regions with high sedimentation rates – Adam's Bridge and Palk Strait. This prompted Tuticorin Port Trust to commission further modeling studies to verify and validate NEERI's findings. The modeling studies have led to reliable estimation of sediment transportation rate along and across the channel in these regions.



PMO Note

11. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project carried out by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has not taken into account the sediment contribution from the rivers flowing into Palk Bay. This study does not pinpoint the sediment source for about 99.4 % of the total sedimentation volume.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

While undertaking the EIA Study NEERI have generated primary data in addition to relying upon secondary data. Primary data has also been used by them for validation of Secondary data. They had also carried out mathematical/ simulation studies. Tuticorin Port Trust, in its endeavour to verify and validate NEERI's findings, had commissioned further modelling/ simulation studies.

P.Chandramohan et al (Littoral drifts sources and sinks along the Indian Coast, Current Science, Vol.81, No.3, 10 August 2001) in their study had estimated 0.3 x 1010 m3 sediment deposition in Palk Bay region, in an area of 117 km x 105 km over a period of 51 years. M/s.Indomer Coastal Hydraulics (P) Ltd. (of which Dr.P.Chandramohan is the Managing Director) have estimated sediment deposit of 32, 500 m3/y in Palk Strait part of SSCP, which will have a length of 54 kms. A comparison of the estimates is shown below:

1.Sedimentation capacity in the channel,

proportionate to estimate to

Chandramohan et at .

54x0.3x1010 = 77,569 m3

117x105x51



2.Sedimentation computed by

TPT modelling study

Along the channel-

Incoming sediment volume =23,100 m3 Outgoing sediment volume =32,500 m3

Across the channel-

Deposited sediment volume =32,500 m3 --------------------------

Total =88,100m3

==================

Therefore, the findings from the modelling studies compare favourably with results of research studies available for the area. The imputation that the studies do not pin-point the sediment source for about 99.4% of the total sedimentation volume appears to be based on the following

(i)Total sediment load computed:

58.8 x 106m3

by Chandramohan et al for entire Palk Bay

(117 x105 sq.km.)



(ii)Less net annual sediment transport :

0.2657 x 106m3

Computed by NEERI for Adam's Bridge area

(which has a length of 17 kms)



(iii) Less estimation made by Sanil Kumar et al for net littoral sediment

transportation:

0.095 x 106 m3 into Palk Bay from Nagapattinam coast.

Unaccounted, according to the Note

58.4393 x 106m3

The primary source of the sediments deposited on the beaches is the weathering of the land; the sediments are then transported through rivers to the ocean' (Chandramohan et al, 2001). It is also estimated that 'The quantities of materials contributed by head land erosion and aeolian transport are both less than 2 per cent of river transport' (Chandramohan et al, 2001).

Therefore, when the sedimentation due to littoral drift from the north (Nagapattinam) estimated by Sanil Kumar et al (2002) and the total sedimentation load for Palk Bay region computed by Chandramohan et al (2001 – Sanil Kumar was also part of this research group) are accepted as valid, the source of the difference is very clear-sediment contribution from the rivers. This is supported by the following excerpts- `Vaigai, Vaishali and Valryar rivers are the major sediment sources entering the palk bay region'. (Malik, T.C., Indian Journal of Marine Science, 1983-12,203-208). `Large amounts of sediments from the pediments are removed constantly by rainfall and carried by minor rivers and dumped into the Palk bay'.(Loveson et al, Sea Level Variation and its impact on Coastal Environment, ed Rajamanickam, 1990, PP159-178).

The studies carried out by the Project authorities are for the purpose of delineating the project setting in order to identify the environmental consequences of the proposed project, assess their impact, evaluate the environmental viability of the project and devise an Environmental Management Plan to minimise the environmental impacts. The findings of these studies are substantiated and supported by research studies of the region in which the project is situated.




PMO Note

12. Out of the 61 cyclones that have crossed the Tamilnadu coast in the period 1891-1995, 6 have directly crossed the Palk Bay. The Met Department considers the coastal stretch between Nagapattinam and Pamban as a high risk zone for tropical cyclones. A study entitled " Identification of Costs Vulnerable for Severe Tropical Cyclones – Statistical Evaluation" published in 2004 has named this coastal stretch as the most vulnerable to severe tropical cyclones among the many coastal regions of the Bay of Bengal. Studies on the pattern of movement of sediments during the cyclonic storms are not available at present. However, it is known that these storms have a tendency to transport sediments into Palk Bay from the Nagapattinam coast and from Gulf of Mannar

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

'The most damaging oceanographic episode that coastal residents can face is a cyclone with a combination of wind, waves, surge and rain' (Antonio Mascarenhas, Current Science, Vol.86, No.3, 10 February 2004). An important prerequisite for sustainable development, therefore, is resilience towards natural hazards and elimination of disasters.

In terms of landfall, among the severe cyclones over a century, according to Mascarenhas, '55 crossed the coast of Tamilnadu, 69 hit Andhra Pradesh, 58 affected Orissa, 33 struck West Bengal.' Impacts of tropical cyclones have been and continue to be the most disruptive recurring events for the east coast of India. From available records, Mascarenhas concludes -

(i) Andhra Coast is the most vulnerable to several tropical cyclones. About 32% of the cyclones forming in the Bay of Bengal make landfall along this coastal state every year.

(ii) Orissa follows with 27%, Tamilnadu with 26% and West Bengal with 15%.

(iii) The Andhra Coast has been subjected to storms, with a highly significant increase in the mean frequency of severe storms incident on Andhra Coast after 1975 as compared to earlier periods.

(iv) Orissa is affected by the highest frequency of severe cyclones in October and November every year, with the highest probability (56%) of at least one cyclone crossing the coast and 1% probability of four cyclones crossing Orissa every year.

(v) In terms of storm surges, the West Bengal coast is highly vulnerable to attack by storm surges with heights ranging from 2-12m.

The coast of Orissa has witnessed maximum surge heights of 7 m. The Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu Coasts are vulnerable where observed surge heights are in the range of 1 to 6 m.

(vi) Andhra and Orissa are the most vulnerable to coastal inundations.

To summarise his findings,

(a) In terms of incidence of severe tropical cyclones, Andhra and Orissa are more vulnerable than the Tamilnadu coast.

(b) In terms of storm surges, West Bengal and Orissa coasts are highly vulnerable, while the Tamilnadu Coast is vulnerable.

(c) Andhra and Orissa are the most vulnerable to coastal inundations.

Therefore, absolute figures relating to Tamilnadu Coast need to be compared with the rest of the east coast. The statistics furnished in para 11 of the Note that `against the incidence of 61 cyclones on the Tamilnadu coast during the period 1891-1995, only 6 had directly crossed the Palk Bay' is also relevant in this context as in simple arithmetical language it conveys that the Palk Bay is less vulnerable to incidence of cyclones than the rest of the Tamilnadu Coast. The Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project was originally conceived by the British as early as in 1860 with the objective of providing sheltered passage to merchant and navy ships, sparing them from the vagaries of nature and to provide safe anchorage during the tropical cyclones normally encountered off the Tamilnadu Coast during the North East monsoon (October – December).

The Note cites the incidence of cyclones in the project area as the reason for reviewing the need for the project when the major ports of Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Haldia are situated in coastal areas more vulnerable to such incidence. So is Kakinada where a major port facility is coming up.

PMO Note


13. There are two previous records of tsunami destruction in this area. The first record is of an earthquake, which originated at the Car Nicobar islands on December 31, 1881. It had generated a tsunami in the Bay of Bengal that had been felt at Pamban. The second record is of August 27, 1883 when the Karkathova volcano of Indonesia erupted and created a tsunami that reached Nagapattinam.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

The experience of 26 December, 2004 showed that Palk Bay faced less turbulence caused by the tsunami than in Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean.

'Tsunami is basically a transient and pressure wave due to compression of fluid by the energy released during the process of earthquake or subducting movement of tectonic plates of earth. This can be surmised as the reverse process of water hammer in the pipe flow. In case of tsunami, the damages can be seen only along the near shore beach areas because of resistance of near shore structures against the Tsunami passage, whereas Sethusamudram Shipping Canal can not show such resistance except for bed scouring (Dr.B.Nagendra Kumar, Scientist, NIOT). He also says that redistribution of bed sediments in Palk Bay due to turbulence, if any, generated by the loss of tsunami wave energy, was a possibility and adds - 'if shipping channel had been present, these sediments would also have been redistributed along the channel as a part of instantaneous process; however, the subsequent over passage of tsunami at the Adam's Bridge and onslaught of higher tsunami energy must have generated high flushing flows along the shipping channel driving these redistributed sediments into Gulf of Mannar for next stage of redistribution at high speeds.'

The implications of these expert views are two fold -

(i) Only near shore areas and near shore structure are damaged by the tsunami wave energy

ii) The worst case scenario is that had the canal been in place on 26 December, 2004, it would have experienced bed scouring.

'The Hindu' of 27-02-2005 reports that Seismologist Arun Bapat has scotched rumours about another large temblor or tsunami. According to him, "Another earthquake of such a magnitude and another tsunami is next to impossible for the next 70- 100 years." The probability of occurrence of tsunami similar to that of 26-12-2004 may not be significant in the time scale of historical events. It is a moot point to consider whether the probability of occurrence of a rare event such as tsunami should affect development projects which normally have a life span of upto 50 years. In the DPR for SSCP an economic life of 30 years is taken into consideration for financial analysis.

" The significance of a net work of canals and drains, in addition to tidal creaks, within the low lands of East Godavari District need to be noted. Such inter-linked drainage systems have alleviated the impacts of storms by receiving, accommodating and returning surge waters back into the sea" (Antonio Mascarenhas, 'Oceanographic validity of buffer zones for the east cost of India: A hydro-meteorological perspective,' Current Science, Vol. 86, 3, 10 February, 2004). On 26.12.2004 and also the succeeding days, it was reported that the River Cooum in Chennai accommodated the excess water from Marine incursions caused by the tsunami. By the same scientific evidence, the SSCP should prove to be a boon in the event of surges caused by severe cyclone and tsunami. The observation made by Rajamanickam (see para 9) that SSCP is urgently needed to provide a draining canal for Palk Bay is also relevant in this context.



