Operation focussed on the proposed new alignment, say sources

Even as an expert committee lead by R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, constituted by the Centre based on the direction from the Supreme Court to find an alternative alignment for the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project is about to submit its final report, K. Mohandas, Secretary, Shipping, carried out intensive survey at the project site in Palk Bay and Palk Strait on Sunday.

The top Shipping Ministry official's visit assumes significance in the backdrop of the recent Supreme Court direction asking the Centre to complete the Environment Impact Analysis on an alternative alignment for the SSCP without cutting across Adam's Bridge or ‘Rama Sethu', and submit its final report by March 27.

A hovercraft of the Coast Guard was used to inspect the project site.

The official spent considerable time in the territory, comprising the first to fourth islets between Danushkodi and the International Maritime Boundary Line, and held discussions with SSCP officials.

The focus of the visit, according to sources, was on the proposed new alignment that is to cut through the land partly between Danushkodi and Arichamunai instead of the earlier alignment.

Mr. Mohandas also discussed the Executive Summary of the report submitted by the expert committee to the Centre.

A. Subbaiah, Chairman of the V.O. Chidambaram Port Trust, Tuticorin, told The Hindu that the Shipping Secretary visited the Sethu project site, but no significance could be attached to it. The expert committee would submit its EIA report to the Centre and then to the Supreme Court.

The project was flagged off in 2005 but ran into opposition following a decision to dredge the Adam's Bridge area, which is also known as Ram Sethu, a bridge believed to have been constructed by Lord Rama to cross over to Sri Lanka.

It had proposed to link Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar by creating a shipping channel through the shallow sea and a chain of islands known as ‘Ram Sethu or Adam's Bridge. The project at an estimated cost of Rs.2500 crore was suspended in the Ram Sethu area following the intervention of the Supreme Court, which asked the Centre to study the Environmental Impact Analysis on feasibility of an alternative route through Dhanushkodi instead of Ram Sethu.

Keywords: Sethu project

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