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Centre studying court suggestion on alternative alignment for Sethu project

J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Centre will inform the Supreme Court on July 29 of the feasibility, or otherwise, of an alternative alignment, particularly Alignment No. 4, for implementing the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project.

Senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for the Centre, told a three-judge Bench that he had taken up at the “highest level” the court suggestion that Alignment No. 4 be considered with some modification.

Pointing to a map submitted by Mr. Nariman, Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said on Wednesday: “Why can’t you consider Alignment No. 4 with a little deviation from the Dhanuskodi point and you can avoid this bridge [Ramar Sethu]. The area is also away from the biopark.”

Responding to this, counsel said: “The suggestion for an alternative alignment has been taken as a special case. I have personally taken it at the highest level. It is being scientifically examined. I will come back to you by Tuesday or Wednesday[next].”

Continuing his arguments, Mr. Nariman said a geological survey in the area had not thrown up any evidence to suggest that Ramar Sethu was a man-made structure. The final report of the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in August 2004 considered environmental concerns in detail and suggested that Alignment No. 6 was the best option.

Mr. Nariman said, “It is not that we want to cut across Adam’s Bridge [Ramar Sethu] because it is Adam’s bridge, but because we have no other option.” The proposal for Alignment No. 6 was the result of a comprehensive and careful examination of all relevant considerations since 1956.

It was backed by sound environmental, navigational, engineering and trans-boundary considerations with due regard for preservation of the fishery potential and welfare of fishermen.

Tracing the developments over the years, Mr. Nariman brushed aside the arguments that the project was rushed through.

Each and every aspect was considered in depth at various levels by expert committees and only after all requirements were required, was clearance given. Alignment No. 6 involved minimum dredging in the Gulf of Mannar and it was entirely within Indian territorial waters. Mr. Nariman will continue his arguments on July 29 before the Bench, which includes Justices R.V. Raveendran and Justice J.M. Panchal.

Special Correspondent reports:

The BJP on Thursday objected to comments made by senior advocate Fali Nariman that the Sethu was not built by a man but a “superman.”

While the Congress party spokesperson chose to say that the matter was sub judice and counsel often choose to present their arguments in their own language, the BJP spokesperson said his comments were “derogatory” and had hurt the feelings of Hindus as the reference was to Lord Ram.

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