PMO Note

14. Finally, specific dump sites for dredged materials have been identified only for 8.5 to 9.5 per cent of the total dredged spoil. The exact dumping sites for 90.5 to 91.5 percent of the dredged material are not known. Similarly, information about the nature of the dredged spoil is also lacking. This information is available only for about 38.5 -10.6 per cent of the total dredged spoil.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

Specific dumping sites have been identified and delineated in NEERI's EIA Report in Bay of Bengal, and in the Gulf of Mannar, for dumping of dredged materials from Palk strait and Adam's Bridge respectively, contrary to what is stated in the paragraph. NEERI had also conducted modelling studies for predicting dispersal of deposited materials in the Gulf of Mannar. Tuticorin Port Trust has conducted further studies which have not only validated NEERI's proposals, but also suggested possible relocation of the dumping site in Gulf of Mannar nearer the dredging location, which has not been accepted by Tuticorin Port Trust in view of ecological sensitivity of the region. The option of reclamation of about 750 ha. of land in Dhanuskhodi island, lost during the 1964 cyclone, at an additional cost of Rs.100 cr. app. is retained. The paragraph alludes to the estimated quantity of about 7 million.m3 required for reclamation of this area only, when it states that specific dump sites have been identified only for 8.5 to 9.5 % of the total dredged spoil

Information about the nature of the dredged spoil has been furnished in NEERI's Report both for Adam's Bridge area and Palk Strait. Data from earlier reports, sub-bottom profiling and borehole data generated by NEERI etc. provided the basis of such information Tuticorin Port Trust has carried out, through the NIOT, more detailed and sophisticated sub-bottom profiling of the project area, vibro-coring in 44 locations and boreholes to further refine the project proposal.


PMO Note

15. Thus, there are huge gaps in the current status of knowledge about the sedimentation regimes existing in the various micro regions of Palk Bay. Knowledge about the effects of tsunamis and cyclones on the dredged material and on the SSCP is also incomplete. The Environmental Impact Assessment and the Technical Feasibility Report prepared by NEERI have ignored these aspects. Yet, the SSCP authority has applied for a no objection certificate from the Ministry of Environment & Forest and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

Tuticorin Port Trust Observations

(i) Sedimentation regime in Palk Bay/Palk Strait has been studied through field studies and modelling studies as adequate and relevant for the project setting and for reliable estimation of maintenance dredging requirements.

(ii) Tsunami and tropical cyclones impact the coast through changes induced by them in wave regime, currents and winds. Modelling studies have produced more than adequate data to examine the impact of extreme conditions on the project, especially on the stability of the channel, net sedimentation, navigability and downtime etc.

(iii) All necessary studies as per international requirements have been carried out by the project authorities to ascertain the environmental viability and technical feasibility of the project.




PMO Note


16. Going ahead with the construction of this mega project without collecting information on the above aspects could lead to major economic, technical and human problems in future that could border on a disaster. It is, therefore, advisable that he project authority for the SSCP should first look into these specific aspects and give their detailed comments thereon. If the project authority feels that these aspects have been adequately taken care of, they should provide convincing and substantial evidence to that effect that will withstand the scrutiny of the scientific community at large.




Tuticorin Port Trust Observations


(i) Sedimentation regime in Palk Bay/Palk Strait has been studied through field studies and modelling studies as adequate and relevant for the project setting and for reliable estimation of maintenance dredging requirements.

(ii) Tsunami and tropical cyclones impact the coast through changes induced by them in wave regime, currents and winds. Modelling studies have produced more than adequate data to examine the impact of extreme conditions on the project, especially on the stability of the channel, net sedimentation, navigability and downtime etc.

(iii) All necessary studies as per international requirements have been carried out by the project authorities to ascertain the environmental viability and technical feasibility of the project.



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2005, July4, www.tamilnet.com

Indian High Commissioner discusses Canal Project in Mannar


Ms Nirupama Sen, Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Monday visited Mannar and met high ranking navy officials in Thalaimannar, Government Agent of Mannar Mr V Viswalingam and UPFA Minister (SLMC rebel MP) Mr Rishard Badurdeen, and discussed issues related to Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP), sources said. The SSCP attempts to create a navigable sea route between Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal within India’s own territorial waters.



July 4. High Commmissioner's visit to MannarReporters were blocked from covering the meeting held at Thalaimannar Naval base which is defined as a High Security Zone, sources said.


Later, Ms Nirupama Sen spoke at a public meeting at Al-Mina Maha Vidyalayam in Tharapuram at 1.30 pm.


Reminding the similarites in the social life of the people in Tamil Nadu coast and Mannar coast, the Indian High Commissionar said India would help to initiate projects for the benefit of the people in the area.


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday inaugurated the controversial SSCP project in Madurai. Government of Tamil Nadu, local fishermen and environmentalists boycotted the opening ceremony.


Environmentalists in Sri Lanka have been protesting against Sethusamudram Project claiming that there is a threat of ground water in the Jaffna Peninsular turning saline and that the deepening would trigger erosion of the Mannar coastline.


A leading geologist, Mr C P Rajendran of the Centre for Earth Science Studies, Thiruvananthapuram in India, was quoted as saying that the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project is a "disaster in the making," according to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report Saturday.


In addtion to the pollution from ships and potential ecological disaster that may be caused by grounding of ships containing coal or oil in the narraw canal, Mr Rajendran also warned that the deepened canal would create a new deep water route for a future tsunami to reach the coastal areas that were unreachable by the December 26 tsunami.

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2005, July 3, www.asiantribune.com

Sethu Project launched amidst much controversy

Madurai, 03 July :

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched the much-debated Rs 2,427 crore Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project on Saturday evening. The press of a button at the venue signaled the dredging ship ‘Rainbow Action’ stationed 45 km off Point Calimere to dump the first dredged spoil into this pre chosen dumping site.


Speaking at the project inauguration ceremony at Madurai, the PM said: ‘I am mightily delighted’ and described the occasion as one of ‘fulfillment of a sacred commitment that the UPA government made to the people of Tamil Nadu’. He, however, ‘urged the project authorities to be mindful and respectful of nature and the maritime environment of the channel’.


Pointing to Sri Lanka, the PM said, " I hope this project will also benefit our neighbours in the Indian Ocean region. Their prosperity is our prosperity. Their welfare is our welfare. This has been the way we in India have lived with our neighbours, since the beginning of our civilization. This channel must be a bridge not a divide".

He referred Tamil Nadu’s earlier maritime glory. He pointed out that Tamil literature was full of references to trade with Rome, Greece and other countries. The great Tamil kings, the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas had carefully nurtured the port cities of Korkai, Musiri, Thondi, Poompuhar and Vaanchi, he said and added that the great expeditions taken from these Port cities had spread Indian culture far and wide.


Sonia Gandhi, the UPA Chairperson, said that she "was aware that environmentalists have raised some issues. Fears have been expressed about the impact on coral reefs, for example. I am confident that the project authorities are alive and sensitive to these concerns and will implement the project in manner that protects and preserves the local ecology". She further observed that this was "a technologically challenging and economically vital project", and has " important national, regional and strategic implications as it provides a continuous navigable sea lane running within India's territorial waters".


DMK President M Karunanidhi, described the day as a "red letter" day in the history of the State.


Speaking at the function, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, that the benefits of the project should not be viewed from the angle of money alone, as the project would help strengthen India's security.


MDMK leader Vaiko, said this was a "small step in navigation and a giant economic leap for India".


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha, AIADMK legislators, state ministers and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, boycotted the project inauguration ceremony. Earlier Ms.Jayalalitha had questioned the environmental viability of the project.


The ceremony had induced stiff protests among the fishermen of the State. They had complained about the project only two days ago to the President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, who was visiting their tsunami damaged hamlets.


State police arrested hundreds of protestors at Madurai just before the function. It is noteworthy that most of them were fisherwomen. The entire fishing community living in Pamban, Thankatchimadam, Uchipuli, Dhargavasal, Sethubavasathiram, Mallipattinam, Kalvivayalthottam had hoisted black flogs atop their huts today. Big rallies against the project were taken out by organizations of the fishing community at Nagarcoil, Rameshwaram and Tuticorin. Last midnight, Tuticorin saw the protestors symbolically hanging the effigies of Mr.M.Karunanidhi and Mr.T.R.Balu.


An article in Madurai edition of the Tamil Daily Dinamalar had pointed out the strange coincidence that this indeed was the day and the time when Kovalan of the epic ‘Silappathikaram’ was beheaded at Madurai and that tomorrow was the day when his wife Kannaki cursed and burnt the entire ancient city of Madurai.


Dr.C.P.Rajendran of the Centre for Earth Science Studies in Thiruvananthapuram who is a paleo-seismologist and one of India's top geologists had warned today that ‘there are at least six reasons why SSCP should be put on hold’.


"The open question is that whether the deepening activities would 'create a new deep water route' for a future tsunami to reach the west coast with a devastating impact," Rajendran said.
The cyclonic storms are a major risk factor in the region. "Another question is how would the cyclones rework the dredged material to be dumped at various sites, although fortified with embankments," Rajendran asked.



He said that with limited availability of borings, geologists are not certain if the substratum of the region is soft or hard, crucial information that is required to decide on the safe disposal of the dredged material.


The pollution that would be created by ships in such a narrow channel, the prospect of their grounding or even a collision of such ships containing coal or oil and the ensuing ecological disaster are other dangers, Rajendran warned.


Sethusamudram, as the name suggests, is the part of an ocean that is being constantly bridged by natural sedimentation processes, and the nature has been at this work for hundreds of thousands of years, Rajendran said.


"By implementing this project, we are disturbing these processes." Rajendran warned the project lacked "technical, scientific and economic credibility, and is another disaster in the making" he said.


“All the objections raised by me will remain valid until these issues are resolved by an independent group of experts”, he said.


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2005, July 1, www.newindpress.com

Website on Sethu project

MADURAI:

Union Minister for Shipping and Road Transport T R Baalu launched the official website of Sethusamudram Corporation Limited (SCL) - www.sethusamudram.gov.in - at the venue for the project’s stone laying ceremony in Madurai, on Thursday.


