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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Concern over Sethu Samudram Project

The proposed Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, on completion, will allow ships to sail from the West to East Coast within India’s own territorial waters, avoiding circumnavigation around Sri Lanka. It will also save about 254 to 424 Nautical miles of sailing distance and upto 30 hours of sailing time for the ships.

A section of the environmentalists has expressed concerns over the environmental impact of the project. The concerns expressed inter-alia include

(i) adverse impact on the Marine National park in the Gulf of Mannar, especially the coral reefs situated in the Park;
(ii) adverse impact on the flora and fauna in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay;
(iii) adverse impact on livelihood of fishermen in the project area; and
(iv) inadequacy of the environmental impact assessment made by the project authorities.

Tuticorin Port Trust, the Nodal Agency has carried out campaigns aimed at informing the general public as well as the environmentalists that a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment Study has been carried out by a renowned organization, namely, National Environmental Engineering research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, for ascertaining the environmental viability of the project. Further, the alignment has been chosen giving precedence to environmental considerations over the economic one. The study of the project region through primary and secondary data collection with mathematical modeling carried out by the NEERI indicates that the apprehensions of damage to the coral reefs and flora and fauna in the project area are unfounded. Studies undertaken also suggest that there will be no significant impact on the fishing activities in the region. A detailed Environmental Management Plan has been drawn up for inter-alia ensuring that the marine environment is monitored continuously during the execution of the project.

The project is scheduled to be completed in three years from commencement of the work after obtaining the mandatory approvals.

This information was given in the Rajya Sabha today in a written reply by the Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, Shri T. R. Baalu.

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