Detailed project report by November: Baalu

CHENNAI, JULY 24. The detailed project report of the Sethusamudram project will be ready by November, according to T.R. Baalu, Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways.

A decision on the agency that would prepare the report would be taken "within this week," he told presspersons at Chennai port today, after participating in a function in which the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president, M. Karunanidhi, commissioned four wharf electric cranes, a dredger and a passenger-cum-cruise terminal.

While the National Environment Engineering Research Institute would submit the final report on the techno-economic feasibility of the project on July 31, a public hearing (on the environmental aspects) was scheduled for August 24 and 25. Subsequently, the project would be placed before the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Union Cabinet for approval.

Noting that the project, primarily involving dredging of the Sethusamudram canal to facilitate movement of large ships around the peninsula without going round Sri Lanka, was estimated to cost between Rs. 1,600 crores and Rs. 2,000 crores, Mr. Baalu said the Centre would contribute to the equity and provide guarantee to the debt. He said a special purpose vehicle for implementing the project was formed and there would be no need for foreign participation.

`Sagar Mala'

On the status of `Sagar Mala,' involving several maritime projects and announced by the previous National Democratic Alliance, the Minister said: "money will be a constraint" for the programme which would require Rs. 1 lakh crores.

Earlier addressing the function, Mr. Baalu said the dredger, manufactured by the Cochin Shipyard at a cost of Rs. 56 crores, would be used for maintenance dredging in the port. The port spent Rs. 20 crores on the four 15-tonne cranes and Rs. 1 crore on the terminal. Upgradation of infrastructure, he said, was essential if the country was to achieve its target of one per cent of global trade by 2007. The Ministry was also focussing on improving road connectivity between the ports.

The Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Dayanidhi Maran, appealed to Mr. Baalu to upgrade national highways to six lanes as the proposed four-lanes would be insufficient to handle the growing traffic. He said six-lane roads linking Chennai with Chengalpattu, Arakkonam and Ponneri would decongest the city.

Pointing out that the previous DMK regime in the State had laid concrete roads in rural areas, Mr. Karunanidhi said the State Government discontinued laying of such roads. According to him, continuity in the welfare and development policies and programmes was the essence of democracy.

The North Chennai Member of Parliament, C. Kuppusami, said there was an urgent need to construct a four-lane road connecting the Chennai port with Ennore as cargo traffic at the port was increasing.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, K. Anbazhagan; the Chennai Port Trust Chairman, M. Raman and the Deputy Chairman, K. Elangovan, participated in the function.

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