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 N.Nandhivarman General Secretary Dravida Peravai  

In Tamil Nadu at  Madurai, Ramanathapuram and at Tuticorin, The Union Defense Minister George Fernandes announced the launching of Sethu Samudram project. Breaking that news THE HINDU, English Daily dated January 8, 1999 wrote: 


The Sethu samudram canal project will go down in history as gift of the 20 th century to the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. A 138 year old suspense was broken by the Union Defense Minister Mr. George Fernandes, on Wednesday when he announced at Rameshwaram that work on the project will commence in the next few months.

 Conceived in 1860 by Commander A.D.Taylor of the Indian Marines, the project, envisaged to link the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay, has been reviewed umpteen times over the years but a decision could not be made. At a time when the people of southern districts began to think that Sethusamudram would remain a pipe dream like linking of the Ganga and Cauvery, came the announcement from the Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee in Chennai that his government would implement the project. The Prime Minister followed that announcement by entrusting the project to the Defense Minister, who did lot of spadework in the last four months before making an aerial survey of the project on Wednesday. Light could be seen at the end of the tunnel. Since the conception of the Sethu Samudram, two other canals- the Suez Canal (1869) and the Panama Canal (1915) have been built in the world.

Though many reasons could be attributed to the delay in the project taking shape, lack of political will has been the major factor. Like marking the twelfth man in a cricket team, Sethu Samudram found a place in the election manifestoes of all political parties during elections. Hopes about the implementation of the project soared when the Union Government appointed the Sethu Samudram Project Committee in 1955, headed by Dr.A.Ramasamy Mudaliar, which was charged with the duty of examining the desirability of the project. After evaluating the costs and benefits, this committee found the project feasible and viable. Several reviews of the proposals followed this till Mr.Vajpayee announced his Governments commitment to execute the project.

 What is paramount importance to the country are the strategic advantages that would accrue from this project. Though the country has a peninsular coast running to 3554 nautical miles, it does not have a continuous sea-lane within its territorial waters. Ships navigating from one side of the country to the other have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka due to the presence of Adam’s bridge, a sand stone reef near Ramasewaram coast. A memorandum submitted to the Central Committee on Sethu Samudram Ship Canal project by the State Government on August 1981 pointed out that the canal will afford secret and sheltered passage for our Naval ships and Coast Guard vessels. Otherwise, they will have to suffer exposure to the foreign countries in the Indian Ocean and also suffer more wear and tear voyaging around Srilanka. 

The distance between Cape Comerin and Chennai would be reduced to 402 nautical miles from the present 755 after the completion of the project. The distance between Cape Comerin and Vizag will be 719 nautical miles against the present 1014, between Cape Comerin and Calcutta 1098(1357), Tuticorin and Chennai 335(769). Tuticorin and Vizag 652(1028), Tuticorin and Calcutta 1031(1371). Apart from effecting savings in fuel the project is expected to provide a tremendous boost to the economic and industrial development of coastal Tamil Nadu. The project will be of particular significance to the Tutucorin harbour, which has the potential to transform itself into a nodal port such as Singapore and Colombo. The State Government has announced its proposal to develop 13 minor ports, including Ennore, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Thondi, Valinokam, Colachel and Kanyakumari. And the Sethu samudram canal will improve coastal shipping. There is also a possibility of introducing passenger and freight services along the coast.

The normally drought prone Ramanathapuram district will be the major beneficiary of the project in terms of providing employment. The maritime skills of the people living in the Rameshwaram and Pamban areas could be harmonized for the development of the region. There is also the scope for the development of a major port like Port Said of the Suez Canal in the district. Apart from improving the fishing trade, the canal will be a major tourist attraction. 

Though there has been a vociferous demand from various quarters for the implementation of the project, there is also opposition to it. albeit in low pitch from environmentalists. They point out that the dredging of the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar would endanger precious marine species and wealth. However official environment clearance has been given for the project. The contention that the Sethu Samudram canal will cut through coral reefs and disturb the ecology as a mistaken fear. Since the coast is either clayey or sandy in nature the ecology will not be endangered, it has been pointed out.

