Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scrap Sethusamudram project - look at all issues.

An open letter to the Pachauri Committee from Dr S.Kalyanaraman.

I hope, Pachauri committee will call for and read Capt. Balakrishnan's
incisive cost-benefit analysis;
conduct 3-d computer simulation models on seismicity,
ocean currents,
heat flows;

read also 8000 pages of docmentation submitted to the Hon'ble SC on 160 topics (including the resultant devastation of the ecosphere).

The channel project will be in the hole for a long, long time.
Hopefully, the committee will recommend scrapping the project for the simple reason
that such a mid-ocean channel envisaged by SSCP does NOT exist anywhere in the world.
Unlike the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, this Rama Setu ain't no reef;
it is a continuation of the Indian landmass into Sri Lanka and a Setu, causeway, bridge;
a veritable centrifuge acting on clock-wise, anti-clockwise ocean currents
accumulating monazite sands in Manavalakurichi, Aluva and Chavara --
a stunning 32% of the world's reserves of thorium.

Hopefully, the committee will also come up with answers
on coping with the Nature magazine's Sept. 6, 2007 serious warning of a tsunami
waiting to happen from Sunda thrrust, a tsunami which will be more devastating
than the Dec. 24, 2004 tsunami and impact 6 crore people from Bangladesh to Kerala coastline.

Hopefully, the Committee will also call for and discuss with
Dr. CSP Iyer, Dr. K Gopalakrishnan, Dr. S. Badrinarayanan
who have given scientific reports on the
ecosphere, geo-scientific aspects.
Hopefully, the Committee will also call for and discuss with
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the fisherfolk societies on the impact on their livelihood.

Hopefully, the Committee will also call the Rameshwaram Rama Setu Raksa Manch
concerned citizens on multifarious aspects related to culture and security implications
at a place where over 5 lakh pilgrims gather evey ashadha amavasya to offer pitru tarpanam,
homage to ancestors led by Sri Rama.
Sri Rama rameti vyapohati na sams'ayah is the first invocation before sankalpa mantra.

Hopefully, the Committee will adopt transparent and open procedures
for gathering views from the public and concerned citizens and
not rush through under the diktats of a regime under political compulsions.

What is needed a total revamp of the project approach as the Planning Commission observed
and not a quick-fix or band-aid solutions based on trivial pursuits.
Country's national security and integrity,
safeguarding nation's wealth and protecting coastal peoples' lives
are far too serious matters to be treated as trivial for a quick-fix by a committee
without detailed technical evaluations and environmental impact assessment studies
under the laws of the land and also in tune with
the 1958 Law of the Sea, 1958 Ancient Monuments Protection Act
(a culural facet by any standards of definition),
nation's undertakings under international laws,
treaties apart from the Indira Gandhi-Sirmavo Bandaranaike declaration
of historic waters in Gulf of Mannar in June 1974,
and concerns of the neigbouring state of S'rilanka in an indivisible ocean.

Dr. S. Kalyanaraman


Defiant DMK says matter not over

Swati Das | Chennai (Pioneer, 31 July 2008)

The Centre's submission to the Supreme Court on Wednesday

that it was seriously considering an alternative alignment for

the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project and setting up an expert committee

for that has come as a setback for the ruling DMK here.

However, it is not willing to give up.

"An alternative alignment means a whole new set of studies and analysis.

The whole process has to start all over again.

But we do not think that the project is over yet.

It is an ongoing issue. The matter is still in the court,"

DMK organising secretary TKS Elangovan told The Pioneer.

DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi

was silent on the issue.

He attended various functions,

but did not react to the UPA Government's submission in the apex court.

DMK MP and Union Shipping Minister TR Baalu has been spearheading the SSCP.

Meanwhile, experts in Tamil Nadu are breathing a little easy

with the Centre's submission as it gives a chance for better assessment of the project.

But there is displeasure about the new suggested alignment too.

This is because any canal linking Palk Bay/ Palk Straits to Gulf of Mannar

will only damage the ecology and livelihood of this region.

"Once the turbid water of Palk Bay mingles with the clear water of Gulf of Mannar,

it will destroy the marine life in the latter.

This area should be left alone and no project should come up,"

said the retired director of Geological Survey of India K Gopalakrishnan.

He is also upset with the Government's submission on Tuesday

that Adam's Bridge/Ram Setu does not fulfill the criteria of national monument.

"Even if you push aside the issue of Ram Setu,

the bridge/barrier has all the geological and ecological qualities

to be declared as international geographical heritage site.

To my knowledge such a distinct geological feature does not exist anywhere in the world.

It rises very steep wall-like feature from the Gulf of Mannar.

It is an isthmus connecting two land masses (Rameshwaram and Thalaimannar)

under the sea. It has a unique curvilinear feature.

It is nearly 17 lakh years old.

It is a 'barrier zone' that separates two contrasting seas --

the shallow and turbid waters of Palk Bay

from the deep and clear waters of Gulf of Mannar and

it is a 'barrier/protection zone' against tsunami impacts."

He points out how in Thirumala in Tirupati

a rock formation called the Natural Arch has been declared

as a national monument and is a protected sightseeing spot.

Retired Captain H Balakrishnan of Indian Navy,

who has been studying the project says:

"Purely on the maritime point of view I can prove it to you that the SSCP

will make major losses within a year and no ships will go through it."

In New Delhi, the Congress, however,

rejected suggestions that there was an about turn in the Government's policy on the project.


Sethu eco-friendly? Panel to decide

31 Jul 2008, 0239 hrs IST,TNN

NEW DELHI: With the government setting up a six-member panel headed by the head of The Energy Resource Institute (Teri), R K Pachauri, the debate on the Sethusamudram project has come full circle. The case has all through attracted attention more for the religious sentiments involved rather than the environmental questions at the heart of the debate. Now Pachauri and his team will have to, besides contending with an object of faith, consider ideas of science, environment and economics. ( Watch )

Critics of the project have raised serious doubts about both the economic feasibility of the project as well as the social and environmental cost the region would end up paying for paltry gains.

The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP) is meant to develop a 167-km-long shipping channel in the Palk Bay, cutting short the distance for ships running between the west and east coasts of India, by avoiding the circumnavigation of Sri Lanka. Environmental groups have for long argued that the canal alignment passes too close to the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, one of the world's richest marine biosphere reserves, with 2,600 species of plants and animals.

The massive upheaval in the waters caused by dredging and other activities, they have contended, will harm the biodiversity even if the activity is carried out 20 km away from the reserve.

Besides this, the Pachauri committee will also have to evaluate whether the current alignment of the canal or any of the other alignments would impact the reef formations — the Palk Bay has one of the five major reef formations in India. While government has contended so far that there wouldn't be any direct damage, ecologists have been quick to point out that mere turbidity in the water can lead to coral bleaching and death.

Something Pachauri would find himself at home is the question whether the destruction of mangroves in the region will increase the vulnerability of the region to tsunami-like events. Mangroves provide a natural defence against increasing tropical cyclones, tsunamis and consequent inundation.

The Adam's Bridge may be a contentious religious symbol but what's not doubted is the role the structure plays in regulating pressures from the rough seas of the Bay of Bengal, which helps create a space for marine life.

With the ambit of the Pachauri committee wide enough to review the social and economic impacts as well, experts point out that the group of experts will need to go beyond the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment report, which has a limited purview and has been dodged by controversy.

The committee would have to allay the fears of the 330 fishing villages that would be displaced by the project. The project, many independent social and economic assessments have contented, threatens the livelihood resources of more than 1.5 lakh fisherfolk.

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