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October 28, 2007
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October 28, 2007

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Home > 2007 Issues > October 28, 2007

Regional Round-up

Ram Sethu: Protection movement will continue until Ram Sethu is declared as divyakshetram


Ram Sethu was used as a land-bridge upto 1799, and this is evident in the travelogues, Madras Presidency Gazetteer of 1893 and in temple epigraphs.

AHMEDABAD: The Ramsethu Raksha Samiti said it has ?no confidence? in the committee formed by the Central government to look into the Sethusamudram Project as there are no experts in the panel.

?Most of the members of the committee are associated with the Shipping Minister T.R. Baalu and there are no experts on geology or oceanography in that panel,? National Convener of the Ram Sethu Raksha Samiti (RRS) Kalyanaraman told the reporters.

The committee has been formed by the Central government after the Supreme Court?s order.

He said that Ram Sethu was a cultural heritage and should be protected. ?Lord Rama was our ideal and Hindus will follow him till they survive on this land,? he said.

?The Ram Sethu is a geological structure inside the ocean, linking India and Sri Lanka. The bridge is the physical structure built on it during the ancient time by the people using calcareous sand stones and corals, which are less dense than normal hard rock and quiet compact,? he said.

Ram Sethu was used as a land-bridge upto 1799, and this is evident in the travelogues, Madras Presidency Gazetteer of 1893 and in temple epigraphs, he added.

He further said the channel proposed to be done in the Sethusamudram project was uneconomical and it should be scrapped.

?We will continue our fight with awareness campaign until Ram Sethu is declared a sacred monument. Our campaign is democratic and we do not want to involve political parties in it,? Kalyanaraman added.

?Draught of 10 metres is insufficient for bigger vessels?
?Shubhra Tandon

Even as environment, security and political concerns continue to plague Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, the shipping industry too seems to be divided on the economic benefits of the project.

While coastal shipping operators are upbeat on the prospects that the project would open up for them, large shipping lines operating ocean services see the project not addressing their concerns. Shipping industry representatives largely agree that the proposed draught of 10 metres is insufficient for the movement of bigger vessels. ?The draught should be a minimum of 12 metres to support a 50,000 DWT vessel,? said a source.

Some shipping analysts are also sceptical about the traffic projections. The traffic projection by Sethusamudram Corporation Ltd that 3,055 ships would sail through the proposed Sethusamudram channel annually is too ambitious, according to Mr S.K. Shahi, Chairman and Managing Director, SKS Logistics, a major coastal ship operator. ?We do not expect this kind of traffic movement happening in the next 10 years? he told Business Line.

But the silver lining to this grim picture is that coastal ship owners are excited with the proposed tariff. As per the Financial and Economic Viability Analysis of the project put out by L&T Ramboll, on a ?pessimistic estimate,? the charges for a vessel size upto 10,000 DWT would be Rs 11 per GRT, Rs 6 per GRT for 20,000 DWT and so on.

Mr Shahi said: ?The Sethusamudram Channel will definitely have savings for coastal shipping as there will be some savings on fuel and time costs. But then they will be levying 12 per cent service tax too.?

The project report by L&T also suggests an increase in the coastal shipping activities in the region as coastal vessels could transport cargo from or to the various ports in peninsular India.

But sounding a note of caution on the upbeat sentiment of coastal liners is another section of the shipping industry that feels that government is not addressing some vital issues.

?There is no clarity as to whether fishing activities would continue in the area or not, if yes, then shipping cannot happen there. Secondly, for security reasons ships are supposed to sail 200 miles away from the Sri Lankan coast, which the channel does not address,? says spokesperson of an Indian shipping company.

Some players in the industry have also raised questions on the timeline for completion of the project. ?As of now the tariff rates look attractive but with Axis Bank (The project?s banker) raising doubts on the viability of the project given the cost escalation since 2004, one really has to see whether these rates would be applicable by the time the project is complete,? says another industry player unwilling to be named.  (FOC)

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