Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Sethusamudram Canal Dredging

by The Hindu, December 11, 2006

Dredging Corporation of India has also been engaged in dredging the northern end of the channel for more than a year now.

The dredging of Adam's Bridge, the southern end of the Sethusamudram project, is to start from today (Monday, December 11) in the presence of the Union Shipping Minister, Mr T. R. Baalu. An estimated 48 million cubic metres of silt will be removed over the next two years to achieve a draft of 12 metres by end 2008.

The state-owned Dredging Corporation of India, which has been entrusted with the job, will deploy three of its own dredgers immediately — one cutter suction dredger and two trailer suction hopper dredgers. "We'll need more dredgers which may have to be acquired on charter but not immediately, may be after the next monsoon," said Mr N. K. Raghupathy, Chairman of the Tuticorin Port Trust and also CMD of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project, indicating that the dredging of Adam's Bridge was a critical job.

Dredging Corporation of India has also been engaged in dredging the northern end of the channel for more than a year now. It may be noted that the cost of dredging for the entire project has been revised upwards from the original Rs 1,720 crore to Rs 2,170 crore to take into account the impact of service charge which became effective from April 2005.


Sethu dredging begins amidst sea of controversy

by Ravi Ladduwahetty, The Nation, Colombo, December 31, 2006


However, The Nation also learns that while the dredging did commence earlier this month, the activities have not been successful with the dredged area repeatedly filling up.

Retired Sri Lankan Diplomats are questioning the Appeasement Policy followed by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry with respect to the Sethusamuduram Project and are calling for the Government of Sri Lanka to take a more principled stand against India and not to yield against the unilateralism.

They have also warned that India has already blocked the Sri Lankan Government’s moves to develop the Kankasanturai port which was to be developed with foreign assistance and left a major development void in the Northern peninsula which has resulted in the current food shortage in Jaffna.

During a recent state visit to India, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has raised some of these matters but according to top sources, while India has been offering support to develop the KKS port, none of it has been forthcoming and Sri Lanka is also being prevented from securing other assistance because of the Indian objection.

Ecological hazards
Indian environmental activists have cautioned that a large number of protected Dugongs whales and dolphins and other rare species of marine mammals are all threatened with extinction due to shipping accidents.

The fishing community is also up in arms as one of the most lucrative prawn fish and other marine farming zones will lose its spawning habitats due to the dredging of the Sethusamuduram canal.

International marine archaeologists also have expressed objections to the project citing that the Adams Bridge is one of the oldest marine archaeological sites in the world as the 5000 year plus man- made bridge which is a part of India’s heritage with direct attribution to the Ramayana epic.

Hanuman’s Bridge is a Hindu cultural icon and many millions of Hindu devotees will lose their most pre- eminent archaeological evidence to support their cultural ethos.

The local community living on either side of the Palk Strait is risking not only losing their fishing livelihood but also run the risk of radiation contamination and potential oil spill disasters. They are also likely to be without fresh drinking water as the aquifers are expected to be contaminated with the salt water due to the lateral pressure from the ship traffic using the canal.


India says …

Indian High Commission’s Commercial Counsellor Sanjay Sudhir told The Nation that the Government of India does not need to keep Sri Lanka informed of what was happening all the time “giving ball by ball commentaries” as (a) it has been done by mutual agreement with former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Premier Manmohan Singh (b) The project is in Indian territorial waters and (c) There have been three rounds of talks between India and Sri Lanka. This is not unilateral on the part of the Indian Government, he said.

He asserted that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been done by the National Environmental and Ecological Research Institute (NEERI) of Ahamadabad and the results have been shared with the Government of Sri Lanka. He said that the meeting with the Indian and Sri Lankan officials were on maritime matters and the Chairman of the Tuticorin Ports Trust N.K. Raghupathy was also there. However, he declined to comment on the defence issues, claiming that they were outside his ambit.


No Government comment

Despite repeated attempts by The Nation to get comments from the Government on this project, Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Additional Secretary Foreign Affairs Ministry Geetha De Silva who is also the current Acting Secretary, Additional Solicitor General P.A.

Ratnayake who was a member of the Government delegation to New Delhi and who is a legal expert on the implications of the project and also Director of the Institute of Technological Studies Dr. Aziz Mubarak who is an expert on the environmental aspects of the project were not available. The Sri Lankan Chairman of the Sethusamudram project and Education Ministry Secretary Ariyayaratne Hewage also refused to comment claiming that he was a mere nominee to the Foreign Ministry and that he had no mandate to do so. The issues were sent by electronic mail to the Acting Foreign Secretary for the want of a written response, but to no avail.

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