KOCHI:The environment impact assessment (EIA) of the proposed new alignment of the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel project will begin next week.

A team of oceanographers and scientists from the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, and Kochi will begin data collection as part of the assessment on March 10 from Tuticorin.

The Ministry of Shipping had chosen the institute for carrying out the EIA of the new alignment of the channel between the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay.

‘‘The project involves extensive year-round environmental data collection in the Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, Adam's Bridge and surrounding areas. It is expected that the project will lead to significant improvement in understanding the oceanography of this little studied region, besides determining feasibility of the Sethusamudram canal from the point of view of environment and economics,” according to a communication from the institute.

The institute will focus on generating baseline data regarding land, marine and air parameters related to the project.

The National Environmental Engineering Institute, Nagpur, will focus on the impact of the project over land through which the proposed channel passes, whereas the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, will concentrate on the cost-benefit analysis.

The proposed project had created several controversies with a section of the environmentalists opposing it. The Bharatiya Janata Party had opposed the dredging of Rama Sethu in connection with the project.

Scientific preparations

Scientific equipment for physical measurement of various parameters were installed in various stations in February. Automatic weather stations were established at Tuticorin and Mandapam for obtaining wind, rainfall and humidity data. Fifteen data collection stations each would be there at the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay, researchers said.

The groundwater quality in the region and the quality of land available for allied development projects will be assessed. In the marine research segment, details of the current and tide patterns and water quality parameters like dissolved oxygen content and presence of nitrates and phosphates will be tracked. The biological aspects like primary production and benthic life would also be studied. Air quality parameters, including the presence of harmful air pollutants and noise data, would be collected, scientists said.

Coral health

One of the key research areas would be monitoring of the coral health and the likely impact of the project on the fragile coral ecosystem in the region. The researchers would be looking for the stress proteins and enzymes produced by the corals for assessing its health.