March 22, 2008

1. In my analysis of the SSCP, Part-6, pertained to "SSCP AND SECURITY". My threat perception included the 'Mine Threat'. Please read on !!

2. " Mine Threat: The prevailing depths in the SSCP make it an ideal area for the use of sea mines. It has already been highlighted about the acquisition of sophisticated conventional arms by various terrorist organizations. A rudimentary sea mine is far cheaper than any of the sophisticated missiles. And yet, the mines can block the channel from being used for protracted durations as Mine Countermeasures (MCM) is a slow, tedious and time consuming form of naval warfare. This threat needs to be seriously kept in mind while formulating security policies for the SSCP. It is hoped that the lessons learnt from MCM operations in the Straits of Hormuz during and after "Operation Desert Storm" is not lost on our policy planners."

3. In a perceptive paper presented at an International Symposium in Chennai conducted by the Centre for Security Analysis on 13/14 DEC 2006, Arabinda Acharya & Nadeeka Prashadani Withana from Singapore stated: " The LTTE is the pioneer in maritime terrorism with a state-of-the-art maritime terrorist organization. With its maritime terrorist arm called the "Sea Tigers", LTTE has been successful in destroying a large number of Sri Lankan naval vessels and personnel." Continuing, they further stated: " The LTTE also has an underwater unit which is responsible for infiltrating harbours to lay mines, conducting reconnaissance operations and recovering material from vessels that have been sunk. The Sea Tigers have developed improvised mines from everyday household objects such as rice cookers. Free floating mines have also been used ( eg. inside Trincomalee harbour) which are generally equipped with about 6 horns to prevent accidental detonation while floating. - - -- . In June 2006, 5 Sea Tigers were arrested by Sri Lankan police while laying mines off the shore of Wennappuwa (60 Kms North of Colombo). The mines were a nes type of improvised devices which the authorities believe was developed by the LTTE. The mines were similar to limpet mines and were designed to stick magnetically to the ship's hull. Each mine weighed between 10-15 Kgs and could be triggered to explode by a time-delay fuse or be made to explode remotely."

4. Against the foregoing backdrops, the 'Committee of Eminent Persons', have in their report to the Central Govt. on the section dealing with 'security', have stated in their wisdom: "Unfortunately, the threat by LTTE has been blown beyond the proportion".

5. Please read the TOI report (,prtpage-1.cms) and judge for yourselves whether the threat perceptions have been 'blown beyond the proportion'!! All it requires to shut down SSCP permanently is 'JUST ONE EXPLOSION'!!

Submitted by Captain Hariharan Balakrishnan
Indian Navy & Master Mariner
Former Commanding Officer of Guided Missile Frigate INS Trishul

Setu project: Enviro, Economic, Nautical disaster
Two reports are presented
Captain Hariharan Balakrishnan
Indian Navy & Master Mariner
Former Commanding Officer of Guided Missile Frigate INS Trishul

One by Sudarshan Rodriguez et al. relates to environmental and economic disasters of Setu Samudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP).

The other by Commander John Jacob Puthur, Indian Navy (Retd.), a hydrographer, refers to sedimentation, oceanographic, navigation security and nautical disasters.

Both conclude that the SSCP has been launched without adequate studies and without careful analyses of impacts on the lives of coastal people and the ecosystem.

Document 1

Review of Environmental and Economic aspects of Setusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP) by Sudarshan Rodriguez, Jacob John, Rohan Arthur, Kartik Shanker and Aarthi Sridhar, Oct. 2007

The section on dredging and it impacts on the corals and seagrasses concludes that the project and its activities will introduce dramatic changes in the marine environment of the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay.

Finally, the last section on the economic review reveals many glaring gaps. Firstly among them is that the cost savings by ships have not been adequately detailed out and grossly exaggerated.

Secondly, the fuel savings for many of these ships is actually negative. Thirdly, the total savings (including reduction in time charter) actually works out to just 30% of what is claimed by the DPR for most non-coastal ships. The review concludes that the above three factors have significant revenue implications as over 60% of the ships which 'benefit' will not be willing to pay the amount as claimed in the DPR and this calls for a greater study of economic benefits as per the present justification and that in the present scenario the project will be a financial white elephant.

In light of all the above, we conclude that the project has not been adequately assessed for the environmental impacts to the biodiversity and habitat of the Palk Straits, Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar and will have serious impacts and cause drastic changes to the biodiversity of the region. It is likely to also cause major impacts and losses of fisheries and livelihoods to the region. Reviewing the current status of the implementation phase of the project, considerable environmental damage has probably already been done.

The project is economically unviable as per the present justifications in the project document such as the Detailed Project Report and the Technical Feasibility and Economic Analysis Report.

2. Recommendations

In light of the above the reviewers have the broad recommendation that since in the present scenario, the project will have serious negative environmental and financial impacts, it should consider addressing all the knowledge gaps & recommendations that have been highlighted in this report. The specific recommendations are listed below:

o Carry out a risk analysis/assessment, an ecological risk assessment and develop a disaster management plan as per the requirement and guidelines laid down by the EIA Notification and MoEF and incorporate them into the EIA

o Undertake an assessment of sub-surface geology using appropriate drilling investigations to arrive at clear picture of the type of dredging required and its impacts on the environment.

o Based on the above appropriate hydrodynamic modeling studies in the full area of the channel and potential disposal sites using a full year's primary data taking into account cyclone and non cyclone data, should be done. This study should also incorporate the latest literature on sedimentation of the project area and the information of sub-surface geology.

o Based on the inputs and results of the above two points, undertake a study of the sediment dispersion and sedimentation during dredging operations and assess its ecological and environmental implications. The result of this should be incorporated into EIA, EMP and post project environmental monitoring.

o Based on the dredge spoil characteristics, quantum and sedimentation of the region identify suitable sites for dredge disposal after assessing their stability using a full year's primary data (for normal and cyclonic conditions). The result of this should be incorporated into EIA, EMP and post project environmental monitoring.

o A full description and quantum of loss of bottom flora & fauna along the channel and the dredge disposal sites. As assessment of the impacts and implications to the local ecology and fisheries should be done and incorporated into EIA, EMP and post project environmental monitoring.

o Ensure monitoring of all the parameters suggested in the DPR and MoEF clearance conditions are being carried out and is fully published on the project website regularly.

o The environmental parameters currently being monitored need to be expanded to include other parameters such as hydrography, bathymetry, current dynamics, total suspension load, climate changes, sea level alterations etc. These should be incorporated into EMP and post-project environmental monitoring.

o The submarine conditions during the dredging activity should be inspected by divers and photographic and video records should be maintained. This activity should also cover the dredge disposal sites. This should be incorporated into EMP and post-project environmental monitoring.

o The project should develop a Dredging Management Programme and incorporate it into the Environment Management Plan (EMP) of the EIA.

o Since the above are all basic elements that should have been part of the EIA (and at least 70 percent of an EIA for a project of this kind) and given the weight of the criticisms it is only fitting that EIA and the relevant studies be redone.

o Only after the above has been done, reassessment of the economic justifications of the project by reviewing of all economic benefits as per present justification should be done. Specifically, reassess the current projected cost savings by ships in terms of distance, fuel savings, and time savings for the various routes. The projected traffic along these various routes (Aden, Africa/Mauritius and Indian coastal ships) should be quantified.