Environmentalists accuse govt of inaction on Sethusamudram project


By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Environmentalists yesterday expressed regret over the country’s failure to address its concerns over the controversial Sethusamudram Project. They accused state officials of years of inaction on the issue.

According to them, the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA), Coast Conservation Department (CCD), Fisheries Department and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry were the responsible authorities who had not yet addressed the issue even though it arose eight years ago.

The Sethusamudram project, which aims at shortening the sea route between India’s West Coast and East Coast by by-passing Sri Lanka, using the proposed cannal, is back on the Indian government’s agenda as the Congress-led UPA government in India has decided to go ahead with the project after ignoring opposition by experts.

However, the environmental groups have called for an immediate joint Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by Sri Lankan and Indian authorities on the proposed Sethusamudram project.

Senior environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardane yesterday told The Island that the Sri Lankan government had failed to address the obvious environmental impact of the controversial canal project.

He alleged that the government had done nothing significant regarding the proposed construction neighbouring the Sri Lankan territorial waters in the Northern Sea.  

Gunawardane said that the $400 million Sethusamudram Ship Canal project involved digging a 152km-long and 300m-wide channel through the Palk Strait. If it was created, it would threaten the rich marine ecology in the tropical seas of the Palk Strait and Mannar Gulf.

He said that according to the Law of Sea Convention, Sri Lanka should have the right to ask for a joint EIA as the two countries had signed the convention.

Meanwhile, Environmental Conservation Trust (ECT) Director Sajeeva Chamikara told The Island that the high profile people on the responsible agencies were turning a blind eye to the project, which would damage the country’s rich marine biodiversity and fish harvest.

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