//He Ram! Sethu canal in trouble

He Ram! Sethu canal in trouble

Arun Ram, DNAINDIA.COM , January 31, 2007

CHENNAI: Hindu religious groups have jumped onto the anti-Sethusamudram project bandwagon, and they have raised the mightiest of shields around their argument. Lord Ram himself.

The believers are saying that the bridge was built by Lord Ram’s Vanara Sena (army of monkeys) in his quest to reach Lanka to rescue Sita from the clutches of King Ravana and say dredging in the region will destroy the legendary bridge.

Fishermen and environmentalists are already protesting against the Rs2400-crore Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP), which will allow ships to pass through the narrow strip between the peninsular tip of India and Sri Lanka between the east and west coasts of India.

Now, the Hindu groups have also voiced their opposition to the project, substantiating their protest with “scientific ammunition” — satellite pictures provided by NASA that show an almost continuous bridge from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu to Mannar in Sri Lanka. The epic-angle gained significance recently with a civil suit coming up in a Ramanathapuram court and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa joining the Ram-chorus.

“When efforts are on to protect historical monuments the world over, demolition of Ramar Sethu cannot be accepted,” Jayalalithaa said, threatening to move the Supreme Court. Swami Omkarananda of an ashram in Theni and a local RSS leader Kuppu Ramu have moved a sub-court in Ramanthapuram saying that destruction of the bridge hurts religious sentiments of Hindus. That shipping minister TR Baalu belongs to the “atheist” DMK has added to the controversy. While the shipping ministry has not reacted to the concern, Ocean scientists caution against “indiscriminate dredging.”

Says S Badrinarayanan, retired director of Geological Survey of India: “Whether the reasons are religious or scientific, you cannot destroy the bridge. The project should ideally look at the gaps (there are many) in the bridge to route the canal through, thereby causing minimum damage.”

Badrinarayanan, who was also an advisor to the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), adds: “Ramayana is believed to have happened about 7,000 years ago. Scientific studies in the region show that there was a civilization around the region then and the structure of the ‘bridge’ suggests it could be man-made, when the ocean level was much lower than it is today.”

Another scientist, who has done microfossil studies along Adam’s bridge advocates more thorough investigations. “We have found that some parts of the bridge are made of solid rocks dating back to the last ice age, 18,000 years ago. And there is an apparent continuity of the bridge, as the satellite images confirm.”

When contacted, SSCP chairman NK Raghupathi promised to “get back,” while the shipping minister was not available for comment.