The announcement of the Defense Minister and the commitment demonstrated by the Planning Commission has raised hopes of the people of south Tamil Nadu.

 By Staff Reporter: Courtesy: THE HINDU English Daily.(Jan 8, 1999)

In one such meeting held at Tuticorin, N.Nandhivarman General Secretary Dravida Peravai translated the speech of Union Defense Minister George Fernandes.

That was on 6.1.1999. Then elections came in the way. Again when Nandhivarman stressed the necessity to include Sethu Samudram project  in National Democratic Alliance Manifesto, the President of Samata Party George Fernandes in a letter dated August 5-1999 wrote: "The matters pertaining to interlinking of rivers and related issues did figure in the last meeting of NDA. Sethu Samudram cannot be discussed at that moment as that would violate the code. However you can be rest assured that once the NDA is returned to power these items will be high on the agenda of the government."

National Democratic Alliance came to power. and Comrade George Fernandes was kind enough to recommend to the Union Surface Transport Minister Nitish Kumar on his own the need to appoint Nandhivarman as one of the Trustees of Tuticorin Port Trust. Participating the in 4 th ordinary meeting of the Board of Trustees for the year 2000-2001 held on 25 th August 2000 Nandhivarman's observations as per the agenda papers are as follows:

"Mr.Nandhivarman enquired about the stage at which the Sethu Samudram project stood. according to information available to him, a Belgian company was keen to take up the project on B.O.T.Basis. The Chairman explained that the firms in Belgium and Holland were interested in the project because of the large dredging component. The operation and maintenance of the canal after its construction would be quite expensive and therefore, it is necessary to study the traffic and income potential in detail before venturing into it. Therefore all these aspects were being studied by the Government and once it is found to be commercially feasible project then the Government could take a decision on how to implement it"

Meanwhile in the Board the NEERI Report was tabled to inform the Board of Trustees of Tuticurin Port Trust

 Initial Environmental Examination of Sethu Samudram Ship Canal Project prepared by National Environmental Engineering Institute - Nagpur

 (December 1998)

The executive summary in verbatim is given below:


1. India does not have, within her own territorial waters, a continuous navigable route around the peninsula due to the presence of a shallow(3.5m) coral reef called " Adams Bridge" at Pamban near Rameshwaram between the south eastern coast of India and Talaimannar of Srilanka. Consequently the ships calling at Ports on the East Coast of India have to go around Sri Lanka entailing an additional distance of more than 400 nautical miles and 36 hours of ship time.

2. The Sethu Samudram Ship Canal Project, now under the consideration of the Ministry of Surface Transport, Government of India envisages construction of a ship canal of varying lengths to suit different drafts (30', 31' and 35') through dredging/excavation. The canal will originate from Tuticorin new harbour in the Gulf of Mannar extend north east in straight line up to Mansfield pitch south of Pamban island, then cut through the island east of the Kodandaramasamy temple and thereafter turning north east, proceed parallel to the International Medial line as the Bay of Bengal Channel.

3. Different alignments for the proposed canal were considered, and in the light of representations from the public, the fishermen and the pilgrims, the alignment through the island about 4 km east of Kodandaramasamy Temple has been proposed.

4. The Tuticorin Port Trust, the nodal agency identified for the implementation of the project, in pursuance of its decision to incorporate environmental considerations in the design phase of the project, retained, in March 1998, the National environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to conduct the Initial Environmental Examination of the project.

5. This report presents briefly the project setting, describes the baseline environmental status of the project area, identifies environmental issues, predicts and evaluates impacts due to the proposed canal project.

6. The Initial Environmental Examination has primarily drawn upon the available information on the proposed project., the hydrograph, marine water quality and ecological resources in the project area, and the primary data generated for one season during the course of the study. a comprehensive environmental impact study with intensive data collection covering all seasons of the year is essential for a fuller description and appreciation of the natural processes  occurring in the study area, and to delineate the environmental consequences including the ecological risk associated with the proposed project.

