Monday, September 24, 2007

Ram Sethu controversy

The controversy about the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP) is most unfortunate. The scheme is to create a shipping channel to connect Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar. Once this is done, the ships going to the Arabian Sea from India’s east coast ports can save about 400kms (say, about 30 hours of sailing) by avoiding the detour around Sri Lanka.

The protests against the project started when NASA released satellite photos showing the Adam’s Bridge which many millions believe was built by Lord Rama’s forces to cross over to Sri Lanka and rescue Sita from Ravana. The fuse was lit when the Archeological Survey of India submitted an affidavit in the Suprme Court claiming that there is no historic evidence to the events in Ramayana. The way it was worded apparently offended certain groups and the Government of India promptly withdrew the affidavit. But the damage was already done.

What I can’t understand is, if the BJP and their allies genuinely believed in the sanctity of the bridge, why didn’t they, when they were in power, declare the area as a heritage site and change the name Adam’s Bridge officially to ‘Ramaar Paalam’ or ‘Ram Sethu’? The obvious answer is that at that time they failed to see the color of votes, if at all it is there, in this far away (from Delhi) destination.

Now it would seem that BJP went trigger happy without referring to the back files. A Times of India report that I saw on the Internet yesterday says that the SSCP was revived (the idea had been mooted during British days) by the then BJP-led government. Different alignments were considered and the BJP government gave the in principle approval to the project in January 2003. Quoting sources the report says that the present alignment which cuts through the Ram Sethu was approved by the NDA government led by BJP. Therefore it would appear that the Manmohan Singh government is only carrying on with what the BJP had approved.

If this position is confirmed conclusively, the BJP would have difficulty in explaining the agitation against the project.

Two images of Adam’s Bridge from Wikipedia are reproduced below:

UN map, considered to be in public domain.

Released to public domain by the Federal Government of United States.


Also see:

History of conversions to Christianity in Kerala – an overview


NEBU said...

Ram Sethu is God send to Kerala to aid construction of the the Vizhinjm transhipment container port. The Tuticorin port which was in direct competition for the same kind of development, with the blessings of the Union Minister for Shipping and Transport Mr. T.R. Balu, will in all likely be put on the backburner since its viability will be severely impaired without the sethu samudram project, which will now be difficult for any government to go ahead in the foreseeable future.
The ASI’s ‘non-existence of Ram’ affidavit should infuse life to the Vizhinjm port development. The Kerala Government should seize this opportunity which has landed in its lap. But will the CPM-led LDF Government be willing to invoke the name of Lord Ram for sake of the state?

Anup said...

I am against the project. It is an ecological disaster waiting to happen. I've seen such dredging in Maldives with disastrous consequences. Coral will be destroyed and themarine life obliterated. Long term damage to India'sshoreline may also not be ruled out. Who has done an envronmental impact study or wave/current simulations?

It may save some distance for shipping companies but an average consumer will never benefit from it, it will just add more money to their coffers. It will also (probably already has) line politicians pockets. They need such projects of "National importance" to line their pockets. Unfortunate that this has taken a one religion against another tone, it should not be, especially if they arenatural coral formations, all the more reasons to save this place from absolute ruin. Is there no sanctuary or sanctity for anything in India?

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you for the comment, Nebu. Please read today's post on my Blog, 'Ram Sethu: Where is the conflict?'

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thanks for the comment, Anup. I have tried to answer your comments in today's post, 'Ram Sethu: Where is the conflict?'

sridharan said...

Dear Sir,
If what TR Balu says is true that the BJP govt approved the present project, then why not they reveal the same when they started the project. Did they purposely conceal the fact at that time to reveal the same at a convenient time in future?
People say that only shipping minister's ships will pass through the canal once it is completed benefitting him lakhs of rupees. Shall the public money wasted like this? This week's Tuglak magazine carries a comment by Cho.Ramasamy that the tamilnadu politicians are interested in the project only because of its huge cost, implying that huge kickbacks are possible.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Dear Sridharan,
I must say that strange are the ways of our politicians.

Douglas from Key West said...

121,000 years ago sea level rose 2 meters. Adams Bridge water depth is 1 meter. It was a wide land bridge. That is how humans originally populated Sri Lanka. They walked. Long before that Palk Bay was all dry land. India and Sri Lanka were the same land mass. It is all sand and mud, no corals. But sedimentation could be devastating to fish and shorelines from extreme dredging. At 12 meters deep, most ships would not be able to use such a shallow channel.