Wednesday October 3 2007 07:52 IST
Wg Cdr K Parthasarathi VSM (Retd)
THE DPA politicians who observed a one-day token fast on Monday keep asserting that the Sethu Samudram Canal Project (SSCP) is for the development of Tamil Nadu. There are a few secular questions to ascertain the veracity of their statements as well as the depth of their knowledge about SSCP.
Is SSCP going to be an international sea route like Suez/Panama canal?The depth of the canal being dredged is 40 ft (13 metres) for 75 km (half the length of the canal) under the water without banks. Can the ships more than 35000 DWT go through this canal? Ships plying in the international routes are normally 100000 DWT and more and not less 60000 DWT. Can these ships use SSCP?
Ships plying on international routes sail at a speed of 14 to 18 knots. Can the speed of ships going through SSCP be more than seven knots? These ships are required to embark a pilot. Are they not required to pay pilotage and additional marine charges like for the usage of tugs? No oficial document to date has indicated the rate to be levied for embarking a pilot and additional marine charges.
With a low transit speed 6-8 knots (50 per cent of the speed on any international route) can the saving of sailing time be more than four hours? Does this make any sense to vessels sailing for weeks and months?
The Bay of Bengal is a rough sea and Mannar Bay is a calm one. During the northeast monsoon (October to January) there will be heavy silting which will cause loss of depth below 40 feet. Can the canal be used during those four months?Is dredging possible during the monsoon? Will there be any revenue from the canal in the monsoon months when there is no dredging and the silting is high?Therefore, it cannot serve as an international sea route.
With all these constraints, will the revenue from ships using this canal (of course, below 35000 DWT) be sufficient for an economically viable operation? This is the vital question to be addressed by the pseudo-secular DPA politicians.
Can the Indian Navy which sails in formation use the canal which is 1000 feet (300 metres) wide and depth only 40 feet? As the role of eastern and western fleets is well defined, where is the need to use this canal? In the event of Indian Navy using this canal, it is close to LTTE sea hideouts. LTTE may create problems as they did during the IPKF operations.
Just a few years ago this area was declared a special biosphere park for conservation by T R Baalu himself. Will not the millions of cubic feet of undersea minerals and chemicals wealth scooped out permanently disturb this special biosphere park?
What will be the effect of millions cubic feet of sea wealth scooped out on the lives of rare living beings in the seas in these areas and how is it going to affect the livelihood of people both in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka? Since only ships under 35000 DWT can operate, this canal can be used only to bring coal to the Tuticorin thermal station. Should we spend nearly Rs 4000 crores (the project’s esclated cost today according to media reports) to bring coal to the Tutucorin thermal station? Dedicated rail wagons are sufficient for this purpose.
As the canal will function as a funnel under water between the Bay of Bengal and Mannar Bay what will be its effect on biological/ ecological aspects when the ocean currents are normal and during under-water earthquakes and tsunamis and the implications for Tuticorin and Rameswaram? Have the oceanographers and geologists studied these vital implications? Without bringing in Sri Rama or Ramar palam (Sethu), the whole concept has been discussed here. Will the DPA leaders dispassionately answer them point by point?
Let the people of Tamil Nadu know what purpose does the canal serve and whom it is meant to serve. The TN people are apprehensive of this project because of the fiasco of the original Veeranam project under the present Chief Minister.
The huge cement pipes on the way to Kumbakonam are stark reminders of the fiasco. SSCP should not become another such fiasco. That is the prayer of the people of TN to Sri Rama.
THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS