Legal Correspondent

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has constituted a six-member experts committee headed by Rajendra K. Pachauri, director-general, Tata Energy Research Institute, to look at an alternative alignment, avoiding the Ramar Sethu stretch, for implementing the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project.

He is the chairman of the inter-governmental panel on climate change, which shared the 2007 Nobel peace prize.

On Wednesday, Fali Nariman, senior counsel appearing for the Centre, informed the court of the constitution of the panel.

During arguments in the Sethusamudram case, Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had suggested that the Centre consider Alignment 4 with a little deviation from the Dhanuskodi point to avoid Adams Bridge (Ramar Sethu). Petitioners are objecting to the demolition of Ramar Sethu.

Earlier, Alignment 4 was given up as it will cut through the Rameswaram island, resulting in demolition of a large portion of landmass and structures, including the Kothandaramaswami temple. At present, the project is being implemented via Alignment 6, which will cut across Ramar Sethu.

Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, in his letter to Mr. Nariman, said the government had given serious consideration to the court suggestion on an alternative alignment including a canal cutting through the portion between Dhanuskodi and the Land’s End on the Rameswaram island.

“It has been decided to set up an Expert Committee with Dr. Pachauri as Chairperson. The Committee has been asked to submit its report as quickly as possible.”

The members are T. Chakrabarti, acting Director, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur; S.R. Shetye, Director, National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula, Goa; S. Kathiroli, Director, National Institute of Ocean Technology, Velachery, Chennai; Rear Admiral B.R. Rao, Chief Hydrographer to the Government of India, and P.M. Tajale, Director-General, Geological Survey of India, Kolkata.

Two special invitees are N. Sundaradevan, Principal Secretary, Environment and Forests, Tamil Nadu; and Ramanathapuram Collector R. Kirlosh Kumar.

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