TAMIL NADU

Will the phoenix rise again?

Sethu project could bring the island back to life

S. Annamalai

DHANUSHKODI: : The road, used by buses till the early 1980s, is reminiscent of a hairline that has receded deeply. The rail track, which provided a link to Sri Lanka, is a distant memory. The skeletons of buildings tell the tale of the night of December 23, 1964 when a fiery cyclone gobbled up Dhanushkodi, killing over 1800 people. Today, a few score huts dot the seashore. Two solar lamps indicate the onward march of modernisation.

Four-wheel drive vehicles, hauling fish and tourists, leave tyre marks all over. School children return home in groups every evening with smiling faces. There is a `school' run under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan for primary level children at Dhanushkodi, but the older ones have to walk about 15 km to reach schools in Rameswaram. Sometimes, the `meen vandi' (fish wagon) gives them a lift.

Men set out to sea in catamarans and boats and women dry nets and fish. The nearest shop is six km away.

As vehicular movement is stopped beyond Mukundarayar Chatram after 6 p.m., moving out of Dhanushkodi is not really an option. But hope is stirring in Dhanushkodi, located at a distance of 18 km from Rameswaram.The Sethusamudram channel project, with its optional component of developing Dhanushkodi at an investment of Rs 100 crores, could bring it back to its past glory, if the State Government shows interest. (At present, this does not form part of the Rs. 2233-crore project since "no signal has come from the State Government.") Reclaiming about 2,500 acres of lost land, for construction of fishermen habitations and to develop eco-tourism, form part of the plan.

This would mean provision of roads, lighting, drinking water, sanitation and school facilities. It would also make eminent sense from a security point of view, as it would facilitate better surveillance of the movement of refugees.

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