Dr. Swamy files application citing views of National Institute of Oceanography against SSCP

via Kalyanaraman published on September 6, 2009

Dr. Subramanian Swamy has filed an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court to scrap the Setu canal project which has been declared unfeasible by National Institute of Oceanography.

In a remarkable application citing NIO’s views, Dr. Swamy has demonstrated that the project if pushed through will jeopardise the safety and integrity of the World Heritage Bioreserve of Setusamudram. NIO has also questioned the feasibility of the project given the fact that Dhanushkodi was submerged only four decades ago, in a tectonic event and the impact of a similar tectonic event will have serious consequences for the integrity of the entire Indian Ocean coastline.

Dr. Swamy should be congratulated for highlighting the significance of the NIO report to ensure the nation’s integrity and safety.

The stunning conclusions of the Report of the NIO submitted to GOI in March 2009 which should be revealed to the SC and to the citizens of India are:

(a) The data available in the region of interest are meagre. The observations are, in general, restricted to the vicinity of Tuticorin, which is too far from Adam’s Bridge for the measurements made there to be useful for evaluating this project. The only data available in the vicinity of Adams Bridge are from three current-meter measurements just southeast of Dhanushkodi (in the Gulf of Mannar) for about 48 hours each during August 1997,December 1997, and March 1998. The Report further concludes that: Hence no serious inference can be drawn from a data record this short, and therefore we make no attempt to interpret these data;

(b) The available data are clearly inadequate for an assessment of the possible impact of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project. Hence all that could be validly attempted was a simulation model to examine the consequences of a change in the alignment of Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project;

(c) The model results show that there is no major difference between the two alignments with respect to hydrodynamics or sediment transportation. The one difference noted which seems minor, between the two alignments is in Alignment 4A cutting across a spit and thereby disturbing the natural sediment dynamics of the spit. This would lead to increased sediment deposition in the channel and the need for increased dredging, and also erosion of the spit to the east of the channel;

(d)Worst of all, in studying the possible impacts of cyclones, the Report states: The cyclone of 1964 wiped out Dhanushkodi townThe model studies reported here have not been repeated for such cyclones, but the consequences for the channel (irrespective of alignment) will obviously be more serious. While it is likely that the damage will be more in the case of Alignment 4A, with the stability of the spit being a serious concern, it is likely that the potential damage in all other respects, is likely to be the same for both alignments.;

(e) Given the paucity of data, it is difficult to make a conclusive statement on whether Alignment 4A would cause more damage to the marine biota in the reserve;

(f) The impact of an oil spill in the channel on the Marine Biosphere Reserve has not been studied in the absence of data;

(g)As to the tectonics of the region, the Report concludes, there is a fault running parallel to the coastline. During February 1948 to January 1949, tectonic events led to the submergence of part of Dhanushkodi town. What is the potential impact of similar tectonic events on the Sethusamudram Canal? An answer to this question, though beyond the scope of this report, is clearly needed to estimate the impact and viability of this project.

(h) the Report recommends a full fledged Environmental Impact Analysis be carried out to enable robust conclusions.

Yes, indeed. SC should direct that the canal project be scrapped. Rama Setu and Setusamudram should be declared World Heritage cultural monument and Bioreserve. Alternatives to be explored by GOI are setting up of Marine Economic Zones (like SEZs) along the long coastline of India and to investigate the protective measures needed to protect against another occurrence of tsunami caused by a fragile and active Sunda faultline near Aceh (brought out by scientists in detailed scientific reports of the ongoing tectonic activity in the Indian ocean).

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