Falgun Shuddha Ekadashi
Colombo: One third of Sri Lanka is to go under water once India completes cutting the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project. So far Sri Lankan Government has not protested to India for making arrangements to cut this Ship Canal Project, a catastrophic land subsidence program which would immerse one third of Sri Lanka under water?
The geological survey reveals that dredging the floor bed of the Gulf of Mannar, there is a grave danger of land subsidence and likelihood of sea overcoming several islands belonging to Sri Lanka in the western coast and Jaffna peninsula along with several areas in the Western portion of the mainland up to Anuradhapura getting inundated and gradually sinking into the ocean in the future.
But despite warning by numerous researchers on this project and even by the Committee appointed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry to go into this Canal Cutting project, Sri Lanka Government has not taken up this issue seriously to sent in its protest to India, urging to stop the canal cutting forthwith.
Since 1999, K.T.Rajasingham has pointed out, “.. When India begins the cutting of a canal in the Gulf of Mannar region, there is the possibility for many islands, nearly 85 islands from the north up to Galle in the south and a large portion of land mass in the west and northern coast to go under the sea.”
An Article written by K.T.Rajasingham, who was one of the pioneers who warned Sri Lanka about the dangers of this Ship Canal Project, cautioned the Sri Lanka Government way back in 1999, that if this Canal cutting is completed then “Jaffna peninsula could go under water once Miocene era lime stone reefs extracted away and its continuity forcefully terminated. It is deplorable that India has decided to implement a catastrophic land subsidence program without taking into account the serious environmental implications it might cause to its neighboring country. "
Rajasingham in his article further pointed out, “According to geologists, once a canal with a total length of 99.88 nautical miles is laid by dredging the sea-floor 35 to 40 feet below the present level, it would tend to break the continuous limestone formation, which would result in causing sudden tilt, drift, gravitational pull and numerous other violent process also might take place deep inside the floor-bed of Lanka and its islands.
He added, “It is also said that this process of land subsidence may not happen immediately, but there is likelihood of sea overcoming several islands belonging to Sri Lanka in the western coast and Jaffna peninsula along with several areas in the Western portion of the mainland inundated and gradually to sink into the ocean in the future.
Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project
Sri Lanka Government’s concernSri Lankan at one point of time showed serious concern about the proposed canal cutting to link Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal. Its epicenter was India's proposed 'Sethusamudra Ship Canal Project (SSCP)'. The groundswell resulting from it fuelled by massive media hype which was equally earth shattering on both sides of the Palk Strait.
Subsequently, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was compelled to issue a press release on 14 October 2004, to calm the rising tide of public concern over the proposed SSCP as follows:
"During the past weeks, there has been extensive public discussion regarding the perceived implications arising for Sri Lanka from the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project to be implemented by the Government of India".
The press release added that, "overall, the views expressed in the public domain in this regard have arisen because of the possible broad repercussions of the project on Sri Lanka in environmental and economic terms, as well as concerns arising from its proximity to the territorial seas and the landmass of Sri Lanka". It further informed the public that the government had taken these concerns on board and had appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee to report on same, while simultaneously being engaged in a process of consultation with India. “
Subsequently Foreign Affairs Ministry appointed a Committee to go into this India’s Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project.
Even after the report has been presented by the Committee warning of the serious implication that will ensue, Sri Lanka Government has so far not protested to India to stop dredging the Palk Strait to avoid a major portion of the Island going under the water.
Environmental concern by the Ministry
Recently Asian Tribune contacted Champika Ranawaka Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.
The Minister said, “As far as the Sethu Samuthira Shipping Canal Project is concerned, I think that various aspects of the project have been taken into consideration for the benefit of India and Sri Lanka as well.”
He added, “The security aspects, the environmental aspects and few social issues are also taken in for consideration. As far as the Environmentalist are concerned there are concern about Maritime, biodiversity and various other things.”
“We have already informed our concerns to the relevant Indian authorities. Our concern is about maritime biodiversity that can be destroyed and they have taken into account and they have informed us that we prepare a comprehensive environmental impact assessment on that and these proposal have been send to the Indian Authority and they are yet to reply to us. At present, we are discussing how we could jointly implement various remedial measures to conserve our marine environment,” Minister Champika Ranawaka pointed out.
Asian Tribune: But I think that you have not taken up the geological aspect of the project. This concern was there even before you took up the environment ministry. Some people who have represented Sri Lanka Government has not fully represented the cause and concerns of Sri Lanka.
Minister Champika Ranawaka: There is a committee at the Foreign Ministry and our officials are also members of this committee and our concerns are very clearly identified and actually the proposal has now been clearly formulated. This proposal, the environmental impact assessment has been already submitted to the relevant Indian Authorities and we are discussing now what practical measures are needed to conserve the environment. As far as the commercial aspect is concerned there will be very little impact on our commercial ports.
However Asian Tribune learns that Sri Lankan authorities have failed to look into the geological impact of this project when more than 35 to 40 meters of the seabed floor of Gulf of Mannar is dredged.