One may say that India is a land of controversies. Wake up in the morning and first thing we need to do is getting ourselves acclimatized to a whole new scenario of disputes. I do not think that it will be any exaggeration in saying that we Indians know the art of creating controversies. One such controversy which is there in the lime light nowadays is that of ‘Sethu Samudram’.
The moment we urbanites look at this issue, most of us are of the opinion that a communal organization is trying to make an unnecessary issue out of nothing. It is against national interest and an impediment in the way of development. But then there are people, according to whom this project is a clear cut threat to one of the most ancient man made structure present on this earth and hence it is a step forward not to development but towards destruction of national heritage.
To begin with, What exactly is this Sethu Samudram project? Our country has a huge coastline. The east and the west coast lays world apart and constantly ships ply between them. Due to the presence of this Ram Sethu or Adam’s bridge [call it whatever you feel like] the ships on this route have to go all around Sri Lanka in order to reach their destination. This project is about making a canal passing through the Ram Sethu [believed to be built by the Vanar Sena of Sri Ram] and thus providing the ships with a route which is much smaller and saves their lot of time.
Going by the high claims of the government, this 167 kilometers long canal once fully operational will save almost 30 hours of time and 780 kilometers of distance travelled by the ships on this route. The project will envisage shipping traffic of 3,055 vessels by 2008 and 7,141 by 2025. Increased ship traffic will lead to economic spin-offs and some 15 minor ports between Kanyakumari and Chennai will be developed. All of this sounds very sweet to ears. But there is a catch in the whole process and this project is not just about sunshine as we may perceive it.
First things first, People from the government says that there is no evidence which can prove that the bridge was made by Sri Ram’s Vanar sena and hence the argument of protecting it for the religious beliefs of people is completely futile. I totally agree with them, if they doubt the legitimacy of Ramayana by Maharishi Valmiki [but this is another controversy]. Well even if there is hard evidence to prove the authenticity of Ram Sethu, the ocean bed bore test and the marine specialists have shown that the ridge is manmade and the archaeologists have established that it is ancient, thus making it a monument and hence we should abstain ourselves from any kind of human activity which is not in accordance with its existence. The article 51-A of the Indian Constitution clearly states that protection of heritage handed down to us is the duty of every citizen. I think either the government policies are not in accordance with the constitution or the people in the government are not ‘true’ Indians, to abide by their constitutional duty. Whatever the case may be, a national heritage is in danger.
Now the entire so called ‘economical development’ hula which the government is making has another side to it. The high claim of the government about the shipping traffic of 7,141 vessels by 2025 is as shallow as the sea at the ridge site. According to the experts the canal has a draught limitation of 10.7 meters [navigable depth] and vessels up to only 34,000 dead weight tonnage would be able to use it. This will highly limit the shipping traffic and hence puts a big question mark on the commercial viability of the canal. There is also a high piloting charge for each ship of around Rs. 20 lakhs, which has not been taken into consideration. Moreover the project comes with an added attraction of Rs. 204 crores annually required to cater the debt of Rs. 1,465.40 crores which is additional to the high maintenance cost of round the year disilting of the area required to nullify the huge loads of silt brought in by constant cyclones.
This project is a big threat to the environment and biodiversity of the area. Nowhere else in the world there are 3,600 species of marine life found in one place except in the vicinity of Ram Sethu and they are too in grave danger due to the building of this project. In all it is expected to impact the 21 national marine parks present with their rich coral reefs and marine species, which has already started showing its colours as in past 9 months since July, 10 whales have already died in the region. This is in contrast to only 95 whale deaths in the region between the year 1841 and 1945.
All this is something which is known to every soul attached with this project. Still the authorities have turned blind towards every hard hitting fact which is in all possible manners against this project. Why? No one knows. No one knows the reason for the urgency of completing this project at war footing without even considering its consequences. It simply looks like an over ambitious project of an over-enthusiastic policy maker.
We need to think and think again that for everything which is being done for our benefit is worth it and gives more to us then instead of taking.
Not because of religion or because of the economy, but for the nature and for thousands of species which breeds under Ram Sethu. If not for these then for all those lakhs of fishermen who will lose their livelihood due to the destruction of marine life let us save Ram Sethu. If still no, then we really do not need this so called Ram Sethu, built by a man from UP in Tamil Nadu.
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