PRESS RELEASE

April 12, 2013
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister’s Office
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi 110 001
India

Via e-mail: manmohan@sansad.nic.in
Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh:

This letter is an extension of our ongoing campaign urging your government to abandon the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project and ensure that the Gulf of Mannar is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage mixed Natural and Cultural Site under the criteria laid down by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Since April 2004 our campaign has taken the lead and supported by a growing number of ecologists, academics, scientists and religious leaders from around the world who are calling for meaningful action to scrap the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project.

It is a matter of the utmost concern to us that your government has rejected findings of prime minister appointed R. K. Pachauri panel report and instead wants to pursue the Sethusamudram project. In his recent pronouncements, Dr.Rajendra Kumar Pachauri stated that not only is the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project "economically nonviable", but some of the assumptions (made by the government) about the economic benefits from the project are also "over optimistic".

In early April 2013, a high-level team of marine scientists, environmentalists, geologists and marine engineers, appointed by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has found that the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project is detrimental to the maritime and environmental resources of the island nation. The report states that the Indian Government has not taken into account the environmental and maritime impact the project could have on Sri Lanka. It adds that as per the International Law of Seas accepted by the United Nations in 1968, India should have sought the concurrence of Sri Lanka before launching the project.

Detailed studies conducted by international organizations such as the IUCN recognize the Gulf of Mannar as an international priority site for many reasons - it's biophysical and ecological uniqueness; the fact it is home to many rare and endangered biodiversity; its economic, social and cultural value; its national and global significance.

These reports reflect many of our oft-repeated warnings and further validate what we have asserted all along that the dredging will rapidly devastate a region of rare beauty, vibrant soft-coral reefs, numerous endangered species, sacred and traditional sustainable cultures and livelihoods. The region will be irrevocably blemished and mankind will lose forever this precious biodiversity hotspot. We reiterate again that the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project is a threat to the sensitive Eco region and a huge risk, no matter what route you pursue.

What is highly contradictory is that as a mark of its "commitment to biodiversity conservation", India was host to the eleventh Conference of Parties (COP11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in October 2012 at Hyderabad, where top world leaders and experts contemplated ways to save earth's biodiversity and environment. The slogan selected by your government was, "Prakruti Rakshti Rakshita - Nature Protects if she is protected". Nothing could be more diametrically opposed to sustaining the value of this slogan than the environmental assaults that Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project will unleash in the Gulf of Mannar.

Up to this moment, your government continues to avoid any expression of concern or even awareness of the impacts of the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project on biodiversity and community of the Gulf of Mannar, less than a day's drive from Hyderabad, though such concerns are central to the slogan, "Prakruti Rakshti Rakshita".

India is a Member of the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or Bonn Convention), which protects the endangered species of the Gulf of Mannar. According to the principles of this Convention, "Members should strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the habitats in which they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them."

Moreover, the Gulf of Mannar, encompassing Ram Sethu (Adam's Bridge) has outstanding universal value for millions of Hindus throughout the world as a place of profound religious and sacred significance. The Awké: Kon guidelines under the Convention of Biological Diversity, which has been accepted by India, obligates the State to conduct impact assessments on a proposed development that may affect 'the values, belief systems, customs, the relationship with the local environment and particular species'.

Should your Government decide to go ahead with the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, India would be in violation of the principles of the Convention.

The Resolutions our campaign made at our November 2008 meeting at the Linnean Society in London - Resolutions delivered to your office - confirm the unanimous agreement among political, religious and scientific communities in India and abroad, that the is an ill-conceived venture with the potential to destroy permanently the Sacred Ram Sethu and the unique and fragile marine ecology of the Gulf of Mannar (See attached: The London Resolution on the Gulf of Mannar as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Linnean Society of London, 25-26 November 2008).

Prime Minister, you cannot continue to ignore our concerns. This is not a question of not wanting to set a precedent. The undersigned believe it would be massively ironic, contradictory, and scandalous, for the Government of India to ignore our concerns and those of others that confirm the infeasibility of the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project.

We urge you to take action to leave a legacy of reinvigorated hope on saving our fragile environment and request that you immediately scrap the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project and designate the Gulf of Mannar for the UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination.

Thank you for your attention.

The Gulf of Mannar World Heritage Site Campaign

ADVISORY BOARD

Kusum Vyas

Founder & President, Living Planet Foundation, The Gulf of Mannar World Heritage Site Campaign

Peter Bunyard
Author, Environmentalist, Expert on Climate Change
Founding Editor, The Ecologist, UK

Dr. Ranil Senanayake
Systems Ecologist, Marine Archaeologist, Ichthyologist and Herpetologist.
Founder, Rainforest Rescue International

Dr. Anantanand Rambachan
Author, Professor and Chair of Religion, Saint Olaf College, Minnesota, USA
Guest at the last four General Assemblies of the World Council of Churches
Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue at the Vatican
Member of the International Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation

Dr. I Gusti Ngurah Arya Wedakarna
Prince of Dalem Benculuh Tegeh Kori
President, The Sukarno Center, Leader, the Mahendradata Foundation IGN

Somduth Dulthumun
President, Mauritius Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation
Officer of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (OSK)

Dr. C.S.P. Iyer
Emeritus Professor, Indian Institute of Information Technology & Management

Ranjeev Gowri
Treasurer, Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD)

Resources

http://www.livingplanetfoundation.org/UNESCO_world.html

cc:
Jayanthi Natarajan
Minister of State (Independent Charge)
Ministry of Environment & Forests Paryavaran
Room No 318 Bhavan CGO Complex Lodhi Road
New Delhi: 110003
India
E-mail: mosefgoi@nic.in
Fax: 24362222

Dr R K Pachauri, Director-General TERI
Darbari Seth Block, IHC Complex
Lodhi Road, New Delhi - 110 003,
India
Fax (+91 11) 2468 2144/2468 2145

H. E. Mr. Vinay Sheel Oberoi, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
Maison de l'UNESCO
Bureaux M1.42/M1.38
1, rue Miollis
75732 PARIS Cedex 15
Email: dl.india@unesco-delegations.org

Indian National Commission for Co-operation with UNESCO
Ministry of Human Resource Development
Department of Secondary and Higher Education
Government of India
Shastri Bhavan
NEW DELHI 110 001
INDIA
Email: secy.dhe@nic.in (SG); maniverma100@gmail.com