Experts ask government to come clean on Sethusamudram

February 16th, 2008 - 11:23 pm ICT by admin  

Chennai, Feb 16 (IANS) Scientists and experts at a meet organised here Saturday urged the central government to table a white paper in parliament on the “economic viability, environmental and ecological sustainability, engineering feasibility and ethical tenability” of the controversial Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP). The meet organised by the Coastal Action Network, an umbrella group for 7,000 villages and fishing federations in Tamil Nadu’s 1,000 km long coastline, also questioned the security risk of such a canal project.

The project, started by the union government in 2005, involves dredging a 20-km long, 300-meter wide and 10.7 meter deep channel between the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay, through Adam’s Bridge at a cost of Rs.2400 billion ($600 million).

The government estimates that nearly 3,000 ships will use the channel every year to cut short the travelling distance between Chennai port and Kanya Kumari (Cape Comorin) to 402 nautical miles from the present 755 nautical miles.

Retired naval officer and Master Mariner for merchant navy H. Balakrishnan said: “The SSCP is an open channel and there is a possibility of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) setting up sea mines, which is much cheaper when compared to acquiring surface-to-surface missiles. It’s enough if just one ship explodes.”

Balakrishnan endorsed Coast Guard Director General Vice-Admiral Rusi Contractor’s recent remarks that the project “poses a threat to the national security”.

“Contractor is correct. I also analysed it. The project will pose a threat to national security as there is a piracy threat from Sudan to Straits of Malacca and to South China Sea,” Balakrishnan added.

The LTTE had “a direct bearing on the safety of shipping navigation through the SSCP,” he said, pointing out that the LTTE had control over most of north Sri Lanka coast.

“The global ransom rate for one ship today was $100,000,” he said, adding, “Tigers have displayed considerable ingenuity and daring act in sea-borne insurgency”.

The Sri Lanka government has installed mines between Kachchatheevu and Neduntheevu, under water to prevent Sea Tigers, the marine wing of the LTTE, from crossing into international waters, he said.

Mired in religious and environment controversies, the cost of the project has escalated to Rs.35 billion and the Supreme Court has stayed the project amid speculation that the government is unwilling to continue with it.

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