World meet to save Ram Sethu

via published on November 12, 2008

London will be hosting the first meeting of the worldwide campaign to save the Gulf of Mannar from destruction by the planned Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP). Scientists, biologists, environmentalists, economists, NGOs, religious leaders and civic authorities from around the world will gather at the Linnean Society — the world’s oldest biological society — at the end of this month to urge UNESCO to designate the Gulf as a World Heritage Site. “As world leaders contemplate ways to save the earth’s environment, all responsible citizens of the global community must recognise that dredging and destroying one of the world’s few remaining hotspots in terms of its exceptional biodiversity, to create a ship channel in the region of the Gulf of Mannar translates into an ecological disaster,” says Kusum Vyas of the Living Planet Foundation, who has championed the meeting.

The Gulf of Mannar, which separates the south eastern tip of India from the west coast of Sri Lanka, is one of South Asia’s largest biosphere reserves and a site of recognised scientific, environmental, religious and cultural importance. In 2006, when dredging for the SSCP commenced in order to provide a navigation route for large vessels around the whole of the Indian peninsula, there was a chorus of disapproval from environmental, humanitarian and religious and cultural organisations worldwide.

For the first time, many of these organisations are now going to meet to provide compelling multi-disciplinary evidence. Making it a heritage site would effectively end plans for the SSCP and ensure the Gulf — home for many endangered plant and animal species as well as being the site of the world-famous Adam’s Bridge, or Ram Sethu, a structure sacred for Hindus — is protected.

Vyas argued that many leading environmentalists and scientists recognise that the SSCP is a flawed venture which has been inaugurated without any detailed review of devastating impacts to the invaluable biodiversity of the Gulf. She also said the SSCP ignores critical environmental and humanitarian issues, including the impact on the livelihood of thousands of fishermen in the area. Vyas added that the project has not taken into account views expressed by environmentalists, seismologists, oceanographers and those living along the coastline.Sajeda Momin

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