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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 972

Manitham – a Tamil Nadu based human rights organization to explore the effects on humanity by the proposed Sethusamudran Ship Canal Project.

Coimbatore, 12 July: Manitham - Humanism, a Tamil Nadu regional based human rights organization, has taken up the issue of Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project to explore and ascertain the impact it might have on humanity and on Sri Lanka, once the construction – actually cutting of the canal starts in the Gulf Mannar Sea.

In a statement released by “Manitham” states: “Now, ‘Manitham’ has undertaken Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project [SSCP] in our hands, because, we are receiving conflicting reports that the construction of this project might cause untold miseries to humanity.”

In the statement “Manitham” has said: SSCP is a mega project in its kind and by constructing the canal we want to ascertain whether there would be any geological, oceanographic and environmental changes, by which whether there would be any land subsidence which would cause a major portion of Sri Lanka going under water.

The statement went on to state that according to reports “Manitham” has received, that by constructing the project a section of the humanity faces danger of land subsidence of their residential areas and even uncertainty of their lives.

According to the reports, it will be not one or two persons who are going to be affected, but it may be a few million people whose lives are in danger of being marooned to death, when their residential areas goes under water.

We are of the opinion that this fear expressed by a section of humanity may be unfounded, and may be not. But when the fear expressed involves the life and death of a section of humanity, then it cannot be simply dispelled or ignored.

Recently when delivering his budget speech in the floor of lower house of parliament, India’s Finance Minister P.Chidamparam, a native of Tamil Nadu said : “The Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project is a longstanding demand – nay dream – of the people of peninsular India. I am happy to inform the House that the Environmental Impact Assessment study of the project has been completed by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur. NEERI is now preparing the techno-economic feasibility report and the report is expected to be submitted shortly. The Ministry of Shipping proposes to establish a special purpose vehicle (SPV). The SPV will raise funds for the project and Government will participate in the funding through a mix of equity support and debt-guarantee.”

Thank God, though the Minister spoke of the dream project, he failed to allocate even the initial fund for the construction of the project, but he announced of “Environmental Impact Assessment study of the project has been completed by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur.”

“Manitham” alleges “Our investigation reveals that NEERI has not considered UN Law on Sea Convention 1982, while making their reports.

Human rights organization went on to say: According to our survey it reveals that the Sethusamudram canal would originate from Tuticorin Port, extend in a north-north east direction in the Gulf of Mannar up to Rameswaram area, then cut through Adam's Bridge and proceed in Palk Bay area, almost parallel to the Indo-Sri Lankan boundary line (about 3 km from the boundary), and join the Bay of Bengal opposite Point Calimere.

The total length of the canal would be about 260 km - about 120 km from Tuticorin Port to Adam's Bridge (in Gulf of Mannar) and about 140 km north of Rameswaram from Adam's Bridge to Bay of Bengal channel (in Palk Bay). The canal is being investigated for different drafts (for 9.15 m, 10.7 m and 12.8 m).

Further it was said that the entire alignment would be within Indian waters.

It was unfortunate up to date, there was no clear markings of the territorial waters belonging to India and Sri Lanka and it is unclear based on what criteria it was announced that the entire project would remain within the India waters, “Manitham” raises this pertinent question

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“Manitham” further points out, when India proposes to do something within close proximity of the neighbor’s territorial waters then Indian Government should have considered to obtain “no objection” from the Government of Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately, “Manitham” went on to state, according to our reports that this proposal of this Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project, up to date, Indian Government has not even officially notified to Sri Lanka of their proposal even as a matter of courtesy.

Therefore, “Manitham” has decided explore fully the impact of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project. “Manitham” representatives will be visiting the coastal areas and meet the local fishermen for their feedbacks and discuss the issue with leading geological, marine and oceanographic experts before sending our report to Tamil Nadu Government of our finding for necessary actions.

- Asian Tribune -

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