Tag Archives: Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project

Ram Setu: The ecological argument against the Sethusamudram project

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.

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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

On Ram Setu: ‘Mahakaal ka ling kiya hain?’

The Government of India again seems to be in the mood of going ahead with the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project that would reduce travel time for ships around coastal Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, and bring economic advantages to both countries. The project involves breaking limestone shoals that some regard to be the remains of the mythological Ram Setu. The controversy is an old one. In 2007, I had interviewed Hindutva ideologue Bharatendu Prakash Singhal, who was particularly vocal against the ‘destruction’ of the limestone shoals. Singhal is a former Rajya Sabha MP and a retired Indian Police Service officer. The bits from the interview that were directly about the Ram Setu controversy had appeared in Tehelka, but Singhal was more interested in talking about “mind, body and soul” than about Ram Setu. Here are the unpublished bits – though I had put them on my blog back then. Every word was transcribed faithfully from the recorded audio. Continue reading On Ram Setu: ‘Mahakaal ka ling kiya hain?’