Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Sethusamudram Corporation
Hindu Council, UK calls for Designation of Gulf of Mannar as World Heritage Site, 11 November 2008
Sethusamudram Project: EconomicViability - Jacob John, 21 July 2007

Appeal by Manitham to UN Secretary General, 4 April 2005 "...the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP), will undoubtedly change the face of the earth in two countries and might exacerbate the possibility of sudden natural disasters such as Tsunamis, Tidal waves or Cyclones..." [see also Hindu Report]

Manitham urges investigation by 'Independent International Experts'  17 September 2004

Radio Veritas: Sri Lanka concerned over Indian move to dredge Palk Straits 17 September 2004-  " Sri Lanka Thursday (16 September 2004) expressed concern over Indian moves to dredge the shallow sea dividing the two neighbouring nations to allow international shipping to bypass the island. The government here said in a statement that the ambitious Indian project could take away shipping from Colombo's main port and also pose a security threat to the smaller island republic. India's ministry of shipping has begun work on a project to create a canal through the Palk Straits to link the east and west coasts of India so that shipping between the two points need not go round Sri Lanka.

"The government of Sri Lanka is concerned that there will be a number of serious implications for Sri Lanka if the proposed project is implemented by the government of India," the Sri Lankan government said in a statement. It said the Indian plan, known as the "Sethusamudram project," could affect international sea traffic now using Colombo port and would have a negative impact on the environment and on the livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen. "Since the seas of the northeast of Sri Lanka have an important bearing on security issues, it is also identified as an area for security concern," the statement said.

It said the cabinet had appointed a ministerial team involving the ministers of defence and foreign affairs to study all the implications of the Indian project on Sri Lanka. The former Sri Lankan government had proposed a land bridge to connect the two countries over what is known as "Adam's Bridge," a cluster of sand dunes stretching about 30 kilometres (18 miles) between the two neighbours. The bridge project, which could have effectively stopped clearing of a shipping lane, was shelved." Source: AFP

`Non-Government Organisations of recent origin have been opposing the Sethu Project' - N K Ragupathy, 10 September 2004
Sethu Project : Puthiya Tamizhagam president, K. Krishnaswamy, expressed apprehension over its adverse impact, 10 September 2004
Sri Lankan environmentalist body objects to Indian project, 7 September 2004 [see also Position Paper of Environmental Foundation]
Sethu Samudram Project , 1 April 2004    "The project proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar on the east coast of India by creating a shipping canal through Rameswaram Island, which would provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian Peninsula. ..The project was originally conceived in 1860 by the British Commander A.D. Taylor of the Indian Marines.. "

Tamils - a Nation without a State
தமிழ் அகம் - ஓர் உணர்வா, அல்லது இடமா?

Tamil Nadu - தமிழ் நாடு
- an estimated 65 million Tamils live in Tamil Nadu - 

Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project

Report by Dr. P. Sivalingam
Former Vice Chancellor, Anna University - Tamil Nadu, India
Member of the Committee to Examine the Viability of Sethusamudram Project, 21 July 1997

[see also "The Sethusamudram Project.. would give India a firm grip on one of the world's most strategic and busiest sea-lanes. This would eventually give India very remarkable leverage in its relations with China, Japan and the US. All the oil supplies to Southeast and East Asia that originate in the Middle East are shipped from ports in the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf. The sea-lanes from here converge in the Arabian Sea and then pass through the Gulf of Mannar and curve off the western, southern and southeastern coast of Sri Lanka. This sea-lane then turns northeast through the Bay of Bengal towards the Malacca Strait. Eighty percent of Japan's oil supplies and sixty percent of China's oil supplies shipped on this sea-lane. Almost half of the world's container traffic passes through the choke points of this sea-lane and its branches in the Indian Ocean. ... The strategic importance of this by-pass should also be understood in the light of New Delhi's ambitions for becoming the Indian Ocean's predominant naval power." Dharmaretnam Sivaram in Geo-Strategic Implications of Sethusamudram, 6 October 2004 ]

India had maritime trade with various countries of the world since time immemorial. Shipping trade among the various coastal ports both on the west and east coast was also going on for a very long period. India has a peninsular coast of 3554 nautical miles. However, it is rather unfortunate that India does not have a continuous navigable sea lane running within her territorial waters.

Consequently, ships from the east coast of India to Tuticorin have to go around Sri Lanka. This is because of a Sand Stone Reef, called Adam's bridge, at Pamban near Rameswaram between the Southern-Eastern Coast of India and Talaimannar of Sri Lanka. The depth of the sea in this portion is very shallow and is hardly about 11 feet only. Because of this shallow depth, the ships have to go around Sri Lanka increasing the travel distance considerably, when they have to call at ports on the East coast of India like Vishakapatnam, Pardeep, Calcutta and Haldia.

