Science and discourses claiming the authority of Science routinely make their appearance in order to settle contentious issues in the domain of politics. The invocation of Science is meant to establish the truth of one position over another, even when, as often happens, conflicting views are expressed by different sets of experts all claiming the authority of Science. The Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project is a recent example.
This project aims to reduce the shipping distance from the southern tip of the east coast of India to the northern parts of the coast, by constructing a route through the Gulf of Mannar to the Bay of Bengal. Ships will then be able to go northwards directly through the narrow Palk Strait between the east coast of India and the west coast of Sri Lanka, rather than swinging around Sri Lanka as at present. It is claimed that this project will save time and money for shipping companies, and is expected to radically increase the volume of traffic in that region.
In order to build the canal, an underwater bridge connecting India and Sri Lanka along the Palk Strait would have to be destroyed. Depending on your point of view this bridge is either a natural formation of limestone shoals (Adam’s Bridge), which linked Sri Lanka to the Asian continent in the last Ice Age, or it was built by Hanuman’s army to cross over to Sri Lanka to rescue Sita (Ram Setu as it tends to be referred to in English and North Indian media, but known locally as Ramar Sethu, in Tamil). Continue reading Ram Setu: The ecological argument against the Sethusamudram project