in deep existential crisis..

A Journal by Sara

A Blood Sucking Canal

In the earlier post, I discussed about the affidavit filed in Supreme Court supporting the Sethu Samudram Canal Project. Congress immediately sensing the political slip-up withdrew the petition the next day. But the smoke after all did not exhaust the same day.

The DMK supremo MK, a well known atheist, aired his views that Ram does not exist and it is just a fictional character as any other cast in stories he writes. He also questioned the wisdom behind the alleged construction of the bridge by Ram, and asked from which engineering college he has graduated through. He did not stop with that either and went a notch up to say Ram is a drunkard too.

There, the smoke was lit in a grand manner and fuelled regularly by him and others. The BJP chief Advani said he appreciates MK being an atheist, but at the same time people at the helm of affairs do not impose their personal opinions on the masses and asked him to withdraw the statement. But MK was quick to reply saying there is no room withdrawing the statement and invited Advani for one-on-one debate on Ramayana.

Now, the issue which all along been regional has spun its wheels all over the nation and lit itself up as one of the most sensitive controversy in New Delhi capable of twitching the throne. MK said, it had been a century plus years dream of the Tamil to have the canal built up and make way to the economical progress. He has said it would be a dream-come-true for the fishermen in the coastal areas and they would immensely benefit out of the project. But the truth holds otherwise.

According to these reports, it is the very fishermen whom they talked about want this project to be scrapped. Then which Tamils dream is it to realize this project? Is it the Tamils of the politician’s family? It also talks about the environmental disaster it would turn out to be, if implemented. Also, the private ships which are expected to pass through the canal has not showed absolutely any interest to use the canal, as it is not a viable option for them to use it and would be better-off without such canal. It’s also reported that as sand continuously move in the Palk straits it is impossible to dig a canal out there. Also, a report stating that widening of Ram-Sethu would amplify Tsunami.

Excerpts from interview with O Fernandez, the co-convenor of CAN and director of the Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation.

The Union minister for shipping says that the canal is the 135-year-old dream of the Tamils…

We ask: which Tamils? When the fishing people are opposed to it, you must listen to them. Forget the scientific experts; these fishermen are saying from their experience that when there is a particular volume of noise and a particular amount of sand churning, the movement of the fish gets affected. If there is a canal, the fishing community will not be able to access the sea. So, we are asking, which Tamil are you listening to? Are you listening to the Tamil living on the coast? The government should have undertaken some environmental studies before clearing the project. Because no studies were conducted, no foreign dredging vessel is willing to take part in the project. Now you are depending on the Dredging Corporation of India, which is very easy. Rs 533 crore is being spent on the project. Where is all this money going? The project is not viable scientifically or economically. It is environmentally disastrous. It is disastrous for the livelihood of the lakhs of fishermen living along the coast.

Two years ago, you said you had the support of scientists, environmentalists and the local residents. But when the government went ahead with the dredging, you people couldn’t stop it…

That?s because the dredging ship is protected by the Coast Guard and the Navy and they have been ordered to shoot at sight. So, the fishing people cannot go anywhere near the dredging site. Otherwise, we would have gone and sat on the vessels. Once in Nagapattinam, 500 boats were ready.

You told me then that fishermen would go out in their catamarans and stop the dredging?

But there were shoot at sight orders, and if they went within 3 to 5 kms of the deredging ship, they would be shot at.

Here is a report, which sums up neatly in its subject line itself about this old-school thought of digging up a canal which serves anyone no purpose. It beautifully illustrates the economic incompetency of this project’s scope and the least attraction to the private ship companies which comes through west. Here is an excerpt from the column.


The Suez and Panama Canals save ships thousands of miles, and that makes them profitable. Sethusamundaram is not remotely comparable. It is designed for small ships (the project documents talk of 20,000 DWT), whereas the Panama Canal takes ships of up to 65,000 DWT and Suez takes ships up to 150,000 DWT.

Global shipping is shifting to ever-larger vessels. Bulk carriers and tankers often exceed 200,000 DWT, and those under 60,000 DWT are being phased out as uneconomic. Old general cargo vessels have been replaced by container ships, which started small but now exceed 35,000 DWT, and may soon touch 75,000 DWT. Such vessels cannot use the canal.

So, Sethusamundaram will be unsuitable for the large vessels of the 21st century. It is a 150-year old idea for 150-year old ships. That may be its epitaph.


So, with all these inabilities, the least scope for future usage, a disaster for marine environment, the ship carriers opting not to use it, the only purpose for which the canal is being planned, the fishermen who badly wants to stop the project but couldn’t due to shoot-at-sight orders at 3-5km near the project construction site are few parameters, at best it could easily be summed up to one key word, a political motive, than being useful for anyone else.

On financial note, the tax payer’s money Rs. 533 crore is believed to have been spent thus far in a project which would get outdated even before it is updated.  And that tax payer is none but you, me and the people around.


September 27, 2007 - Posted by | Infra Structure, Issues, Politics, Religion/Spiritual

1 Comment »

  1. Appreciate the social cause of writing this blog, adding spices to this…
    1.No one will prefer the canal as it will be only 12m deep where vessels have to go with slower pace which will consume 4% extra fuel.
    2.Entire construction was planned within Rs.2500 crores, extended by MK & Co. to 4000 crores.
    Synapsis from Jaya TV…

    Comment by Rajesh D | October 3, 2007 | Reply

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