Friday, November 09, 2007

Ram Setu - The Contrarian View

Sethusamudram is a project to create a shorter route for ships to cross the Gulf of Mannar between the coast of India and Sri Lanka. Such a bridge would save cost and time as ships travelling from the west coast of India to the east coast of India have to travel all around Sri Lanka.

The official web site of the project says, 'Ships originating from the west of India and destined for Chennai, Ennore, Vishakapatnam, Paradeep, Haldia and Kolkata have to travel around the Sri Lankan coast resulting in increase of travel distance and time. Apart from this ships belonging to Indian Navy and Coast Guard need also to traverse around Sri Lanka. In order to reduce the steaming distances between the east and west coast of India and to improve the navigation within territorial waters of India, a navigation channel connecting the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay through Adam's Bridge has been envisaged so that the ships moving between the east and west coasts of India need not go around Sri Lanka.'

This seems an excellent idea; then why this opposition to the project?

Here are some of the reasons why some oppose this project –

  1. The current route requires the destruction of a bridge believed by the Hindus to be built by Ram. Christians and Muslims believe it to be Adam's bridge. Should the project go forward if it hurts the religious sentiments of so many people?
  2. The bridge has been depicted in the maps of various civilizations. People believe that besides religion the bridge has historic significance. Should we destroy a historical heritage monument?
  3. NASA claims that bridge is clearly visible from space. Other people have argued that the bridge is made up of corals which are seen from space. Why it is that only corals along the Adam’s bridge is seen from space and not other corals around the world?
  4. If the new channel is created and ships pass through any particular route then that becomes the International boundary between Sri Lanka and India. Since the channel between the two countries would be present the Indian navy will need to guard from alien presence. Does the navy need to be overburdened by adding another border front to be monitored along the Indian peninsula?
  5. The United States has been pressurizing India to have this area declared as international waters. The US Navy operational directive refusing to accept the sea between India and Sri Lanka as 'historic' was made on June 23, 2005. India claims that these are historic waters. If this area is declared as International waters, will India be able to prevent US , Chinese ships stationed in these areas?
  6. All Local fishermen, Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike oppose the present route and are demanding alternative channels, which are available. Why is the project not exploring alternative routes?
  7. The project will kill the trade in shells worth Rs 1.5 billion per annum. Is there an alternate being considered by the government for these traders?
  8. Thorium deposits would be affected. Prez Abdul Kalam had mentioned that India should be looking into generating nuclear fuel from thorium in the future. Should this be a deal breaker?
  9. Some scientists have also warned that the if the Setu Samudram route is deepened and the corals disturbed then the Sethu Canal might provide a more direct route for the tsunami and this could impact south Kerala.

All in all, it is a healthy debate and let democracy win!

1 comment:

Joshua Alexander said...

It is a shame that government in the name of commerce is prepared to ignore what is an obvious historical landmark touched by a spiritual hand. Woe to he who endeavors in this blasphemy.