The Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday a fresh application filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for a direction to the Centre to scrap the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project citing the adverse report submitted by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO).

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.V. Raveendran and J.M. Panchal will hear the application, which quoted the NIO report as having stated the project was so disastrous for India that no one would proceed with it.

In July last year, the court reserved verdict on the petitions filed by Dr. Swamy and others, and said the matter would be taken up after the R.K. Pachauri Committee submitted its report on an alternative alignment for the project, without cutting across Adam’s Bridge or Ramar Sethu.

In his fresh application, Dr. Swamy said: “The contents of the NIO report are such [it delineates consequences so disastrous for India that no one with any sense of responsibility/conscience could proceed with the project at all] that on its basis, it would be necessary to scrap the entire project.”

Meagre data

According to the application, the NIO report says: “The data available in the region of interest are meagre and clearly inadequate for an assessment of the possible impact of the project. Hence, all that could be validly attempted was a simulation model to examine the consequences of a change in the alignment of the Sethusamudram project.

“Given the paucity of data, it is difficult to make a conclusive statement on whether Alignment 4A would cause more damage to the marine biota in the reserve; the impact of an oil spill in the channel on the Marine Biosphere Reserve has not been studied in the absence of data. The model results show that there is no major difference between the two alignments with respect to hydrodynamics or sediment transportation. The one difference noted which seems minor, between the two alignments, is in Alignment 4A cutting across a spit and thereby disturbing the natural sediment dynamics of the spit. This would lead to increased sediment deposition in the channel and the need for increased dredging, and also erosion of the spit to the east of the channel.”

Environmental impact

Pointing out that the report had recommended that a full-fledged Environmental Impact Analysis be carried out “to enable robust conclusions,” the application said the project could not proceed at all. It sought a direction to invalidate the project and to appoint an impartial committee to consider it de novo only after the requisite data were collected over a period of years and the same properly studied.