Project Setting

7. The proposed Sethusamudram Ship canal will have two legs, one near the Point Calimere called the Bay of Bengal channel and the other across the narrow Dhanushkody Peninsula near Kodandaramasamy temple. The canal will cut the existing road connecting Rameswaram and Danushkody. The Bay of Bengal channel traverses the Palk bay wherein the sea bed is mostly soft to hard clayey stand in nature. The entire coast of Danushkody peninsula on the North and South is all sandy.

8. In addition to the construction of the proposed ship canal, a number of infra-structural facilities are envisaged under the project. These include the construction of a lock rubble mound breakwaters on either side of the land canal, navigational aids, flotilla, shore facilities and staff and administration buildings.

9. As per the study of Pallavan Transport Consultancy Services Ltd, the estimated cost (1994prices) of dredging various segments of the Channel for three different drafts viz 30', 31' and 35' is Rupees 478 crores, Rupees 549 crores and Rupees 965 crores respectively. The estimated cost of all the project components including the navigational aids and floating crafts is Rupees 685 crores, Rupees 760 crores,and Rupees 1200 crores respectively. The construction period will be about 4 to 6 years. Based on the Net Present Value (NPV) method of appraisal, with an interest rate of 9% per annum, an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 10 to 17% on the investment has been estimated. The project will start generating a surplus from the 16 th to 17 th year of its operation.

EA Requirements

10. In keeping with the nature and magnitude of the investment programme, the proposed Sethusamudram Ship Canal project would fall under category A of the World Bank classification and hence would require full EA.

11. At the national level the environmental clearance to the project is subject to compliance with the stipulated safeguards under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act 1986, Forest( Conservation) Act 1980, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974,The Water ( Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules 1975, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act 1977, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Rule 1978, The Water( Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, and other rules and regulations in force. Land Use on the coastline will be subject to regulation as per Coastal Regulation Zone Notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India under the Environment Protection Act 1986. This notification is administered by the State Pollution Control Board.

12. The Wild Life (Protection) Act of India (1972) provides legal protection to many marine animals including reef associated orgasms. Chapter IV of this Act dealing with sanctuaries, National Parks, Game Reserves and Closed Areas is equally applicable to marine reserves and marine parks and biospheres.

13. The Tamil Nadu Pearl and Chunk Fisheries Rules 1978 of the Indian Fisheries Act 1897 prohibits harvesting of pearl oysters and chunks in specified areas except under a license granted under the rules.

14.Under Section 5 of the Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Act 1983 the State government can regulate, restrict or prohibit fishing in any specified area, the type of fishing gear that can be used, and also the class of fishing vessels that can operate in any area.

15. The Tamil Nadu State environmental Committee is the apex advisory body constituted by the Government ( G.O Ms.No.10 dated December 12, 1983) in the matter of protection of environment in the state. Development projects costing over Rupees 50 million are subject to review and clearance by this committee( GTN G.O Ms.No.161 dated September 26, 1988).

16.Through an executive communication from the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of environment and Forests to the Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu, the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve has been notified in 1989. There is however no legislation as yet on the biosphere reserve either at the national or at state level.

17. Acquisition of private lands for the project will be governed by the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894/The Tamil Nadu Requisitioning and acquisitioning of Immovable property Act of 1956.

18. Resettlement and Rehabilitation, if any, due to the project has to be addressed within the broad framework of the World Bank Operational Directive O.D 4.30 or as per existing provisions of the Tamil Nadu Government whichever is applicable.

19. As per the MEF, Government of India notification dated April 10, 1997, Public Hearing is mandatory for environmental clearance of projects. The notification has also laid down the procedure for Public Hearing.

20.During the operational phase of the project, the most important instrument to be complied with relates to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships 1973 as modified by the Protocol of 1978 to which India is a signatory.


21. Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar covering an area of 10,500 kms in which the proposed ship canal is to be constructed are biologically rich and rated among the highly productive seas of the world. Its diversity is considered globally significant. In the Gulf of Mannar between the coastline and the proposed alignment there are 21 islands which have been declared as National Marine Parks by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department and the MEF, Government of India. Van tivu is the nearest island about 6 kms from the proposed canal alignment in the Tuticorin area and Shingle is the nearest about 12 kms island in the Rameshwaram area.

22.As for hydrograph, there are two circulations of water masses in the Bay of Bengal in the clockwise circulation of the south-west monsoon and the counter clockwise circulation of the north-east monsoon. The reported current velocities in the Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar are as mild as 0.2 m-0.4m/sec except on few days during south-west monsoon when it rises up to 0.7 m/sec. The directions of the currents follow the direction of prominent winds. The analysis of current data shows no potential threats to siltation of the canal.

23. Primary data on physic-chemical characteristics and marine biological resources was collected from April 29- May 10, 1998 from 10 sampling stations along the 50 kilometer long alignment and 20 stations, 5 km on either side of each of the aforementioned 10 stations. Data on hydrodynamics was generated on July 10-11of 1998 at 10 locations in the study domain with the assistance of the Staff of the Chief Hydrographic Surveyor of India, Dehradun. The present bathymetry is assumed to be not significantly different from the bathymetry data depicted in Naval Chart 317.

24.Primary data on physical-chemical characteristics of marine water shows no significant variation in alkalinity (102-106 mg/L) and pH (8.0-8.2) along the proposed canal alignment. The DO values varied from 3.2 to 5.7 mg/Ll and the silicates from 0.003 mg/L to 0.017 mg/L. No significant variation in salinity was observed between surface and bottom samples. An inverse relationship between salinity and silicates was observed. The concentrations of heavy metals except iron, boron, and arsenic was below detectable limits.

25. The gross primary productivity values along the proposed canal alignment varied from 142 to 472 mg C/m3/day indicating that Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Straits are a biologically productive region. The zooplankton were dominated by copepod. Macro benthos were represented by 78 varieties exhibiting fairly good diversity. The meiofauna comprised larval polychaetes, nematodes, worms and shrunken bodies of a few forms.

26. Sediment samples collected along the proposed canal alignment showed the presence of organic carbon, total nitrogen, total phosphorous and sulphates in concentrations adequate for biological growth. Almost all the sediment samples had oil and grease. The concentration of heavy metals were high in some of the sediment samples from the Palk Bay as compared to the samples from other locations.

27. The presence of corals along the proposed ship canal alignment is negligible. Occurrence of major group of biological resources like sea fan, sponges, pearl, oysters, chunks, and holothurians at various sampling points has been recorded. In general, the density of economically/ecologically important species along the proposed alignment is not significant.

28. All the three group of prochordata organisms considered as the connecting link between invertebrates and vertebrates via, hermichordata,cephalochordata and unorchordata comprising 1, 6 and 59 species respectively were recorded mostly around the islands of Gulf of Mannar.

29.There are 87 fish landing stations between the South of Point Calimere and Pamban in the Palk Bay and 40 stations in the Gulf of Mannar between Pamban and Tuticorin. Out of 600 varieties of fishes recorded in this area, 72 are commercially important. During 1992-1996, the fish production has increased gradually from 55325 tones in 1992 to 102897 tones in 1996.

30.Non conventional fishing in the region is represented by pearl, chunk, sea weeds, ornamental shells and holothurians. There has been a declining trend in the production of these organisms as evidenced by the revenue received by MPEDA.

31. Rare and endangered species of sea turtle, dolphin, sea cow, and whale are recorded in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay. The sea cow inhabitants the shallow shore regions where grass occurs, while endangered animals mostly prefer deep sea far away from the proposed alignment.

32. Several species of green algae(32), red algae (59) blue-green algae (3) and sea grasses are  recorded in the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay. A few of the 21 islands are reported to possess patches of mangroves predominated by avicennia sp. and Rhizophora sp.

33. Most of the habitats of the sensitive biota viz corals, pearls, oysters, chunks, dugong, holothurians, and marine algae are along the coast and around the 21 islands and mostly away from the proposed canal alignment.

34.Based on an analysis and interpretation of IRS IC LISS-III satellite data (Path 102 and Row 67 dated 19.05.1998 in CD ROM about 20 square kilometers of Pamban island, barren sandy areas (35 sq, kms) between Pamban island and coastal wedge of Mandapam and an area (329 sq.kms) close to the National Highway (NH 49) from Rameshwaram to Madurai have been identified as potential sites for disposal of dredged material.

35. There are no archaeologically significant structures along the proposed canal alignment. However there exists a probability of cultural/archaeological artifacts being encountered during the excavation of the canal.

36.Along the coast of Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay there are 138 villages and towns spread over 5 districts. The socio-economic profile of the fisherman in the villages of Gulf of Mannar coast is low and more than 40 % of families are in debt. While the local population welcome the project, they have an apprehension that the construction of the canal might result in reduction in their fishery income.

Impacts due to the Project

37. The locations of the proposed land based structures and the extent of required construction are yet to be firmed up. Likewise the potential sites for disposal of dredged material are yet to be decided. Hence, the pre-construction phase impact due to land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation of affected population as also compensation, if any, cannot be assessed at this juncture.

38. As the proposed alignment is more than 5 kms away from the existing 21 National Marine Parks in the Gulf of Mannar, the marine biological resources around the islands will not be affected to any significant level.

39. The existing level of primary productivity in the project area will remain practically unaltered during the construction and operations phase of the ship canal. There would not be any significant change in the water quality including turbidity due to the proposed deployment of trailer suction hopper dredgers and cutter section dredgers for capital and maintenance dredging.

40. Due to the dredging the bottom flora and fauna on an area approximately 25 sq.kms along the canal alignment will be lost permanently. This loss however will be very insignificant compared to the total area of 10,500 sq,km of the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve.

41. During the construction of the land portion of the canal and the shore based structures there will be considerable increase in the rail and road traffic to and from the island for transportation of men, material, machinery and equipment. These would lead to congestion of traffic and increased levels of air and noise pollution with their associated impact on the public.

42. Due to the construction of the canal, the land access, now available to the local fisher folk, to Dhanushkody area for traditional fishing will be hindered unless alternative arrangements are made. The dredging and shipping operations will have to be so regulated as to cause minimum disturbance to the normal fishing activities.

43.Hydrodynamic modeling studies using Depth Integrated Velocity and Solute Transport (DIVAST) model have shown that for the highest spring tidal water conditions there will be no significant change in the magnitude and direction of the current velocities along the proposed alignment due to the construction of the canal.

44. During the construction and operation phases of the canal, the potential sources of marine pollution are spillage of oil and grease, marine litter, jetsam and flotsam including plastic bags, discarded articles of human use from the sea borne vessels which will have to be controlled.

45. The canal may facilitate the movement of fishes and other biota from the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean and vice versa. By this way, the entry of oceanic and alien species into the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar as also dispersal of endemic species outside the Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar could occur.

46. The canal will establish a continuous navigable sea route around the peninsular coast within Indian territorial waters reduce shipping distance by about 400 nautical miles and voyage time of 36 hours, as also the attendant operating costs. The canal will become a valuable asset from national defense and security points of view, enabling easier and quicker access between the coasts.

47. Once the canal is in place, the clandestine and illegal activities in the Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar will be minimized due to constant vigilance and regulation of movement of ships and vessels.

48. The project will provide employment opportunities and avenues of additional income through establishment of small ancillary industries. The project will also trigger development of coastal trade between the Ports of the South and North of Rameshwaram consequently reducing the load and congestion on railways and roadways.

49. The project will help save considerable foreign exchange through reduction in oil import bill and generate revenue income from dues levied on ships transiting the canal which will add to the national economy.