The site with CEO N K Raghupathy’s message which assures transparency in the execution of the project. Details about the Sethusamudram canal, the environmental impact assessments, issues raised in public hearings, a photo gallery, environmental monitoring and tenders were also included on the website.


A guest book has been provided, wherein users can post their comments and views about the project to the CEO. The site map also includes the Madras High Court judgements with respect to the project and the observation from the Prime Minister’s Office besides tsunami impacts and other details.


SCL Chairman N K Raghupathy told this website’s newspaper, ‘‘The website uploaded a couple of days ago had already recorded 175 hits even before the URL was made public.’’


Launching the website, Baalu said that the information on the site would be updated every day.

A trial run of the ‘rainbow action’ of the dredger at the proposed dumping site in the sea was shown live to journalists.



‘‘The first dredging operation at sea for the project will commence when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presses a button during the inaugural function at Madurai on July 2,’’ said Baalu.


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2005, July 1, www.webindia123.com

Getting the details right for the Sethusamudram canal

Madurai (Tamil Nadu), July 1 :

Capping decades of hard work, vision and technical expertise, a Rs.24 billion ($550 million) shipping canal project linking India's east and west coast is finally getting under way.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi will be on hand Friday when construction on the Sethusamudram project finally gets off the drawing board, 145 years after an English officer, Commander A.D. Taylor, first thought of it.


Finances for the ambitious project -- which will reduce the distance between the east and west coasts to 780 km, cutting 37 hours of travel time by dredging a shipping lane that will link the Gulf of Mannar directly with the Bay of Bengal -- have been a collaborative effort.


A special purpose vehicle, Sethusamudram Corporation, has been set up with a debt-equity ratio of 1.5:1 for the Rs.24.27 billion project.


The central government will provide Rs.4.95 billion of the equity.


The Tuticorin Port Trust, the implementing authority, and the Shipping Corporation of India will contribute Rs.500 million each.


The Dredging Corporation of India, Chennai Port Trust, Ennore Port Ltd, Visakhapatnam Port Trust and Paradip Port Trust will provide Rs.300 million each.


The remaining equity of Rs.2.26 billion is to be raised through a public issue, with UTI Bank as facilitator.


The central government will guarantee the domestic as well as foreign debt.


The project, which envisages a 2.5 km distance between ships moving two ways in the canal, is likely to be a technical marvel.


On the ocean's floor will be dug a 120 km long canal and as much as 82.5 million cubic metres of dredged out slush will be dumped at two sites, one south of Rameswaram island in the Gulf of Mannar and the other in the sea off the coast of West Bengal.


The excavation of the sea floor, which will disrupt fish and their fodder, will also affect 600,000 fishermen who depend upon the waters for their survival.


While the umbrella NGO Coastal Action Network (CAN) is fighting against the canal in court, the Tamil Nadu government has also refused to give the project mandatory environment clearance.
The Dredging Corporation of India, which begins work on July 2, will dredge about 13 million cubic metres in 18 months.



And by 2008, says Shipping Minister T.R. Baalu, 3,000 ships will ply in this canal paying Rs.500,000 or more per vessel.


Kurusadai island in the Gulf of Mannar, home of the black pearl oyster and coral, will house the monitoring authority.


Work on the project began in earnest in 1922.


That was the year when nine proposals were made to cut a canal underwater across a reef that separates the Dhanushkodi beach, off the Indian coast of Rameswaram, from north Sri Lanka.


But it was finally given life only in 1955 by a feasibility study conducted by the Ramaswamy Mudaliar committee. (IANS)

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2005, July 1, www.newindpress.com

Security beefed up for PM’s visit

MADURAI: Madurai District Police have chalked out a comprehensive security plan in coordination with the Special Protection Group (SPG) in view of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Madurai on July 2 for the launch of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project.

Besides the routine checks and intensive monitoring of the entire 50-acre venue at Masthanpatti off Madurai-Aruppukottai ring road, its peripheries and the approach roads, a ‘‘physical survey’’ was carried out on Thursday.

Around 6,500 police personnel, drawn from Madurai and neighbouring districts, will be put on bandobust duty for the event.

A senior police official said, ‘‘Not less than 1,500 policemen under the supervision of a separate Deputy Commissioner will be deployed for traffic management on Saturday. South Zone IG J K Tripathy, three officers in the rank of DIGs and 18 SPs will supervise the security arrangements, besides the SPG providing security to the VVIPs - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and AICC president Sonia Gandhi.’’

Speed dome cameras have been fitted and works are under way to install about 200 closed circuit TVs at the venue. Ten bomb detection and disposal squads will also be pressed into service at all prime points in the city from airport to circuit house to the peripheries around the venue.

The Prime Minister and the Congress president, according to police officials, are expected to arrive at the airport by separate special aircraft around 3 pm while Governor Surjit Singh Barnala will fly to the city by the Indian Airlines noon flight. Its departure from Chennai will be advanced by 20 minutes to facilitate the arrival of the VVIPs.

As per the tentative programme, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi will proceed to the circuit house in bullet-proof cars, police sources said. The Governor too will rest at the circuit house. As many as six bullet-proof vehicles have arrived from Delhi on Thursday while two mobile phone jammers are also expected to accompany the PM and the Congress president’s convoys.

Meanwhile, a pucca air-conditioned rest house has come up behind the stage. The rest house, police sources said, is meant for PM, Sonia Gandhi and the Governor.

The entire stretch of the ring road, from Mattuthavani to the airport and a section of the Sivaganga Road (from Melamadai outpost to Poovanthi), will be cordoned off one hour before the start of the function which will span for one-and-a-half hours from 4 pm.

‘‘These stretches will be closed for general traffic from 1 pm to 6 pm while VIPs will be allowed till 3 pm,’’ an official said.


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2005, June 30, www.webindia123.com

Centre asked to fill post of environment body chief

Chennai, June 30 :

Responding to a petition to stay the controversial Sethusamudram canal project, the Madras High Court Thursday issued notice to the central government to fill the post of chairman of the Environment Appellate Authority.

The court order came on a petition by the NGO Coastal Action Network (CAN), which is seeking to halt the ambitious Rs.24 billion ($550 million) shipping canal project linking India's east and west coasts.

The judge, N. Dinakar, asked CAN to go to the Environment Appellate Authority. The group's counsel V. Prakash then pointed out that the authority's top post had been vacant for two years.


The court directed the union government to fill the post at the earliest and asked CAN to file a plea before the EAA within 30 days.

CAN, an umbrella group of NGOs had gone to court last year, saying the canal would disrupt the lives of the many thousands who depend on fishing in the waters where the canal will be dug.


Though the Madras High Court had in December dismissed the objections and signalled the go-ahead for the project, CAN has returned to the Madras High Court with a fresh appeal against clearance by the union environment ministry.

In its writ petition, CAN says that the Sethusamudram canal project was based on a "scientifically incomplete" report.

According to the group, the March 31 environmental clearance was granted "without application of mind".


Work begins on the canal, off the coast of Dhanushkodi in south Tamil Nadu, July 2 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi travel to the state for the launch.

The project will reduce the distance between the east and west coasts of India to 780 km, cutting 37 hours of travel time by dredging a shipping lane that will link the Gulf of Mannar directly with the Bay of Bengal. (IANS)

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2005, June 30, www.chennaionline.com

Petition in HC to stop Sethu project

Chennai, June 29: With barely three days left for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to lay the foundation stone for the multi-crore Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP) off Tamil Nadu coast, an ecology protection organisation today filed a petition in the Madras High Court to quash the Centre's environment clearance for the project.


Besides seeking to quash the March 31 last 'Environment Impact Assessment Clearance' by the Union Environment Ministry, the petitioner, Coastal Action Network, also prayed for an interim injunction to restrain the Centre from taking up any activity related to the project till disposal of the petition.


The petition is likely to be heard by the court tomorrow.


Opposing the establishment of the Rs 2427.40 crore SSCP, which had generated political heat since it was accorded clearance by the Centre recently, the petitioner contended that dredging in the Gulf of Mannar, in connection with the project, would turn out to be a futile economic exercise as the fast water current would level the dredged portion.


Besides affecting the movement of whales and dolphins which frequent the area, the petitioner claimed that it will also leave a telling impact on the fishing community in the area and Sri Lanka who depend on the sea for their livelihood. The petitioner said the Centre could have held a joint study with Sri Lanka to determine the ecological and economic impact of SSCP.


The coral reefs which act as a nursery for fish would also be washed away, the petitioner claimed.


Alleging that the Centre had failed to take note of Tamil Nadu government's opposition to the project in relation to the sociological and environmental aspects, the CAN contended it was not fair on the part of the centre to ride "roughshod" over the state government.


Accusing the Centre of going ahead with the project without the NoC from the state Pollution Control Board (PCB) and without taking into consideration the possible environmental impact it would have, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had decided not to attend the foundation laying function to be held in Madurai.


Diasagreeing with Jayalalithaa's stand, DMK President K Karunanidhi had said the PCB clearance was neither mandatory nor was it a statutory requirement under the rules. (Our Correspondent)


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2005, June 30, www.asiantribune.com

Sethusamudram Shipping Canal would be dangerous in its present form.

Dr.R.Ramesh

The idea to have Sethusamudram Shipping Canal is one and a half centuries old. British Raj, Government of India, Government of Tamil Nadu and the Ministry of Shipping have taken initiatives to study the feasibility of the canal at various times. However, all these studies had been of a general nature and none of them, including the current study by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, have attempted to produce a technical feasibility study that is scientifically consistent.


Tuticorin Port Trust and the Ministry of Shipping claim that NEERI’s study is perfect scientifically. They also claim that the Hydrodynamic Modeling Study for the canal by Indomer Hydraulics Pvt. Ltd., done in the year 2004, proves that there would not be any damage to the coastal environment of India or Sri Lanka. They also assert that the computer simulation model of the December tsunami by Kenji Satake of Japan proves that tsunamis do not have a negative impact on the region where the canal will be dredged. They also assure us that five institutions have been asked to study the movement of sediments in real time, when the dredging work will be going on, so that if anything negative shall happen, it could be corrected immediately.


All these arguments make us feel that everything is fine technically with Sethu Project; but when analyzed in depth, a picture that is exactly opposite emerges.


