Agreeing with the findings of the Dr. P. K. Pachauri Committee, the Tamil Nadu government told the Supreme Court on Monday that the Sethusamudram project would not serve any public purpose with the proposed alignment 4A without cutting through Ram Setu. At the resumed hearing of the Ram Setu case, a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad granted the government 6 more weeks, as sought by Solicitor-General Rohinton Nariman, to decide whether the ancient Ram Setu could be declared a national monument, as sought by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy in his petition.
In March, the court sought the Tamil Nadu government’s response to the committee’s report on exploring an alternative route to implement the project, which was yet to be accepted by the Centre. In its response, Tamil Nadu said that as per the panel report, the proposed alignment (4A) would have serious environmental repercussions during construction and operation, and the economic viability of the scheme, even going by optimistic projections, was questionable. The State pointed out that the project was not scrutinised by the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority so far.
Coastal Regulation Zone clearance was required for the sand pit cutting to a length of 0.8 km at Dhanushkodi and for the construction of ancillary facilities for the building and operation of the channel. Furthermore, it said, the alignment 4A required a revised clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests as it varied from the original alignment 6.
The State said, “Ram Setu is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use, which is representative of a culture or cultures or human interaction with the environment. It contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.”
In the light of the committee’s report on the environmental hazards, it was unlikely that the project would be in public interest.
Therefore, it was of utmost importance that Ram Setu be declared a national monument, the State said. “No efforts have been made to conserve the bridge either by the Archaeological Survey of India or by the Government of India. Ram Setu passes the tests and authenticity criteria fixed by UNESCO to nominate the bridge as a world heritage site.” The State also drew the court’s attention to a letter written by the Chief Minister to the Prime Minister in March, on the importance of declaring Ram Setu a national monument.