In order to reduce the steaming distances and take advantage of navigation along the coast within our territorial waters, a number of proposals were considered for cutting a Ship Canal called the Sethusamudram Ship Canal through Rameswaram island, to connect the Gulf of Mannar with Palk Bay.

The Proposals were considered from the year 1860 onwards as follows:

1. 1860 : Commander Taylor's proposal
2. 1861 : Townsend's proposal

3. 1863 : Governor of Madras Presidency, His Excellency Sir William Denison's proposal

4. 1871 : Mr. Stoddart's proposal

5. 1872 : Harbour engineer, Mr. Robertson's proposal

6. 1884 : Sir John's proposal for the South India Ship Canal Port and Coaling Station Ltd

7. 1903 : S.I. Railway Engineer's proposal

8. 1922 : Harbour Engineer to Government of India Sir Robert Bristow's proposal

All these proposals were not given due consideration and were kept in cold storage.

After India attained independence, the Government of India constituted the Sethusamudram Project Committee in 1955 with Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliyar as Chairman with Shri S.K. Mukherji , Chief Commercial Superintendent, Sothern Railway, Shri B.N. Chatterji, Retired Chief Engineer of Calcutta Port Trust and Capt. J.R. Davis, Nautical Advisor to Government of India as Members and Shri R.A. Gopalaswamy ICS as Member Secretary to examine - the feasibility and desirability of connecting Gulf of Mannar with Palk Bay cutting a channel at the appraoches to the Adam's Bridge for enabling deep-sea ships to navigate from West to East coast of India, and - whether the construction of such a passage would increase the potentiality of the port of Tuticorin if it is to be developed into a deep-sea port. (Though Tuticorin Port was in existence for a very long time ships had no berthing facilities and they had to be held in anchorage about 5 to 6 miles off the coast).

This committee made detailed investigations, collected particulars of volume of traffic, number of passages etc and arrived at the initial capital outlay for the integrated Sethusamudram-cum-Tuticorin Port Scheme at Rs.998 lakhs. They estimated a saving in distance of around 362 nautical miles, ( in terms of voyage one and a half a day) and ensured a safe sheltered passage throughout the year.

The committee was of strong view that the two projects namely the Sethusamudram Canal and Tuticorin Harbour were very closely inter-related and should be taken up and executed as part of one and the same project. They also found after careful evaluation of costs and benefits, the project was feasible and viable.

The project recommended by Ramaswamy Mudaliar Committee contemplated a draft of 26 ft. Later in 1959 Captain Davis made some suggestions to make the scheme more viable and economical with Mandapam alignment. In 1963, the Government of Madras examined the possibilities of increasing the draft to 30 ft and conducted drilling operations with the help of the State Port Officer and the estimate was revised to rs. 21 crores.

This proposal showed that the savings on distance between the various ports will range from 259 to 424 kilometers. After Tuticorin Harbour Project was sanctioned in 1963, Govt of India decided to include Sethusamudram Project for advance action. In Pursuance of this, a High Level Committee was formed with Dr. Nagendra Singh I.C.S., Secretary, Ministry of Shipping and Transport, as Chairman and the Committee appointed in 1965 Shri C. Venkateswaran, Retd. Development Advisor (Ports) as Chief Engineer. The Madras Govt set up a special Engineering cell with a superintending engineer and named Shri R. Natarajan I.A.S as Project Officer, to collect statistics on shipping traffic and other data.

This team collected subsoil data by

(1) boring 2(2) Hydrographic surveys
(3) Radio Active tracer studies
(4) observations of waves tides, currents, silt charge, littoral drift
(5) wind and rainfall data,
(6) under water blasting and rates for the same.

Besides model studies were conducted at Central Water and Power Research Station, Khadakwasla. Also studies regarding time required to pass through the ship canal, waiting period, net savings in terms of time, distance and cost of fuel, were made. The investigations were completed in 1967 and the report submitted in May 1968 suggesting the technically feasible and cheapest alignment along Rameswaram crossing. The cost of the Project was estimated as Rs. 37.46 crores. Projection of traffic and revenue was made. It was projected that the foreign ships transits to Indian ships transit was 73:27.

The Project was reviewed in 1971 and cost was updated to Rs. 53 crores. Again in 1974, the estimate was updated to Rs. 72 crores after consulting various agencies. Meanwhile, the Tuticorin Harbour Project was completed and the new port was commissioned in 1975 and the traffic exceeded the forecast made. Shri J.I. Coil Pillai, former Chief Engineer and Administrator, Tuticorin Harbour Project, revised the cost to Rs. 110 crores and still established the viability in his report in 1980. At the same time the Government did not recommend the project for inclusion in five year plans and kept it in abeyance.

However there was very strong public opinion for taking up the project urgently. The M.Psand M.L.As and the Govt of Tamil Nadu made incessant and strong pleas for taking up the project. At the instance of the Consultative Committee of the Govt. of India, Ministry of Shipping and Transport (Port Wing) the Minister constituted a committee in January 1981, with Shri H.R. Luxminarayanan Development advisor, Shri S.D. Batra, Principal Officer, Merchant Marine Department, Shri V. Nilakantan, Manager, Shipping Corporation of India, in February 1981, Shri V. Sundaram, Chairman Tuticorin Port Trust and Shri J.I. Coil Pillai were included later in January 1982. Shri P. Sivalingam, Former Vice Chancellor, Anna University was appointed in place of late Shri Coil Pillai; Later Shri M.P. Wadhavan NM, VSM Chief of Staff, Southern Naval Command and Shri K.A. Sundaram Vice V Sundaram were included in February 1982 and August 1982 respectively. The committee met in Madras and discussed about the line of approach.

They decided to collect necessary factual data and descriptive information materials and suggestions relevant to the project from Govt departments Chambers of Commerce, Members of Parliament, Members of State Legislature and members of the public ain the form of memorandum. The committee had sittings at Tuticorin, Ramanathapuram, Madurai, Madras and received representations.

The Govt of Tamilnadu's nominee said that the State owned Poompuhar shipping corporation moved coal from Haldia to Tuticorin Thermal Power station and this traffic would considerably increase in the years to come due to additional units planned. The project would facilitate faster movement of coal from Haldia to Tuticorin thermal station and cement factories. Employment potential in drought prone hinterland of Ramanathapuram would increase.

Growth of Tuticorin Port and development of industries in and around Tuticorin would facilitate faster movement. The implementation of the project would create further opportunities to promote coastal traffic throught Tuticorin. Representatives of Political parties, M.Ps, M.L.As, M.L.Cs also stressed the urgency of taking up the project. It was also brought out that the project would enable exploitation of the fisheries wealth of Palk Bay, Gulf of Mannar and promote reefer trade in the region.

At present bigger trawlers are not able to ply and they they have to go around Sri Lanka. The recent discovery of immense polagic fishery resource in south west coast including Padtro Bank, Wedge Bank, etc would enable bigger vessels to operate profitably to exploit the hitherto untapped fisheries resources.

Also, development of industries like building boats and trawlers, repairs and maintenance of these vessels, would come up besides fish processing centers, freezing plants etc. Island Fisherman's Associations pleaded to shilf the alignment to the mainland near Uchipuli as fisherman and pilgrims to the temple and public would find it difficult to move from one port to the other.

On inspection, the committee noted that there was heavily built up residential area in the Rameswaram alignment and examined an alternative alignment across Dhanushkodi east of Rameswaram temple. After investigations and study of the coastal morphology in relation to the latest hydrographic chart, the committee chose the K-alignment across Dhanushkodi west of Kothandaramasamy Koil.

The committee appointed a navigation subcommittee with Capt.B.N. Batra; Capt G.N. Khanna, Capt. George and S. Gopalan, Chief Engineer with the following terms of reference: 1. to determine under keel clearance and bottom widths of channel. 2. to determine the tug power and pilotage services 3. to determine operational procedure for navigating vessels both for single ship and ships in convoy 4. facilities for passing ships 5. navigational aids 6. time of passage 7. shore facilities and logistics like jetties, mooring and buoys 8. night navigation 9. maintenance and repair facilities 10. pollution control measures 11. channel maintenance, hydrographic surveys 12. strength of personnel etc. This committee collected the above particulars and made projections of traffic for the year 1989-1990 to be NRT 230 lakhs (3000 transits).

The cost of the project was estimated at Rs. 282 crores taking into account prevailing prices in February 1983. The period of implementation of the project was 4 years. Benefits due to the project to the canal authority and shipping companies were estimated at 20.75 crores. The project was considered economical with sufficient returns and was expected to build cumulative surplus of Rs. 453.30 crores at the end of 25th year. It is more than 14 years since the committee submitted its Report. Since then lot of developments, innovations, advancements have taken place in shipping trade. It is therefore of urgent importance to reappraise the project taking into consideration recent trends of bigger ships and bulk carriers. Perhaps the draft etc, will have to be higher. I hope the concerned Government will take appropriate action and take up the project without any further delay.

The Lifting Railway Bridge at Pamban, Palk Straits, Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu) 



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