Sethusamudram Shipping Canal in its present form is scientifically inconsistent on seven counts:

1) NEERI EIA, the study that gives the project its scientific legitimacy, has ignored the studies available on the sedimentation pattern of Palk Bay completely and has not fixed the exact locations wherein the dredged material would be dumped - these studies are crucial for the economic and technical survival of project, as they will give us an idea of how much sediment should be dredged each season and also prepare us for a study that will tell us where the dumped sediments will move every season,

2) Subsurface geology has been studied only for the 20 kilo meter stretch of the canal in the Adam’s Bridge area; Nothing is known about the subsurface geology of the Palk Strait region, where the canal’s length will be 54.2 km; if the sub surface turns out to be rocky, the cost of the project will go up many folds, and the effect of blasting these rocks would cause serious damages to the Palk Bay environment; this is stated by none other than the Technical Feasibility Report prepared by NEERI,

3) The historical cyclone data for this region from the years 1860 to 2000 tell us that cyclones cross this region and its neighborhood once every four years; all these cyclones have been proven to cause severe erosion of the coastal stretch in the nearby areas and then dump the eroded material in Palk Bay and Adam’s Bridge area; NEERI’s EIA, however, has ignored the issue of cyclones totally,

4) Indomer’s ‘Hydrodynamic Modeling Study for SSCP’ has also ignored the issue of the impact of cyclones on the canal completely. Thus, we do not know, what will happen to the canal in scientific terms during the period of cyclones,

5) Kenji Satake’s tsunami simulation model has been accepted as correct by international tsunami authorities; this model describes tsunami propagation in general terms, but fails to give us a clear picture of tsunami wave action in Palk Bay area; Tsunami computer simulation models by Prof. Steven N.Ward of University of California, Prof.Aditya Riyadi of Pusat Penelitian Kelautan Insitut Teknologi, Bandung, Indonesia, WI-Delft Hydraulics, Netherlands and DHI Softwares, USA and Indomer-Alkyon describe to us graphically the way tsunami waves attacked Palk Bay on December 26th. It was the models by Steven, Aditya and DHI that had prompted International tsunami expert Prof.Tad.S.Murty to warn Prime Minister’s Office on January 30, 2005 about the possible negative impact of SSCP during the times of future tsunamis,

6) Post Tsunami Studies by Department of Ocean Development and Zoological Survey of India have indicated that Palk Bay has received huge amount of sediment during the tsunami; that means, the amount of sediment that should be dredged would be much higher than it was planned earlier; this is definitely bound to increase the cost of the project,

7) Without these baseline studies, merely collecting the sediment samples at various places by various agencies will not help either to protect the canal during the time of future cyclone/tsunami or to protect the nearby coastal environment from the unexpected movement of the dredged dumps.


It is an international norm that offshore projects like SSCP should undertake a thorough scientific analysis of all the factors that would turn out to damaging to the stability of the canal at the planning stage itself.


The proponents of SSCP have not undertaken such a thoroughgoing study, in spite of having been warned by eminent geologists like Prof. C.P.Rajendran or Prof.Tad.S.Murty of the deficiencies found in their studies. The March 8, 2005 note from none other than PMO had highlighted all these issues. However, the project proponents have not felt it necessary to come out with an open and transparent - one to one answer to every question raised in the PMO note.


The proponents of the canal should have planned the right meticulous way, as they plan elsewhere in other parts of the world. Merely signing an MOU with Suez Canal Authority in the final days is really funny and will certainly not protect the canal from the existing high risk factors. Only consistent studies can make the idea of a reliable canal a real possibility.


Undertaking the project in the present form, it is felt, would turn out to be disastrous to the economy of Sri Lanka and India and to their present marine environment.


References:

All the reference materials related with this article can be viewed and downloaded from the following links:

1. http://palkbay.wikicities.com

2. http://sethunews.blogspot.com

3. http://manisanga.blogspot.com



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2005, June 30, www.newindpress.com

DMK bid to steal the thunder irks allies

MADURAI: With only two days to go for the launch of the historic Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project in Madurai on July 2, the Temple City is wearing an ostentatious look, courtesy the DMK, which has placed itself at the centrestage attempting to claim full credit for the venture.
But for the sterilised area of the massive 50-acre venue at Masthanpatti, the peripheral areas around it have been swarmed with DMK leaders and cadres ‘‘who have virtually taken control of everything in the Central Government function’’.



The entire area is awash with DMK flags. The party’s district functionaries say the city and its outskirts will be dotted with 50 vinyl hoardings, flagpoles, festoons and buntings to accord a rousing reception to their leader M Karunanidhi, who will be sharing the dais with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.


Despite the city having been painted red and black, the DMK functionaries still nurse a grudge: ‘‘the police have granted us permission to erect only 20 arches, against our request for 40’’, they grumble.


The DPA allies too have their share in the show of strength, but in a limited and modest manner. But the way the DMK conducts itself to steal the show seems to have irked not only its foes, but also its allies, especially the TN Congress Committee and the MDMK.


‘‘Its (the DMK) overriding involvement in the government function and its projection to make it a sole road show have caused heartburns among the allies’’, laments an MDMK functionary, whose leader Vaiko has been given the assignment of a guest of honour in the function. Citing Vaiko’s role in getting the project implemented, MDMK functionaries say it is unlikely that their leader will be given a chance to address.


Minister T R Baalu was evasive when journalists recently asked him for names of the UPA leaders who will speak on the occasion. ‘‘It is up to the PM to decide as the function will span, at the most, only an one-and-a-hours’’.


The MDMK cadres too have their own plans to show to the public that their party’s contribution for the implementation of the project was significant.


‘‘We have been asked to be very careful about the words in the banners and have been specifically instructed by the high command not to give even the slightest irritation to the DMK leader. We too have been asked to put up with the big brotherly attitude of the DMK bigwigs in the district,’’ a MDMK functionary says.


Karunanidhi and Vaiko are expected to reach Madurai by Pandyan Express on July 2.
Meanwhile, there is many a red face in the local district Congress office too. The ‘DMK’s one-upmanship’ was discussed at the consultative meeting held under the leadership of TNCC president G K Vasan here two days ago. The Congress workers had complained to Vasan that the whole function is being conducted like a DMK party meet and that major chunk of entry passes are reserved for the DMK cadres.



A local functionary said, ‘‘the DMK acts as if it is the ruling party and tries to sideline us. Even though we are not given adequate passes, we have asked our workers to assemble with tricolour flags at the venue to honour our leader Sonia Gandhi’’.

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2005, June 29, The Financial Express

NEERI granted eco clearance to Sethu project: ministry

Questioning the validity at the time of implementation unfortunate

ANIMESH SINGH

NEW DELHI, JUNE 28: Ministry of shipping has refuted Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s allegation that it had ‘hurriedly’ sought environmental clearance to the Sethusamudram canal project. It has said that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) prepared by National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) for the project had been cleared at all public fora.


The ministry has termed it as an unfortunate development that at the time of its implementation, its validity is being questioned.



Ms Jayalalithaa in a press statement last week had alleged the ministry of trying to earn browny points in order to take credit for the project. Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had appointed an expert committee to verify all aspects of the project, prior to the state government issuing a ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) to the Union environment ministry.


The chief minister’s statement said that the committee had found various discrepancies in NEERI’s report. She had announced her decision to boycott the inaugural function of the project on July 2 in Madurai.


Shipping ministry sources say that the NOC from the state government or TNPCB is not a statutory requirement for seeking environmental clearance for the project. They add that in fact the ministry had voluntarily sought to place the draft of NEERI report before the public of Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin. These are the places which fall under the impact area of the project. Apart from this, a presentation was also made to the environment and forest department of the state government in 2003.


Sources say that all these consultations were held much before the government started the process of formally applying for the project’s environmental clearance to TNPCB in June 2004. NEERI’s report covers all aspects addressed by TNPCB’s expert committee. These pertain to environmental settings in the project areas, assessment of environmental impacts, impact of dredging, and the overall environmental management plan of the project.


The ministry says that it had undertaken risk analysis for the proposed channel. Keeping in mind Sri Lanka’s environmental concerns, it also conducted coastline studies. It concluded that the channel would have no impact on the coastlines of both the nations and on the offshore coral islands present around the region.


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2005, June 28, www.newindpress.com

Baalu polluted political environment: Ganesan

MADURAI: The Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu has polluted the political environment in the country by not directly inviting the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for the foundation-stone laying ceremony of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project slated to be held in Madurai on July 2, said L Ganesan, BJP National Secretary, here on Monday.

Talking to reporters after courting arrest for attempting to stage a ‘rail roko’ at the Madurai Railway Junction condemning the hike in the prices of petrol and diesel, Ganesan said Baalu had breached protocol by not inviting a State’s Chief Minister for a function organised by the Government.

He said, if Sonia Gandhi and M Karunanidhi were personally invited to attend the function, then the Union Minister should have also invited the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who was the first person to raise a voice in favour of the project.

“I do not know whether the Sethusamudram project will pollute the environment but certainly the Union Minister has polluted the political environment in the country”, he pointed out.


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2005, June 28, www.newindpress.com

Movement demands withdrawal of SSCP

RAMANATHAPURAM: The movement protesting the implementation of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project on Monday demanded the withdrawal of the scheme.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the movement held at Rameswaram on Sunday, according to Karuppasamy, secretary of Ramanathapuram District Fish Workers Trade Union.

In a press release he said that the movement thanked Chief Minister for her statement stressing the adverse effect that the project would have on the lives of the fisher folk when other political leaders remained mum.

The meeting also resolved that fishermen should stage demonstrations opposite post offices in Ramanathapuram, Thondi and Rameswaran on the day of the inaugural function of the project in Madurai on Saturday.

It was also resolved that fishermen should send telegrams to President Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and Union Minister for Shipping T R Baalu, demanding the withdrawal of the project.

Palsamy, president of the trade union presided. Annammal, vice president of the union, S P Rayappan of Country Boat Fishermen Welfare Association and several others participated, the release said.

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2005, June 28, www.newindpress.com

Vasan denies Jaya’s charge

MADURAI: Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President G K Vasan on Monday brushed aside Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s charge subverting environmental clearance process for the implementation of Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP) as “sheer political jealousy”.

