Beginning with the need for a such a shipping lane, the author compares its importance to the Suez and Panama canal. Currently ships have to go round Sri Lanka to go between the two India coasts. This increases the passage time and fuel costs.The canal would lead to a saving of 254 to 424 nautical miles and reduce sailing time of ships by 21 to 36 hours.
Some of the salient features of the project are that the bottom width of the canal would be 300 m and the canal would support vessels of size Length - 215 m, Breadth = 33 m, Draft = 10 m.
The first proposal to create a canal, was in 1860 by Commander Taylor. Post independence, the issue was again taken up in 1956. The Sethusamudram Project Committee Report, headed by Sir A. Ramaswamy Mudaliyar was brought out. In 1996, M/s Pallavan Transport Consultancy Services brought out a report. The major difference between these reports was route of the canal.
The current project began in 1997 with the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE). The IEE stated that the project would not harm the environment and also suggested a particular alignment of the canal. In 2002 the Ministry of Surface Transport (Shipping) entrusted the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to undertake studies on the techno-economic viability, and an Environmental Impact Assessment of the project.
The paper also looks at the projects attributes especially in terms of economics, technology, archaeology and defence.
The paper highlights the threat that the project holds to the beliefs of the Hindus. Hindu's believe that their god Ram had a bridge built between India and Sri Lanka.
The author concludes that the project should consider the sentiments of the Hindus and realign the canal.
This paper was presented at the National Seminar on Water and Culture organised by Kannada University and Sahayoga in 2007.
Download the paper here: