Not banal

Published: Wednesday 15 December 2004

-- Sethu Samudram Project National dailies India

In early November this year, most national dailies carried a one-page ad, authored by the Union ministry of shipping, road transport and highways, and the Tuticorin Port Trust. It talks of the government's intention to go ahead with the Rs 760 crore Sethu Samudram Canal Project (sscp): a channel linking the Indian Ocean to the Bay of Bengal through the Gulf of Mannar, Adam's Bridge, and the Palk Straits. Trade will flourish, we are informed, once sscp starts functioning. But this is no banal propaganda. After all, the canal was envisaged more than 140 years back, and rejected repeatedly: by the colonial rulers as well as by authorities in independent India. There were simply too many question marks : threats to livelihoods of people who fish in the Gulf of Mannar, risks to the gulf's biodiversity, international objections. But in 1999, the government again asked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, to conduct a feasibility study. The ad claims that the new study puts all the worries to rest.

But how exactly? Is the new study any different from those of the past? The ad is absolutely mum. The Bombay Natural History Society has meanwhile argued that choppy waters will militate against any gain in travel time. So is Rs 760 crore justified on sscp ?

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