“It is only unfortunate that the chief minister herself acts as a barrier for the historic launch of the dream project that is likely to provide a fillip to the nation’s economy,” Vasan said. He wondered why the chief minister, who once claimed credit for the project, could now be an impediment to its implementation.

Thanking the Congress-led UPA Government for according approval for the SSCP, Vasan said, Thoothukudi and Chennai ports would transform into international ports on the lines of the Singapore port with the implementation of the project.

Giving credit to the union ministers from the State for bringing about the SSCP, the TNCC chief said that making the dream project come true was the biggest achievement and sought to know why the Chief Minister had not clarified her doubts or sought explanations about the environmental aspects earlier.

.... Earlier, Vasan, along with Dindigul MP N S V Chitthan, former MP A G S Rambabu and others, visited the foundation-laying venue for the SSCP and inspected the arrangements.

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2005, June 27, The Hindu

TN PCB's nod not statutory, says Karunanidhi

Chennai, June 27 (PTI):

Responding to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's statement that the Centre was going ahead with the Sethusamudram Project without the No Objection Certificate from the State Pollution Control Board, DMK president K Karunanidhi today said the Board's clearance was neither mandatory nor was it a statutory requirement under the rules.


"The NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the State Government or TNPCB is not a statutory requirement for consideration of environmental clearance for a project for which such clearance is to be accorded by the Central Government as per the Environmental Impact Assessment," Karunanidhi said in a statement here, quoting from a Union Government Notification of January 1994.


Strongly opposing the project, Jayalalithaa, last week, said the Sethusamudram project had not received the NOC from TNPCB and the Centre was proceeding with the project without taking into consideration the possible environmental impact by the SSCP.


Speaking at the inauguration of the 50-km stretch of Golden Quadrilateral at Krishnagiri yesterday, T R Baalu has said that the TNPCB's NOC was "not a statutory obligation". The Shipping Ministry and the Tuticorin Port Trust, the nodal agency entrusted with the task of implementation of the project have furnished detailed and satisfactory explanation on the concerns conveyed by the commom man, he said.


Inspite of the obstacles put up by the State Government, the Ministry was able to elicit responses from the public and the fishermen community in six southern districts, Baalu said.


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2005, June 25, The Hindu

Baalu denies TN CM's charge on SSCP

Madurai, June. 25 (PTI):

Shipping Minister T R Baalu, today denied Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's charge that the Centre had "subverted" the environmental clearance process in the proposed implementation of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP), that will create a navigable sea-route across the Palk strait.


"I am neither a novice nor foolhardy to do that," Baalu today told reporters here.
He said that he had been President of the United Nations framework convention on climate change during 2002, and knew the world would be looking at him when a prestigious project like the SSCP was being implemented.



He added that experts from the Alagappa Engineering College, Central Electrochemical Research Institute, and Centre for Advanced Studies, would closely monitor if any changes were taking place in the sea or in the atmosphere while dredging takes place.


"The marine water quality, noise pollution..air pollution, everything would be monitored closely and report would be sent to the Tuticorin Port Trust then and there," he said.


"The project was drawing global attention; and would bring honour and prestige to Tamil Nadu and India, besides helping in the economic development of the nation and the State," he said.


"I want to concentrate on such a project rather than joining the issue (controversy over environment) with the Chief Minister or officials and create further controversy," he said.
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2005, June 26, www.newindpress.com

Sethusamudram inauguration: Full text of Jaya's statement

Press statement of Selvi J Jayalalithaa, Hon'ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu

25.6.2005

Media reports indicate that the Sethusamudram Canal Project Launch is to be held on 2nd July, 2005, as a major political Road Show at the behest of the 'patriarch' of the DMK Party Thiru M. Karunanidhi, who has to be seen in such functions organized at State expense to be in the limelight, whether in power or out of power.

The unseemly haste with which this function has been organized, that too at Madurai and not at the Coast where the project is to be executed is indeed startling. Right from the beginning, the Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, has shown scant regard for the environmental concerns relating to this project and has been intent on and content to merely have a grand show featuring his 'Patriarch' so that he can continue undisturbed in the Union Cabinet.

I have always been in the forefront to secure major development projects for Tamil Nadu. I have thus recently ensured that Chennai gets a new International Airport.

Everyone knows that I will never relent in my efforts to get major development projects for Tamil Nadu. It may be recalled that it was on the request of the late Puratchi Thalaivar M.G.R., that a Committee was constituted by the Government of India in 1981, to determine the feasibility of this Canal Project. While the Committee did find the project feasible, it was not taken up due to financial reasons. I raised this issue as a Member of the Rajya Sabha in 1984 and again in 1986 and stressed that the project should not be viewed merely in financial terms, but should be taken up keeping in view the national security concerns also.

On 10.5.1986, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly moved a Resolution demanding the implementation of the Sethusamudram Canal Project without any further delay. In July, 1991, as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, I presented a Memorandum to the then Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, insisting that the Sethusamudram Canal Project should be taken up. It was my Government, which entrusted a new study to M/s. Pallavan Transport Consultancy Services Limited in 1994, to prepare an updated feasibility report. This was completed in 1996. It was on my insistence that the Sethusamudram Canal Project was taken up as a priority project in 1998 and an initial Environmental Impact Study was entrusted to the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in March, 1998.

This report was also made available in August, 1998.

Thus, I have been instrumental in ensuring that the Sethusamudram Canal Project becomes a reality. At the same time, I have always maintained that extreme precaution should be taken before actually undertaking the project, in view of the fact that this is a unique ecologically sensitive zone with rich and rare biodiversity. Further, the zone where the Sethusamudram Canal Project is to be executed is a major fishing zone, which provides livelihood to lakhs of fishermen of Tamil Nadu.

I have always maintained that before taking up the canal project, it has to be ensured by careful studies that their livelihood is not affected in any way.

Any canal project, such as the Sethusamudram Canal Project involves massive dredging of the seafloor. It is elementary that in such an ecologically sensitive project, where disturbance of the seafloor is involved, maximum safeguards have to be provided after detailed evaluation.

The impact on the fishing community has to be carefully evaluated and any damage to their livelihood prevented. Thus, there are very serious environmental issues relating to this project, which need careful study.

The whole point is that while the project is most important, it can only be undertaken after great care and preparation, paying attention to all the environmental concerns. Instead, we have a Minister, namely, Thiru T.R. Baalu, who is driven by the desire to have a mega function and for other reasons best known to him, is brushing aside all the environmental concerns with some big talk about some project allocations to address them.

Thiru T.R. Baalu seems to have fully imbibed in his previous stint as Union Minister of Environment and Forests the techniques required to subvert the environmental clearance process. He has thus bulldozed his way through the environmental clearance process required for this project with another DMK Minister, Thiru A. Raja, conveniently in that Ministry. The travesty of this clearance process will be noticed as all the environmental concerns have been brushed away and simply put as conditions to the clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. This has raised genuine worries among fishermen and all the people in the Coastal Districts as to what really lies in store once the project work commences.

The breakneck speed with which the environmental clearance process has been rushed through in respect of the Sethusamudram Canal Project has to be contrasted with the extraordinary delay in clearing the Pykara Ultimate Stage Hydro Electric Project which had no major environmental issues. Ultimately, I had to get the clearance only through the Supreme Court of India. When even for minor issues relating to the environment, Thiru T.R. Baalu would stall a project of the Government of Tamil Nadu, it is incredible how even the elementary precautions for such a large project with admittedly serious environmental impact are given short shrift. I am deeply troubled by this abuse of the environmental clearance process. Where is the transparency in so sensitive a matter involving the people? Where is the respect for the genuine concerns of the people? Who is to answer when the people ask and demand a reply? Thiru T.R. Baalu and his cohorts will vanish, flying away to Delhi and it is the Government of Tamil Nadu, which has to face the people.

We have also seen the controversy, which was revealed in the media on the environmental concerns raised by the Prime Minister's Office regarding the Sethusamudram Canal Project.

Thereafter, there is a deafening silence with nobody having a clue as to how these concerns have really been addressed. What is shocking is that these concerns have been put down in the environmental clearance as conditions when what was really required was further detailed studies to establish the true impact of this project. As I have said before, it is the State Government, which is that much closer to the people that will have to provide answers to the environmental concerns raised by people all along the coast. It is for this reason that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board appointed an Expert Committee to go into all aspects of this project before forwarding the proposal to the Government of Tamil Nadu to furnish the mandatory required 'No Objection Certificate' to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

The Expert Committee has just now submitted its report to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. This Committee, with Dr. M. Ravindran, former Director of the National Institute of Ocean Technology as its Chairman and other eminent experts, has carefully gone into all aspects of the project and has come to certain specific conclusions.

It has warned that further detailed studies are necessary before going ahead with the project. This Committee has categorically concluded that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report prepared by NEERI has a number of deficiencies. It has highlighted the important actions to be undertaken to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment under different heads, namely, Baseline Studies covering three seasons, Scoping and Environmental Management Plan. The Committee has specifically recommended that several studies such as assessing the impact due to dredging and dumping with specific reference to the dumping areas, impact during operation of the canal, impact of oil spill, etc., should be undertaken using modelling tools which are available.

These are all needed to ensure that proper management plans are drawn to protect sea life, valuable coral reefs and the livelihood of fishermen. The above studies have to be carried out to complete the comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment Report. The specific conclusions reached by the Committee are as follows: "Only when these suggested studies are carried out, the total impact of the project can be fully understood. This understanding is necessary to arrive at suitable decisions on the execution of the SSC project." This is the current status of the Environmental Impact Evaluation by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

This has to be considered in detail and the Board has to forward its recommendations to the Government of Tamil Nadu. Only thereafter, the Government of Tamil Nadu can decide on the question of furnishing the 'No Objection Certificate' to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

The great tragedy is that the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, has been bulldozed into according the environmental clearance even without waiting for the 'No Objection Certificate' from the Government of Tamil Nadu, although this is mandatory required under the Regulations framed by the Ministry itself. It is shocking to see how the entire environmental clearance process has been subverted in the pursuit of an immediate mega function and publicity organized as a political Road Show. What about the concerns of the Tamil Nadu coastal fishermen? Already there is restlessness among the fishermen that their entire livelihood would fall a prey to the dredger, which will dig up the seafloor. It would appear that there is genuine risk that many of them will lose their livelihood. Even the so-called environmental clearance given envisages that such a situation will emerge.

