The Rs 24.27 billion Sethusamudram project involving the dredging of shallow seas between India and Sri Lanka (to create a ship channel connecting Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal through Palk Bay) has been a ‘Brilliant Idea’ for far too long. This 167.5 km long ‘canal’ after its finalization is supposed to save the travel distance up to 785 km (as the ships now have to circumnavigate the whole of Sri Lanka) and approximately up to 30 hours of travel time.
But far from being an all round solution for the shipping problems in the region, the project has been mired in controversy since the day of its inception. The dredging work is feared to irrevocably damage the fragile ecosystem and bio-diversity in the region. Critics have alleged that the environment impact assessment done by the government has been an eyewash. The concerns of India’s richest biodiversity (Gulf of Mannar; 3,600 plant and animal species) were least addressed and the livelihood of fisherman was deliberately compromised to please an important political ally of the Congress led
Whatever might be the rationale for bringing ‘modern development’, the environmental concerns and livelihood must be made to take precedence over everything without exception.