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Ram Sethu won’t be damaged, Govt tells Supreme Court but security realities favor early completion of the project

The Centre filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on Friday saying it had abandoned the alignment that would have involved dredging Ram Sethu or Adam’s Bridge for the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP). Eleven years ago, the SC had directed the centre to find an Alternative alignment to the ship canal project. But no serious effort was made by both the UPA and NDA governments though a sum of Rs one thousand crores of tax payers money had been sunk into the project. 

Dredging the canal in the Gulf of Mannar has been completed way back in 2007 when the controversy over Ram set erupted.

The shipping ministry told the SC it stood by the UPA government’s affidavits filed in February and September 2013 conveying the decision to pursue the Sethusamudram project, but “considering the socio-economic disadvantages of Alignment No. 6 (that required dredging of Ram Sethu), the government of India does not want to implement the said alignment.” The project will help ships reach Chennai from Tuticorin Port in South Tamil Nadu without having to circumnavigate the entire island nation of Sri Lanka.

“The Centre intends to explore the alternative to the earlier alignment of Sethusamudram project without affecting/damaging Adam’s Bridge/Ram Sethu in the interest of the nation. The SC may dispose of the petitions accordingly,” additional solicitor general Pinky Anand told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra. 

Sources in the Sethusamdudram project say barring a visit to the project site once by the shipping minister Gadkari and the former shipping secretary no tangible steps have been taken to complete the project. The BJP opposes the project on ideological grounds, The fact of the matter is any alternative to alignment six would compromise on the availability of adequate draft for the ships to pass through the Canal. 

The completion of the ship canal project has of late assumed strategic importance in view of the excessive presence of Chinese Naval ships in the Indian Ocean Region as well as Bay of Bengal  and Chinese companies take-over of Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, China also considerable presence in Colombo Port. 

Under these circumstances it would be naïve from the security point of view that there could no movement of ships from North to South Tamil Nadu except to circumnavigate via Sri Lanka, The ship canal project provides direct shipping connectivity between Northern and Southern parts of Tamil Nadu, crucial for country’s security, the sources said.

 

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