Should not the State Government be taken into confidence on what are the implications? I am greatly concerned by what might actually befall the fishermen in several coastal districts of Tamil Nadu.

While there can be no second thought about implementing the Sethusamudram Canal Project, it is indeed most shocking that the genuine and significant environmental concerns relating to this project have been brushed aside with such callous abandon and a devil-may-care attitude displayed by Thiru T.R. Baalu. He ought to remember that he is playing with the lives of lakhs of poor people including the fishermen of Tamil Nadu. He ought to also remember that posterity will never forgive him for the extreme haste with which he has gone about the project launch, abandoning even a semblance of respect for the environment.

While I am keen that the Sethusamudram Canal Project should be implemented, I have particularly insisted that this should be done only after all the genuine environmental concerns are properly addressed. The project launch can be taken up only thereafter. Subverting the environmental clearance process merely to have a grand function for political gain needs to be condemned. With this background, I am unable to bring myself to participate in this function on 2nd July, 2005, at Madurai.

J JAYALALITHAA

Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
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2005, June 24, www.chennaionline.com

Tsunami has taken its toll on sea algae

Madurai, June 24: The December 26 tsunami had taken its toll on the sea algae (seaweed), and the quantum of damage is being assessed, Dr Krishnamurthy, director of Seaweed Research and Utility Institute, based at Chennai, said.

The algae in the sea off the stretch between Tiruchendur and Kanyakumari had been affected by the tsunami, he said.

Participating at a three-day seminar on 'Seaweed -- its usefulness' recently, he said there were 850 varieties of sea algae of which only 15 were used for making food and other items.

"Research is on to make use of other algae varieties. Algae could be used in cosmetics and textiles as in Japan. Now we have to develop technology," he said.

Tuticorin Port Trust chairman M K Raghupathy said the research on seaweed would help during the implementation of the Sethusamudram Canal project. A coordination committee needed to be set up to coordinate all the activities of the SSCP, he added. (Agencies)


Link to the researches on Sea Grass of Palk Bay/ Department of Ocean Development's Report on Tsunami Damage (including Palk Bay). Click Here.


Related Story:

2005, April 22, The Hindu

"Marine ecology of Bay of Bengal irrevocably altered by tsunami"

Vani Doraisamy

Long-term study needed to assess exact extent of devastation: report

CHENNAI: The tsunami that hit the Tamil Nadu and Andaman and Nicobar coasts last year has irrevocably altered the marine ecology of the Bay of Bengal region, says a preliminary tsunami impact assessment report prepared by the Zoological Survey of India for the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands are the worst hit, though the coastal morphology of eastern peninsular India has also changed permanently. However, the exact extent of devastation can be ascertained only after sustained long-term investigations, the report says.

The brunt of the attack was borne by the coral reef ecosystem, which, in most cases, helped reduce the impact on land. "Most of the coral reefs in the Great Nicobar islands have been reduced to rubble. Sand and silt have been deposited on the reefs, choking them. Many reef-dependant species have lost their habitat and their breeding cycles have been disrupted," says K. Venkatraman, Joint Director, ZSI.

The massive sea ingress and submergence of Nicobarese coastal flatlands have uprooted several corals, increased water turbidity and destroyed habitats.

The tsunami, however, has been kinder on the fragile Gulf of Mannar biosphere, shadowed by Sri Lanka. Though the change in coastal morphology is striking, with the ecosphere showing "geomorphic changes," the reefs have been only "partly affected by the breakage of some of the branching corals and uprooting of table corals." The hardier "boulder corals," which also act as wave-brakes, have suffered less damage.

Islands submerged

Many islands such as Kurusadai,Valai-Thalayari and Appa have been divided into two as the waves have submerged the connecting sand tracts. Other islands have been eroded and their size reduced.

The seaweed and seagrass ecosystem between Rameswaram and Kanyakumari have either been uprooted or submerged, "dislocating many associated organisms and changing the species composition."

The worst affected is the benthic ecosystem comprising the invertebrate animals. A huge population of sponges have been affected and animals such as crabs, lobsters and stomatopods displaced from their coral homes. "The tsunami has changed the breeding area by dumping silt and debris and relocating the breeding population to other areas which may not be conducive to their survival. Also, increased water turbidity may lead to mass mortality of fish. The breeding cycle of marine turtles has already been affected and the loss of the seagrass which is the main food for endangered marine mammals like the dugong may also lead to a change in breeding habitat," the report says.

However, the tsunami has benefited river estuaries: the mouths of the Adyar and the Cooum in Chennai, for example, have been desilted, opening up the choked rivers to flushing by seawater which may positively impact riverine biodiversity.

"Only a comprehensive assessment using standardised methodology can generate the real extent of damage. Also, there should be regular monitoring to assess further changes and recovery," says Dr. Venkatraman.


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2005, June 22 www.chennaionline.com

Invitation faxed to Jaya: Baalu

Madurai, June 22:

Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu today said invitation for the inauguration of the Sethusamudram Canal Project work had been faxed to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

Later the deputy chairman of the Tuticorin Port Trust would go and invite her in person. The Governor would also be invited as a guest, he said when asked whether the Chief Minister would be invited for the July 2 function.

Asked whether he himself would invite the Chief Minister, Baalu said, "If necessary, the port trust chairman would invite her for the function."

Tuticorin Port Trust chairman S Raghupathy said, "If the Chief Minister insists that I should invite her, then I am at her command and I will go and invite her."

Annoyed over the questions on inviting Jayalalithaa for the function, Baalu advised reporters to ask questions on development issues. (Agencies)


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2005, June 22 The Asian Tribune
http://www.asiantribune.com/show_news.php?id=14832

Sethu Canal is a Political Asset of a Few

By Dr.R.Ramesh

Many over the past few months had discussed Sethu Canal as a strategic tool of the Indian Navy. Sivaram Taraki’s article, which appeared in ‘Daily Mirror’ on 6 October 2004, had this as its prime theme. Donald J.Gnanakone, Commodore Vasan and Venkatesh had written on this issue.

Other than these writers, this line of thought had been close to the hearts of the politicians who were vociferously campaigning for the cause of the canal.On 19 May 2005, when the Indian Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its nod for the project finally, Mr.P.Chidambaram, Finance Minister and one of the strong proponents of the Canal said, “While the rates of return are satisfactory, the externalities cannot be quantified. There are externalities of defense, security and anti-smuggling….” (Ref 1) Mr.T.R.Baalu, Minister for Shipping and one who had lobbied with the Indian Government tooth and nail for the cause of the canal, had this to say even much earlier: “There is a serious concern of security in the area (the Gulf of Mannar) and the Sethusamudram project will address the problem fittingly.” (Ref. 2)

Is Indian Navy behind the Canal Project? Is Sethu Canal taken up by GoI to fulfill the supposedly Indian Navy’s strategic plan? How much is Indian Defense Establishment interested this Canal?

These questions require urgent answers.


Sethusamudram and the Indian Defense Establishment: 1860 – 2002

It remains an enigma till this day, that in the entire history of Sethusamudram Shipping Canal project starting from 1860 onwards, the only non-retired person from the Indian Military (both colonial and post-colonial included) who had spoken about the project is Commander Alfred Dundas Taylor (1825-1898); and Commander Taylor is credited as the original originator of the idea of the canal itself.

Over the last 145 years, 14 Committees had been formed for studying the feasibility of the canal. British Raj had formed 9 such committees in the period 1860 – 1922; Government of India had formed committees twice in this regard in the years 1955 and 1968; Ministry of Shipping had formed committees twice in the years 1981 and 2002 (the present proposal by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur); Government of Tamil Nadu had formed a committee in the year 1996. It so seems that Indian Navy was not actively involved or was not actively interested in any one of these committees.

The first non-officer but very much linked with the Indian Military to go vocal about the canal was Mr.George Fernandes. This was in the year 1999 and he was the then Defense Minister. He had actually talked about the project way back in 1996 but nothing much happened since then. In January 1999 he visited Rameshwaram and made an important statement. Newspapers reported: “Speaking about the "Dream-come-true project," after an aerial survey of the site, the ebullient Indian minister said that the construction of the Canal would be taken up in two phases. Fernandes added that the whole project would be completed within six years, under the direct supervision of his ministry of defense. "First phase of the canal project would be initiated shortly and expected to be completed within four years" said the minister. He elaborated that action would be taken to dredge 44 nautical miles of the sea floor to a depth of 31 feet. It is understood that during the phase two of the implementation, the seabed would be dredged further 35 feet to enable easy navigation of larger ships in the Gulf of Mannar region.” (Ref. 3)

It was the time when NEERI had just completed its Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) for the Sethu Canal Project. This was done under a contract from the Tuticorin Port Trust, which itself was working under the orders of the Ministry of Shipping and Surface Transport. After this initial study, NEERI requested TPT to commission to it a full-fledged Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for the project. TPT gave this job to NEERI as requested on May 13, 2005. When such a sequence of events was happening, how did the Minister of Defense choose to tell the Press with certainty that the work on the canal would begin within a few months, would be completed in 6 years and that his ministry would supervise the entire work?

Had the Indian Defense Establishment been really interested in taking up SSCP for a real geo political strategic cause, then why after the Defense Minister’s January 1999 statement, the minister or the officials from his Ministry or the Indian Military did not have even a single word to say about the project in the public? As before, the project was proceeding in its usual snail pace during this period. It was the inputs from the Ministry of Shipping and not the Ministry of Defense that was keeping the Project barely alive in this period.


May 2002 – March 2005

NEERI completed the Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment it started in May 2002 by November 2003. During the course of this study, it had conducted two public opinion gathering meetings with fisher folk and general public at Ramnad and Tuticorin in September 2003. It, however, for unknown reasons did not consider it necessary to take the opinion of the Coast Guard Station located at Mandapam or the Naval Air Station (playing a major role in Operation Tasha) located at Ramnad. The interesting point here is that Indian Navy was not disturbed by this omission. It was neither interested in contacting NEERI to know the results of the report nor was it interested to share voluntarily its view about the whole issue. It chose to remain a mute spectator.

NEERI applied for a No Objection Certificate from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on January 9, 2004. Following this Public Hearings were announced from September onwards. On December 17, the Madras High Court made observations in favour of the project while dismissing a writ petition against the public hearings. However, agitations from the fisher folk, environmental activists, intellectuals and the event of December 26th tsunami dragged the whole process up till March 2005. This period witnessed many independent scientific studies on the possible negative implications of the canal project on India and Sri Lanka from the Indian scientific community. Even during this turbulent period, when the project was challenged from all the sides, Indian Defense Establishment was not interested in the issue. It just remained silent.

To cap this all, came a public note from the Prime Minister’s Office on 8 March 2005. (Ref. 4) This was the headline news story in The Indian Express dated 9 March. In this note, the PMO had asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests carefully go through all the issues inimical to the project before considering to give the canal its final clearance. It also chose to raise pertinent questions regarding the issues of sedimentation, cyclones and tsunami being a threat to the feasibility of the project itself and had asked the project proponents to submit their answers to all these questions before the clearance. Why did the PMO release this note publicly? If it was coordinating the whole project as a part of India’s larger defense strategy, why should it choose to release a public note that was harsh on the canal project on many counts?

Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) chose not to give its clearance for the project in March end. The central Ministry for Environment and Forests, (whose minister hails from the DMK party, which is wanting the project at any cost) decided in a great hurry to clear the project on 30 March 2005. Nowhere, in any of these dramatic events, the Indian Navy was seen standing with its strategic proposal for using this canal as an important military tool to achieve its hegemony over the Indian Ocean.

The Canal becomes a Strategic Tool – at last!

The project proposal was now placed before the Indian Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for its final clearance. Mr.T.R.Baalu, who leads the campaign for the canal, had gone public earlier, that this will be the toughest part of the project clearance, as the Planning Commission and the PMO had criticized the project in the public domain only a month before. He, however, was confident in getting the clearance by all means.

On April 13th, the National Investment Board gave its nod for the project. The crucial period was between this date and the first week of May. It was around May 5th that the project is said to have been cleared by CCEA but withheld from making it public for the reason of Kanchipuram-Gummidipoondi elections that were held on 14 May. It was in this crucial period, on 29 April, Mr.R.S.Vasan, a retired Commodore of Indian Navy, living in Chennai, published his paper “Palk Bay Issues and Security Concerns: An Analysis” inhttp://www.saag.org/, the web portal of a group of intellectuals who describe themselves as follows: “A non profit, non commercial think tank. The objective of the group is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding. In so doing, the SAAG seeks to address the decision makers, strategic planners, academics and the media in South Asia and the world at large.”

Commodore R S Vasan IN (Retd)’s paper (Ref.5) was completed on 25 April (according to the pdf print data in his article). His paper has Sethusamudram Shipping Canal as its primary theme and locates and analyses it with respect to the security (fishing, smuggling, sea tigers of LTTE) situation present in Palk Bay. It concludes: “Palk Bay and the Sethusamudram Canal are both important to us strategically. Prima facie, there are a lot of advantages that the canal offers to Peninsular India and would facilitate economic growth in the under developed Districts of Tamil Nadu. The impact on related security issues definitely would need to be assessed and constantly reviewed to ensure that the Security Forces are pro active and have their Operational and Contingency plans in place simultaneous to the commissioning of the prestigious canal.”

Com.Vasan’s article does not consider SSCP as a military tool; it considers it as an economic tool that has potential threats from Sea Tigers, fishing disputes between the two countries.

With the PMO, Cabinet Committee and the Planning Commission having a lobby that had opposed the Canal a month back, and with no consistent scientific studies to prove the canal’s technically feasibility at the present time, the only solution that was available for the protagonists of the canal, was to convince Ms. Sonia Gandhi some how.

It is most likely, that Mr.P.Chidambaram the Union Finance Minister using his close access to Ms.Sonia Gandhi, presented to her in the early days of May, the contents of Commodore.Vasan’s paper and kindled the personal memories of her husband’s brutal assassination by LTTE. This, along with other arguments presented in the paper to protect the environment and the rights of fisher folk and the criticism surrounding Mrs.Indira Gandhi’s decision to cede Kacchathivu to Sri Lanka, should have convinced her about the sanity of the project. The consent obtained from Ms.Sonia Gandhi should have been the tool that simply blew the early realism of the Indian Prime Minister’s office and the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project is now well under way!

Whether the retired Commodore wrote his paper purposefully in connivance with the proponents of the canal, we know not. But, what we are sure is that it is this discourse, which went on to paint the usefulness of the Canal to contain the threat of the LTTE Navy in the near and distant future that earned the canal’s final clearance. Mr.P.Chidambaram’s statement immediately after the CCEA clearance to the canal proves this conclusion right. He said: “While the rates of return are satisfactory, the externalities cannot be quantified. There are externalities of defense, security and anti-smuggling….”

It is not strange at all that this discourse did not come from Indian Navy’s own assessments about the issue.

Taraki, Gnanakone and Venkatesh

Sivaram Taraki had considered the canal as a strategic tool in the hands of Indian Navy. He supported his argument with quotes from K.M.Panikkar and K.B.Valdia and extrapolated their conclusions to the present issue; this hypothesis is proved wrong, as it does not explain as to why Indian Navy has remained a disinterested and a silent observer over all these years. (Ref. 6)

Gnanakone, shares the conclusion of Taraki. In addition to it, he considers the canal primarily linked with Kudankulam Atomic Power Project and the plant’s future secret plans to produce Nuclear Weapons, which he considers will be stored in Rameshwarm Naval Base. He also talks about Nuclear Submarines that might operate from Rameshwaram Naval Base and the Sethu Canal’s possible utility in this well thought out plan. While the transport of Spent Fuel from KNPP (in the event of Kudankulam not going in for a Reprocessing Plant in future) through Sethu Canal to Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant (KARP) from 2011 onwards is a very real possibility, the evidences about the attitude of Indian Navy to the canal project prove his conclusion (that ‘all this is a well orchestrated plan’) wrong. (Ref.7)

Unlike Taraki and Gnanakone, Venkatesh’s article does not consider the canal as a project lobbied by Indian Navy. It on the contrary, tries to present the strategic usefulness of the canal to Indian Navy itself and to others! He considers the canal as a strategic asset and then goes on to list the issues that should be overcome in order to make this canal operational in a problem free environment. (Ref.8)


Sethu Canal is a Political Asset for a few.

Unbiased scientific opinion in India and elsewhere considers Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project as a scientifically inconsistent, technologically non-feasible project, at the present time. (Ref. 9) The arguments presented thus have not been countered or answered in open-transparent forums by the project proponents. Hurdles posed by PMO had been overcome by imaginative, covert, operations. With Indian Navy remaining silent, the proponents have even become the Strategists of Palk Bay!

The strongest proponents of the Canal over the last three years are professional politicians who are experts in selling their deeds (and misdeeds even!) to the voters as a grand achievement of a Race. Mr.T.R.Baalu and his political party DMK and Mr.P.Chdambaram have received the maximum canal related publicity. Mr.Vaiko of MDMK has lost much of his earlier fanfare related with this canal in recent years. Ms.Jayalaalitha claimed credit for the canal but her fame with respect to the canal simply does not match the one of T.R.Baalu or P.Chidambaram.

The canal has made Mr.T.R.Baalu and Mr.P.Chidambaram remain in every one of the Tamil Nadu news digest daily almost over the past two years. Sethu Canal has in fact become a Brand for Mr.T.R.Baalu.

These politicians will sell Sethu Canal in the campaign of the 2006 Tamil Nadu election. Which ‘sane’ politician will bother about the Canal after that?

For the project proponents, all this drama is bliss.

It is for the people of Sri Lanka, India and the Government of Sri Lanka to decide whether they are willing to be part of this fiction orchestrated by a few self-centered politicians for their own personal gains?

References:

1) 2005, May 20, The Hindu, “CCEA clears Sethusamudram project at Rs 2,427 crore”, in http://sethunews.blogspot.com

2) 2004, July 10, The Hindu, “Bureaucrats blamed for inordinate delay” in http://sethunews.blogspot.com

3) Quoted from: K.T.Rajasingam, Weekend Express - 16th Saturday - 17th Sunday, January 1999, available at http://k.t.rajasingam.tripod.com/canal.htm or http://palkbay.wikicities.com/wiki/Sethusamudram/Palk_Bay

4) 2005, March 9, The New Indian Express, “PMO finds holes in ship canal project, says fix them first”, in http://www.saag.org/%5Cpapers14%5Cpaper1355.html

6) http://www.tamilnation.org/forum/sivaram/041006.htm

7) http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tamilinfodaily/message/542 or at http://palkbay.wikicities.com/wiki/Sethusamudram/Palk_Bay

8) http://www.asiantribune.com/show_article.php?id=2418

9) http://manisanga.blogspot.com



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2005, June 22 PTI

PM to inaugurate SSCP work on July 2









Madurai, June 22:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the work on the Sethusamudram Canal Project (SSCP) here on July 2, Union Minister for Shipping and Surface Transport T R Baalu said here today.

Apart from the Prime Minister, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and all Union Ministers from Tamil Nadu would attend the function, he told reporters after releasing the SSCP logo, designed by the National Institute of Fashion Design.

Invitations would be sent to Governor Surjit Singh Barnala, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, MPs and MLAs of Tamil Nadu, Baalu said.

He also released a picturesque design of the SSCP project office, to be set up at Mandapam on a 10,000 sq feet area, for which the state government has been approached for land.

Baalu also informed that the Memorandum of Understanding with the Suez Canal company had been initialled by the chairman of the Tuticorin Port Trust, K Raghupathy, and that it would be ratified at the ministerial level at Chennai, at a time to be fixed later.

The areas of cooperation under the MoU include exchange of information, expertise and technological advancements, which will facilitate and promote the construction, operation and Management of SSCP.

The Minister assured that fishermen would not be affected in any way by the project and there would not be any ban on fishing anywhere, as the dredging operation would be done by a ship at a particular point. The officials would closely monitor the silt, toxicity, etc and ensure that no harm was done to the environment.

The Minister said the Suez Canal, Panama Canal and the Sethusamudram Canal were almost conceived at the same time in 1869. (Agencies)

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2005, June 19 The Hindu

Sethusamudram project: Minister allays fears












MADURAI: Fishing activity in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait will not be affected at all due to the implementation of the Sethusamudram channel project, the Union Minister for Shipping, T.R. Baalu, said on Saturday.

Speaking to the media here, Mr. Baalu said all good projects faced opposition. All the core issues concerning fishermen had been clarified through public hearings conducted in all coastal districts. Refuting charges that the meetings were held "hastily" and the views of the stakeholders were not properly looked into, he said, "in some districts the meetings were held thrice."

Mr. Baalu said: "Still I am and my officials are open to any kind of discussion. We are ready to clarify any genuine doubts." There would be no displacement of fishermen due to the implementation of the project and Rs. 60 crores had been allotted from the project cost exclusively for safeguarding the welfare of the fishing community.

"We could not imagine having four to five new fishing harbours (as part of the project) in the State otherwise," Mr. Baalu added.

Stating that no political party in Tamil Nadu was objecting to the channel, he said, "if somebody tries to instigate and exploit the fishermen, they will not succeed."

Allaying fears that the turbidity generated due to dredging work would affect breeding of fishes, he said dredging had been undertaken in Suez and Panama canals without any such negative impact. "We have been carrying out periodical dredging at the Tuticorin harbour for maintenance of depth," he said. Turbidity would settle down automatically.

Stating that the elected representatives of people had the responsibility to safeguard the welfare of the fishing community, he said he himself came from a family involved in fishing. "If they do not have faith in the Union Ministers of Tamil Nadu, I wonder, whom they [the fishing community] would believe in," the Minister said.

Asked whether a "no-objection" from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board was a pre-requisite to implement the project, he said, "as per the Statute, there is no necessity to get no-objection from any of the State Governments for this type of work."

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2005, June 19 Dhina Thanthi

Sethusamudram Project: Inauguration First Week of July at Madurai

Manmohan Singh, Sonia to participate













.....The function will be conducted at a place near Pandi Kovil, Madurai. Mr.Karunanithi, Mr. Chidambaram are to participate.... When asked whether the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms.Jayalalithaa would be invited for the function, Mr.T.R.Baalu said, the Tutucorin Port Trust Chairmain would invite her.... He also said: 'I and my family were involved in fishing business and I own a big ship. Hence, I know about the pros and cons in Fishery resources and business. People had similar fears when Tuticorin Port was constructed. But now, fishery resources there is good. Hence, fisherfolk should understand that there would be no negative consequences (from the Sethu project)...'
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2005, June 19 The Hindu

Shipping Ministry team leaves for Cairo

To hold pre-MoU discussions with Suez Canal Authority officials

R. Vimal Kumar

TUTICORIN: A high-level team from the Union Ministry of Shipping left for Cairo on Saturday to discuss with officials of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) prior to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with them to utilise their expertise for the implementation of Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP).


Sources at the Tuticorin Port Trust, the nodal agency for implementing the SSCP, told The Hindu that the team led by Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Shipping, and N.K. Raghupathy, Chairman and Managing Director of the SSCP, as well as the Chairman of the Tuticorin Port Trust, would hold a discussion with the SCA officials on June 19, to finalise the draft of the MoU. The MoU would be signed in India later, the sources said.


Official sources said that the MoU would facilitate knowledge-sharing between the Indian and Suez authorities on construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed Sethusamudram channel.


The training of officials and maintenance of accounts too would be part of the MoU, they added. The Centre had been working on an MoU to be signed with Panama Canal authorities too on another occasion for setting up a Maritime University along the Indian coast.

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2005,June 16 Business Line
UTI Bank to handle funds for Sethusamudram project

The entire cost of Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project is estimated at Rs 2,427 crore.












Chennai , June 15


SETHUSAMUDRAM Corporation Ltd, the special purpose vehicle for the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP), has appointed UTI Bank to handle the financial arrangements for the project.

At a press conference on Wednesday, the Sethusamudram Corporation's Chairman and Managing Director, Mr N.K. Raghupathy, said that UTI Bank, which was selected through a competitive tendering process will be the `arranger' of funds, including the rupee and foreign currency loans and handle the public issue or private placement, if any.

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, would inaugurate the project in the first week of July, he said.

The Sethusamudram ship channel envisages dredging of a 167-km channel along the Palk Straits, Palk Bay and Adam's Bridge between Sri Lanka and India to connect the Bay of Bengal and the Gulf of Mannar. This would enable ships to take a shorter route between the two countries instead of having to sail around Sri Lanka.

In four days' time he would ink an agreement with the Suez Canal Authority, which would share its 145-year experience in construction and maintenance of a similar ship channel facility, Mr Raghupathy said.

The entire cost of the SSCP is estimated at Rs 2,427 crore, which includes the project cost of Rs 2,233 crore and the balance constituting the financial cost and interest during the construction. The debt equity would be 1.5:1, he said.

The equity component would be Rs 971 crore with the Union Government taking a 51 per cent stake of Rs 495 crore. The balance would be shared between the Tuticorin Port Trust and the Shipping Corporation of India, which would each contribute Rs 50 crore and the other five partners, Chennai Port Trust, Ennore Port, Visakhapatnam Port Trust, Paradip Port Trust and the Dredging Corporation of India would bring in Rs 30 crore each, Mr Raghupathy said.

Through a public issue or private placement the Sethusamudram Corporation would raise Rs 230 crore, he added.

The debt component would be in the form of equal portions of rupee loan and foreign currency loan. The Cabinet has approved a proposal for extending the Government guarantee. The financial institutions have assured that financial closure could be taken for granted with the only issue being finalisation of the interest rate, he said.

The project involves dredging up about 82.5 million cubic metres of soil, which is expected to take about 30 months, Mr Raghupathy said. Initially, the Dredging Corporation of India would dredge 13 million cubic metres and the balance would be allotted on the basis of international competitive bidding. The Dredging Corporation would be paid the same as the bidding rate that is accepted, he said.

© Copyright 2000 - 2005 The Hindu Business Line
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2005, June 9 The Hindu

Sethu channel will not affect coastline: study

Findings were shown to Sri Lankan officials during New Delhi talks "The project will be safe to implement and it will not have any negative impact on the stability of the coastlines in Sri Lanka and India."

S. Annamalai

MADURAI: A post-tsunami study, undertaken by the Chennai-based Indomer Coastal Hydraulics and Alkyon Hydraulic Consultancy and Research, The Netherlands, has revealed that the Sethusamudram channel project "will not have any negative impact on the stability of the coastlines in India and Sri Lanka."


The study, commissioned by the Tuticorin Port Trust, nodal agency for the project, in the wake of environmental concerns raised by Sri Lanka, has categorically stated that the "Sethusamudram ship channel project will be safe to implement."


"Studies on the impact and stability on the coasts of India and Sri Lanka due to Sethusamudram ship channel project (Hydro Dynamic Modelling and Ship Manoeuvring Studies for SSCP)," has concluded thus: "Tide/wind induced flow during various seasons, the wave propagation, (and) the sediment transport pattern remain similar with the same magnitude and direction after opening the channel for the region falling 500 metres away from the channel... Such findings imply that the dredging of the channel will not have any impact on adjacent coastlines on the Sri Lankan coast and further on any of the offshore islands or on the sand spits present across the Adam's Bridge. Hence the project will be safe to implement and it will not have any negative impact on the stability of the coastlines in Sri Lanka and India."


Officials of the Department of Ports told The Hindu the findings of various studies undertaken in connection with the project were shown to Sri Lankan officials during talks held in New Delhi recently. The Central Government, they said, expressed the desire to exchange information and data on the project's impact on environment. But no scientific data was available with their Sri Lankan counterparts, they said.


However, if the Sri Lankan Government came up with any scientific support for its apprehensions on the channel, technical modifications, if warranted, would be made in the project, the officials said.

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2005, June 2005 The Hindu

Sethusamudram project raises hopes of revival of Thondi port

Ancient natural port was used by Pandyas, Cholas and the British

...................................................


T.R. Balu announced creation of two-multi purpose ports in the State
Thondi is safer than other areas in Gulf of Mannar, Palk Strait
No damage reported in tsunami
Port would boost economy in the area

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RAMANATHAPURAM: The implementation of the Sethusamudram project has revived the hope that the ancient natural port at Thondi, 40 km. from here, will be developed.


Historical significance


The Pandya dynasty used the Thondi port on the Palk Strait to import and export goods from various countries, including Sri Lanka and Burma. Later, the port was used by the Cholas and the British. However, it lost its importance due to the lack of road and rail connectivity and inadequate hinterland development. Now, the Thondi port is being used only for fishing.


Though there were demands from all quarters to revive the port, nothing could be done.


During his recent visit to Rameswaram, Union Minister for Shipping T.R. Balu announced that his Ministry would establish two-multi purpose ports between Nagapattinam and Tuticorin, if the proposal originated from the Tamil Nadu Government.


Suitable sites


Informed sources told The Hindu that Thondi or its nearby areas such as Mudiveeranpattinam and Vattanam were suitable for establishing full-fledged ports. Though the Palk Strait was shallow, there were a few deep-sea areas.


If these areas were dredged, they could be connected with the Sethusamudram canal, facilitating the movement of ships. The sources said Thondi was safer than any other area around the Gulf of Mannar or the Palk Strait. Even during the tsunami, there was no report of damage to property or life. Moreover, the East Coast Road, (Tamil Nadu Road Sector Project Road) being laid would touch Thondi. The ECR would connect Thondi with the rest of the country. This would facilitate mass movement of cargo.


Once the port was established, it could accelerate economic development of southern and central Tamil Nadu, including Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Madurai, Pudukottai, Tiruchi, and Karur.


Handling all commodities


"The Tuticorin port was established only to cater to the needs of the salt industry, but it is handling all sorts of commodities. Tuticorin district has seen real industrial development only after the port was established. Similarly, we need infrastructure development, such as a port, to lure entrepreneurs to establish industries in this region. Seafood processing industries, ship-breaking yards, the salt industry and others could see a real boost once the port is established," sources said.

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