Sethusamudram Canal History & Facts
Hindus believe that the stretch of limestone shoals between Dhanushkodi near Rameshwaram in Southern India and Mannar in Northwest Sri Lanka are the remains of an ancient bridge built by Lord Rama, as described in the holy epic, Ramayana.

Recent NASA satellite images show clear pictures of a broken bridge under the ocean floor. The heritage of the bridge and the story of Lord Rama are extremely sacred to Hindus.

The ocean floor between India and Sri Lanka near the Mannar coast is very shallow and is not navigable. It does not allow ships to pass. This means that. India does not have a continuous navigational channel linking the east and west coasts. Ships coming from India's west and heading to Bangladesh or Indian ports on the east coast have to go around Sri Lanka because the waterway in the sea dividing the two countries is shallow.

Therefore, the Government of India has proposed the dredging of the sea to create a shipping canal to save up to 780 km of sailing distance and 30 hours of sailing time for ships plying between the east and west coasts of India.

Indian officials say the canal, which is called the Sethusamudram project, will also boost the national economy besides speeding up the movement of Indian Navy and Coast Guard vessels as well.

Hindu groups say this may be true but such economic progress cannot be at the expense of Ram Sethu, as they refer to Adam's Bridge, located at the southern end of the Sethusamudram project.

This is where an estimated 48 million cubic metres of silt will be removed over the next two years.

The construction of the canal immediately led to wide protests in India by Hindu leaders. Several holy men have gathered together to launch a campaign of protest.

In March 2007, over ten Hindu umbrella organizations from around the world joined together to launch the Save Ram Sethu Campaign (Ram Sethu Bachao Andolan) to increase the profile of the issue amongst the international communities.

The campaign hopes to convince the Government of India to reconsider the construction of the canal as it will hurt religious sentiments of millions of Hindus and also pose a great risk to the environment of the region and the livelihood of local fishermen.