Analysis of Alternatives

50. Five alternative routes for the construction of Sethusamudram ship canal were considered. Based on the evaluation of impacts of the project during construction and operation phases, the alignment (4) suggested by the Steering Committee near the Moonru Iruppu Chatram has been identified as the best alternative (Refer: Fig.5.16) which will cause the least damage to the biota and the environment.

This report is not the first of its kind. For 140 years many such reports were gathering dust. N.Nandhivarman General Secretary Dravida Peravai in a Memorandum personally handed over to Union Defense Minister George Fernandes at Delhi on 22.02.2001 and published in World page of Dinamani Tamil daily dated 23rd February 2001. In verbatim it is reproduced here:

Presenting last year's Union budget (2000-2001) The Honorable Union Minister of Finance  was kind enough to announce in the floor of Parliament as : "Hon'ble members are aware that the Sethu Samudram Ship Canal project has the potential of providing a shorter route between the East and West coast Ports. I am glad to inform that Government had approved the undertaking of a detailed feasibility study and environmental impact assessment of the project at a total cost of Rs 4.8 crore. I have made necessary provision for this in the budget."

"Though it is in the manifesto of the National Democratic alliance and almost all leaders of Tamil Nadu have demanded this project, nothing emerges out of these promises, I am sorry to point out. The Union Finance Minister's budgetary announcement was hailed as a great achievement because after having been conceived 140 years back, there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel. But in spite of the recent promise made by the Prime Minister, I am sorry to say, it is going to be a chase of the mirage. I, as one of the Trustees to the Tuticorin Port Trust, the nodal agency to implement this project had been raising this issue in the board meetings. Quoting from the minutes of the Tuticorin Port Trust, it becomes evident that the nodal agency had no information or plans, while once again election platforms will hear promises galore from personalities. About 20 expert committees have conducted detailed studies and came to the conclusion that the scheme is technically feasible and economically viable.

Report of Commander A.D.Taylor of the Indian Marine, 1860 ( Cost Rs 50 lakhs)

Report of the British Parliamentary Committee, 1862

Sir John Stuart, Chief assistant to the Surveyor General of Ceylonese Government 1871

Harbour Engineer George Robertson Report 1872

Proposal by the South Indian Ship Canal Port and Coaling Station Ltd 1884

Proposal by the South Indian Railway Railway Company 1902

Report of the Harbour Engineer Sir Robert Brislow to Government of India 1921

Port Development scheme by Government of Madras 1947

Dr.Sir.A.Ramasamy Mudaliar Committee 1955

Dr.Nagendra Singh Committee 1963

C.V.Venkateswaran Committee 1965 (Rs 37 crore)

C.V.Venkateswaran Committee ( cost upgradation) 1971 ( Rs 53 crore)

Government of India Technical Committee confirms feasibility of the scheme but shelves it due to cost factor 1980 ( Rs 110 crore)

Ministry of Shipping and Transport (Port Wing) Commitee 1981

H.R.Lakshminarayanan Committee 1983 ( Rs 282 crore)

Tamil Nadu Assembly passes unanimous resolution seeking implementation of Sethu project 1986

Report of Pallavan Consultancy Services Ltd 1996 ( Rs 685 to Rs 1200 crores depending on the draft)

Now that it becomes clear that all these expert committees have found the project feasible, the one constituted in the allocation made by the Union Minister would have also have endorsed the same view. 

Way back in 1860 when the Suez Canal was on the drawing board the British Maritime pioneers had discovered that a shipping canal off Rameshwaram coast will save approximately 36 hours of sailing time between Madras and Tuticorin and reduce the distance by 434 nautical miles i.e about 803 kms. The latest in the series of studies is by the Tamil Nadu Government owned Pallavan Consultancy Services, which says in its Report on March 1996 that "the project can be completed at an estimated capital cost (1996 price) of Rs 685 crore, Rs 760 crore,and Rs 1200 crore for a canal of 30 feet, 31 feeet, and 35 feet draft respectively. The payback period is 17 years, and thereafter the benefit from the canal project would be Rs 47 crore in the first year and Rs 100 to Rs 120 crore in the subsequent years. According to the 1996 ratings earnings of foreign exchange is estimated at Rs 35 crore besides a reduction in fuel import by Rs 200 crore. The approved Sethu Canal alignment envisages the creation of a 180 km long and 200 meters wide canal to connect the Gulf of Mannar with the Palk Straits off Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. But major dredging needs only to be done only for about 15 kms on Mannar side and 12 kms on the Palk Bay side since a natural shipping canal already exists there.

