The Supreme Court has given the Union government time till February 23, 2010, to clarify its stand on the Sethusamudram project. This was after the government counsel failed to give the court a definite answer on the alternative canal route suggested by the court to avoid damage to Ram Setu.
During hearing on December 14, the government argued that the expert committee headed by environmentalist R K Pachauri felt the need for an environmental impact assessment for the project which would take at least 18 months. The apex court expressed displeasure over the delay and said it had been promised an exhaustive study on the feasibility of the alternative alignment that proposes cutting through a spit landform off Dhanushkodi coast in Tamil Nadu.
The court is awaiting government response so that it can give its verdict on the application of Janata Party president Subramaniam Swamy. He has sought scrapping of the project citing an adverse report of the National Institute of Oceanography at Goa (see ‘Doubts cast over Sethusamudram’, Down To Earth, December 31). The report said there was not enough data to assess the impact of the alternative route. “The government is too ashamed to say the project is dead. The offices have shut down and dredging has ceased,” said Swamy. Additional solicitor general Harin Raval said the government would ask the expert committee if it can give any prima facie observations by next hearing.
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