Won’t tolerate any tampering with Ram Setu: BJP

Published Date: Feb 23, 2013 5:48 PM
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2013 5:52 PM

BJP today warned the government against going ahead with the Sethusamudram project, saying the sentiments of crores of Hindus are attached to the issue and it will not tolerate any tampering with the Ram Setu.

“We would like to warn the government on the Ram Setu issue. It is ignoring the recommendations of the R K Pachauri Committee report and going ahead with the project. This is an issue related to Hindu sentiments and beliefs,” party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here.

The principal opposition party demanded scrapping of the project.

The Pachauri Committee, which submitted its report to the Supreme Court, has said the Sethusamudram shipping channel project is not viable on economic and ecological grounds.

Government has rejected the report and maintained that it intends to pursue the project which will cut through the Adam’s Bridge, popularly known as Ram Setu.

“BJP and the nation will not tolerate any tampering with the Ram Setu. Why is cutting through it the only solution?” Prasad asked.

Asked about the government’s contention that over Rs 800 crore has already been spent on the project, the BJP leader said it is not a question of what amount was spent but why this expenditure was incurred in the first place.

“Without the Ram Setu you cannot think of the Ramayana,” Prasad said, adding that sentiments of crores of Hindu are attached to the issue.

Ram Setu is the mythical bridge on which Lord Ram and his army crossed the sea to invade Ravan’s kingdom.

BJP has always been opposed to the Sethusamudram project which envisages dredging of a shipping channel, proposed to be 30 m wide, 12 m deep and 167 km long, across the Palk Straits between India and Sri Lanka.


Rameshwaram Ramasetu Protection Movement
6 MV Naidu St., Chetpet, Chennai 600043

President: S. Kalyanaraman National Secretary: D. Kuppuramu

Press Release
Feb. 23, 2012

UPA Government together with the DMK of Tamilnadu should not attempt to revive the Setu channel project which has been declared to be an ecological and economic disaster by the Pachauri Committee.

We demand that there should be increased security in the Indian Ocean region of Sethusamudram in the context of increased Chinese naval presence in the Ocean and to safeguard the maritime traffic passing through the Indian Ocean.

We demand projects be implemented URGENTLY to provide livelihood opportunities for coastal people. The context is the recent changes to Law of the Sea which extends territorial waters beyond 20 nautical miles from the shoreline and creates a 200 nautical mile Special Maritime Economic Zone from the long shoreline of 8000 kms. of India. We demand that Marine cooperatives should be formed, fishing berths enhanced to berth larger fishing vessels, provided with air-conditioned storage facilities. Coastal people dependent upon coastal aquaculture activities should be provided with larger boats which they can ply upto 200 nautical miles of Special Maritime Zone on three days and nights fishing and aquaculture expeditions.

Setuchannel project was clearly envisaged to fill the pockets of politicos and foreign dredging companies. Any effort to revive such an uneconomic and ecologically disastrous project affecting the security and safety of the coastline near the fragile Gulf of Mannar in Sethusamudram will meet with severe protests from the coastal people of Tamil Nadu. Coastal People of Tamil Nadu congratulate the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Smt. Dr. Jayalalithaa for taking a clear and unequivocal stand in the Hon’ble Supreme Court declaring cancellation of the Setuchannel project and protection for Rama setu declaring it as a National Monument. Any mischievous political attempts of UPA Government supported by DMK which has lost peoples’ support will invite protests which will throw out the UPA Government from office.

S. Kalyanaraman, Ph.D.
National President, Rameshwaram Ramasetu Protection Movement
6 MV Naidu St., Chetpet, Chennai 600043

Background info.

On Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s petition, Supreme Court, in April 2012 had directed Govt. of India to make available copies of the Pachauri Committee Report to the petitioners.

The following ‘DRAFT REPORTS’ dated June 2011 have been made available:

Volume 1: Environmental impact assessment for alignment 4A of Sethusamudram Channel
Part I: Marine EIA of National Institute of Oceanography, Goa (Pages 1 to 545)

Volume 2: Part II: EIA related to land environment and socio-economics by NEERI, Nagpur (Pages 1 to 198). and Part III: Cost-benefit analysis by IIM, Bangalore (Pages 199 to 477).

Key excerpts from the three parts of EIA and Cost-benefit analyses are presented in the following pages.

Comments by Rameshwaram Ramasetu Protection Movement:

The Setusamudram channel project should be abandoned. The project is NOT only economically unviable, but is a national security risk for the fragile coastline and conservation of nuclear resources of thorium. A world heritage zone should not become kaarasthan and an economic disaster for the shankha industry of keezhakkarai which yields Rs. 25 crores per annum income. Alternative transport systems between east and west coasts and alternative marine cooperatives as special economic zones for coastal people should be considered by Government.
1. The DRAFT REPORTS make no mention of the imperative of declaring Rameshwaram Island as sacred pilgrimage, and Ramasetu as national monument.