In view of the economic benefits that will generate prosperity to Southern Tamil Nad,We urge the Union Government to give the go ahead or speed up negotiations to hand over the project too private sector under B.O.T.Basis. Nanguneri Free Trade Zone inaugurated recently is in the near vicinity. Unless infrastructure projects  of gigantic nature like Sethu Canal project are taken up it will not achieve the required prosperity in our times.

We only urge what the NDA Manifesto promises, what the Prime Minister promised to the people of Tamil Nadu in a Marumalarchi DMK rally at Chennai, what has been incorporated in the previous years budget, what had been announced by the Union Defense Minister in Rameshwaram and Tuticorin on 6.1.1999 and in which as translator of his speech, I have little memory left to recall that promise, to be fulfilled before the Assembly elections ahead, as after having waited for 141 years for this project, the people of Tamil Nadu must get it.". Thus Dravida Peravai urged the Union Government.

Close on the heels of submission of this memorandum, the Union Budget was presented for the year 2001-2002. Dinamani, Tamil daily in its front page published the salient features of the budget. In the same front page it pointed out that no funds were allocated for the Sethu Samudram project. The funds allocated for the year 2000-2001were not utilized since a comprehensive feasibility study for which those funds were earmarked was not undertaken during that financial year. Dinamani recalled Nandhivarman's meeting with Union Defence Minister previous week in this connection and said as feared , in budget no funds were allocated for Sethu samudram project. It also stated MDMK General Secretary Vaiko expressed disappointment over this lacunae. Subsequently Junior Vikatan published a story in its issue of 14 th March 2001.Then there were protests from all quarters.

 Meanwhile Srilanka suddenly announced that India and Srilanka will undertake a feasibility study to construct a Hanuman Bridge across the Palk straits. Srilankan Investment Corporation Chairperson Mr.Jayasoorya had said that the feasibility is over and soon India and Srilanka are going to put their signatures for green signaling this project at a cost of Rs.4000 crores. According to that project a six way track for road and rail traffic was mooted. The distance of 29.2 kilometers between Thalaimannar and Dhanushkody will be connected by this bridge. Sweden and Denmark have a sea bridge for 23 kilometers. If this bridge is completed it will beat that record, Sri lanka proclaimed.

Dravida Peravai criticized this project as a BERLIN WALL ACROSS THE PALK STRAITS PLANNED TO SEND SETHU SAMUDRAM PROJECT FOR BURIAL. In Parliament the Rajya Sabha member from Pondicherry  Mr.C.P.Thirunavukkarasu ( DMK ) raised his voice against this project. The Swadeshi Protection Movement organized protest in front of Memorial Hall Chennai. MDMK General Secretary Vaiko wrote to the Center protesting this plan.

After so much delay suddenly Tuticorin Port Trust on 1.09.2001 called for global tender.. The Notice Inviting Global Tender vide No E(C)/F.42/8/2001/DB was published in all newspapers. Last date for receipt was extended to December 15, 2001. The Chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust said in the media that  the feasibility study will be over by April 2002. In this process the same National Environment Engineering Research Institute was selected and it gave its Report. Acting on that report, National Democratic Alliance government did not do anything.

2004 POLLS: Unprecedented victory of all 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led Alliance resulted in United Progressive Alliance coming to power. The DMK nominee in the cabinet holding Shipping & Surface Transport portfolio Mr.T.R.Baalu used all persuasive powers at his command to get a cabinet nod for this project. Union Finance Minister P.Chidambaram too did his best to see this project become a reality. And meanwhile in public hearings on this project politically motivated  vested interests plotted to raise hue and cry against this project. To politically deny credit to DMK Ministers every effort was taken. The Tuticorin Port Trust under the dynamic leadership of Chairman Ragupathy answered all doubts raised by full page advertisements in many papers. It deserves reproduction separately.



