Inconsistencies in the NEERI Environmental Impact Assessment

(Extracts from article by V Sundaram)

Sethusamudram Shipping Canal in its present form is scientifically inconsistent and technically indefensible for the following reasons:

1) According to Dr Ramesh, NEERI Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the study that gives the SSCP, its scientific legitimacy, has ignored the studies available on the sedimentation pattern of Palk Bay completely and has not fixed the exact locations wherein the dredged material would be dumped - these studies are crucial for the economic and technical survival of project, as they will give us an idea of how much sediment should be dredged each season and also prepare us for a study that will tell us where the dumped sediments will move every season.

2) Subsurface geology has been studied only for the 20 kilo meter stretch of the canal in the Adam's Bridge area. Nothing is known about the subsurface geology of the Palk Strait region. Considering the fact that the canal's length will be 54.2 km; if the sub surface turns out to be rocky, the cost of the project will go up many folds, and the effect of blasting these rocks would cause serious damages to the Palk Bay environment. This was clearly stated in the Technical Feasibility Report prepared by NEERI only to be politically ignored at the time of political sanction of SSCP.

3) The historical cyclone data for this region from the years 1860 to 2000 clearly indicate that cyclones cross this region and its neighborhood once in every four years. Historically we have enough data to show that all these cyclones have caused severe erosion of the coastal stretch in the nearby areas from time to time by dumping the eroded material in Palk Bay and Adam's Bridge area. NEERI's EIA has not taken note of this natural phenomenon at all.

4) Indomer's 'Hydrodynamic Modeling Study for SSCP' has also ignored the issue of the impact of cyclones on the canal completely. Thus, we do not know, what will happen to the canal in scientific terms during the period of cyclones.

5) Tsunami computer simulation models by Professor Steven N Ward of University of California, Professor Aditya Riyadi of Pusat Penelitian Kelautan Insitut Teknologi, Bandung, Indonesia, WI-Delft Hydraulics, Netherlands and DHI Software, USA and Indomer-Alkyon have described graphically the way tsunami waves attacked Palk Bay on 26 December, 2004. It is against all this background that the International Tsunami Expert Professor Tad S Murty chose to warn the Prime Minister's Office on 30 January, 2005 about the possible negative and dangerous impact of SSCP during the times of future tsunamis. The PMO instead of referring the matter to the NEERI who were the official consultants of the Government of India, chose to refer the matter directly to the Office of the Chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust. He gave his final reply to the 14 vital points raised by the PMO on 8 March 2005 only on 30 June 2005. Then in a kind of sudden swoop operation the de jure Prime Minister and the de facto Prime Minister of Italian vintage air dashed to Madurai on 2 July 2005, to lay a solid foundation for the destruction of coastal life in Southern Tamilnadu.

The NEERI had undertaken their EIA of SSCP long before Tsunami hit parts of Tamilnadu and Kerala in December 2004. A preliminary tsunami impact assessment report prepared by the Zoological Survey of India for the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in early 2005 clearly concluded that the tsunami that hit the Tamilnadu and Andaman and Nicobar coasts in 2004 had irrevocably altered the marine ecology of the Bay of Bengal region. No public authority connected with SSCP has taken note of this report.

When the SSCP was about to be launched in July 2005, Dr C P Rajendran of the Centre for Earth Science Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, a Paleo-Seismologist and one of India's top geologists gave a timely warning to the effect that the SSCP should be put on hold. Giving detailed technical reasons, he concluded: 'Sethusamudram, as the name suggests, is the part of an ocean that is being constantly bridged by natural sedimentation processes, and the nature has been at this work for hundreds of thousands of years. By implementing this project, we are disturbing these processes. The project lacks technical, scientific and economic credibility, and is another disaster in the making. All the objections raised by me will remain valid until these issues are resolved by an independent group of experts'.