2. It is surprising that after a prolonged period since the Supreme Court gave directions to Govt. to explore alternative to the channel project, only DRAFT segmented reports have been made available, WITHOUT ANY INDICATION of the views and comments on these draft reports, from the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Finance, particularly because the Cost-benefit analysis (Part III) clearly states that,based on Stage 1 analysis, neither alignment 6 nor alignment 4A meets the “benchmark rate of return of 12% for a range of scenarios. Stage 2 is likely to add significant costs impacting viability further.” (Page 202 Part III Cost-benefit analysis, appended). Thus, it is clear that the channel project should be abandoned by the Government as UNVIABLE economically. Further, it is surprising that the Pachauri Committee did not consider alternatives to meet the objectives of navigation between the west coast and east coast of India by use of natural gas and fossil fuel pipelines between west and east, development of international standard container ports at Vizhinjam and Tuticorin with container freight corridors from west coast to the hinterland of India and to the east coast. Alternatives of laying railway line between Colombo and New Delhi could also have been considered.

3. Environment Impact Analyses contains many instances of suggestio falsi and suppressio veri. The impact of developing marine cooperatives as special economic zones with enhanced fishery ports with air-conditioned storage facilities to enhance the livelihood opportunities of the coastal people has NOT been considered. The impact of the recent changes in the Law of the Sea approved by many members including India of the United Nations, effectively extending the territorial waters from the shoreline to 200 nautical miles as special economic zones has NOT been considered. These changes will necessitate better berthing facilities for larger fishing vessels to effectively and sustainably exploit the resources of the Indian ocean.

4. In Part I a serious situation endangering the proposed channel is indicated, without suggesting any remedial measures. “Tectonics and Tsunami. The subsidence and submergence of the southern part of Dhanushkodi township in 1948-1949 along a WNW-ESE trending fault has been established…Shallow bathymetry and sidescan-sonar surveys, along with seabed sampling and underwater videography, have suggested vertical tectonic movement along the fault parallel to the coastline…The December 2004 tsunami entered the GoM (Gulf of Mannar) from the south and its effect was recorded in the tide gauge at Tuticorin…The impact of a tsunami on the channel itself, however, may be considerable.”(Part I, Pages 399-400). In countries like Japan which are prone to tsunamis, protective measures such as sea-protection walls are put in place. It is surprising that the Pachauri committee makes no comments on measures to be put in place in case another tsunami occurs in the region, particularly from the tectonically active Aceh region. The Part I report also notes clearly that Dhanushkodi is directly along the tectonic fault line. No measures are indicated to cope with this geophysical situation, apart from NOT considering the geological fact that Gulf of Mannar has dormant volcano(s) attested by the presence of volcanic rocks called Mannar volcanics.

The Pachauri Committee Draft Reports of June 2011 have NO INDICATION of consultation with and obtaining concurrence from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Wild life authorities, Minsitry of Agriculture (concerned with aqua-culture) and agencies concerned with the maintenance of the Marine Bioreserve of the Rameshwaram Island-Gulf of Mannar –Pamban Bay complex. There is also NO INDICATION that the accumulation and protection of the monazite sands near Manavalakurichi, Aluva and Chavara have been taken note of; the accumulation of the rare earths sand complex, so close to the project region, perhaps caused by the clock-wise and anti-clock-wise movements of waves of the Indian ocean, explaining the accumulation of the world’s largest thorium reserves so essential for the country’s nuclear programs. http://www.irel.gov.in/

5. Alignment 4A considered by the Pachauri Committee is close to Alignment 4 earlier rejected on environmental grounds by the earlier impact assessment done by NEERI. As to why these concerns have now been ignored has not been clarified in the draft reports. For example, the livelihood of people dependent upon the shell resources (shankha) of Keezhakkari and other locations has to be evaluated in detail. The shankha industry alone fetches an annual income of Rs. 25 crores to the coastal people with offices of the West Bengal Development Corporation having offices in Keezhakkari to acquire shankha products. Without a shankha bangle, marriages in Bengal and Orissa are not complete. This project region is a major source of shankha.

6. 5. A serious omission is non-adherance to the terms of reference set out for the Committee set out in Part I, pages 545 to 549. Item VI socio-economic and occupational health section demands evaluation, inter alia, of the following aspects of the project area:

· Economic history of the region

· Occupational distribution and location of work force

· Tourism and recreation

· Religious pattern

India is a signatory to many international conventions including the convention to protect heritage monuments and underwater cultural heritage. There is NO MENTION in the report on these aspects with reference to the work, if any, done by the Marine Archaeology and other Archaeology Divisions of the Ministry of Culture. There is NO MENTION of the importance of Rameshwaram island as a pilgrimage centre and Rama Setu as a place of worship at Dhanushkodi. One of the alignments evaluated is likely to impact a temple built by Rama with the installation of Sivalinga and to celebrate the contribution made by Vibhishana. There is NO MENTION in the reports on the issues which are likely to agitate the citizens of the country on the protection of the religious and cultural monuments in the project area and to make available facilities for pilgrims to perform their annual melas such as the Ashada amavasya veneration of ancestors and remembrance of Sri Rama by drawing a dhanush — bow –on the sands of dhanushkodi (hence it is called Dhanushkodi).

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