Canal to Reduce distance between East and west coast by 424 nautical miles, travel by 30 hours


New Delhi May 19,2005, The government today cleared the long delayed Sethu Samudram Ship Canal project off Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu that would vastly reduce distance between East and west Coasts of India.

This 2427.40 crore project cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs may also tap the capital market through initial public offering or private placements to raise Rs 226 crore.

Announcing the CCEA decision Finance Minister P.Chidambaram said a special purpose vehicle would be set up for the implementation of the project that would create a navigational canal.

The canal will reduce distance of up to 424 nautical miles and sailing time up to 30 hours for ships between the east and west coast.

Elaborating this project Chidambaram said it was a dream for over 100 years. With the cabinet nod, the Government had fulfilled the CMP and budget promises, he said.

" It opens up a channel that would enable ships to avoid going around Srilanka"., he said. adding the channel would bring benefits as was the case with Suez Canal and Panama Canal. The total project cost would be Rs 2,333 crore and financing cost Rs 194.40 crore. Chidambaram said adding the SPV will raise the funds. He said the financial structure of the SPV would be in the debt equity ration of 1:5:1

The Finance Minister said the Sethu samudram Corporation Limited will be the nodal agency for raising resources and implementing the project through Tuticorin Port trust.

Elaborating on the Government contribution in the SPV,  Chidambaram said it would contribute Rs 495 crore, while the Shipping Corporation of India and Tuticorin Port Trust will contribute Rs 50 crore each. The Dredging Corporation of India along with Port Trusts of Chennai, Ennore, Vizag and paradip will contribute Rs 30 crore each.

The project has been hanging fire for almost a century and a half, envisages linking the Arabian Sea with the Bay of Bengal by dredging the shallow waters to the north of Srilanka, thereby creating a navigable canal across the Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay and the Palk Straits.

These waters have hitherto not been navigable by cargo shipping and the justification for the project is that it will save about 400 kilometers of sailing distance between east and western coasts of India.

An environmental impact assessment report was prepared by the NEERI of Nagpur although it has reportedly had no previous experience with marine projects of this nature. (PTI)

Courtesy: New Indian Express May 20, 2005.



This website thanks the Union Government headed by Mr.Manmohan Singh for having given the clearance for Sethu Samudram project. Dravida Peravai first thanks A.D.Taylor who mooted this suggestion in 1860. Dravida Peravai thanks all parties of the United Democratic Alliance for having stood for this project.

Though many had strived the efforts of Kalaignar M.Karunanithi, Preseident DMK with all his national stature and political clout led to the green signaling of this dream project. A special thanks to him by all Tamil peoples.

 Marumalarchi DMK General Secretary Vaiko can be equally singled out for praise for his tireless efforts. Dravida Peravai thanks Comrade George Fernandes for the efforts he had taken during his tenure, but which failed against the Srilankan lobby which was against this project fearing it would eat into the profits of their country's harbours.  Dravida Peravai had a small role in the long drawn struggle for that project. Our intention is to place that on record.

Having said all, it should be stated that Sethusamudram project was mentioned by Arignar Anna as one of the 1000 crore projects he spelt out for Tamil Nadu's prosperity as Opposition Leader in the floor of the Assembly in 1957-1962.On becoming Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to urge the Union Government grant this project and Salem Steel plant he gave a call to organize "Ezhucchi Naal "( Day of Uprising). As Student DMK Convenor N.Nandhivarman spoke at Senji Salai thidal of Pondicherry at that time. Now whole Tamil Nadu feels happy that Anna's dream is coming true.

Dravida Peravai (Annaist Party of India)

39 Montorsier Street, Pondicherry 605001

N.Nandhivarman, General Secretary Tel:91-0413-2221025 


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