New Delhi: The mythological ‘Ram Sethu’, a chain of limestone shoals between India and Sri Lanka, will not be damaged while pursuing the Sethusamudram Ship Channel project, the Centre today told the Supreme Court. In 2013, the erstwhile UPA government, through two affidavits, had told the apex court that given the advantages of the project, it intended to pursue and implement it.
The NDA government, in a fresh response, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that it considered the “socio-economic disadvantages” of the project and was willing to explore an alternative route to the shipping channel project without damaging the ‘Ram Sethu’.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had filed PIL against the project, had mentioned the matter for urgent hearing saying his prayer to scrap the project stands satisfied after the Centre took that decision and made a statement in Parliament. He said the government has to file an affidavit to this effect.
The court had then asked the government to file a fresh affidavit. Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Ministry of Shipping, today apprised the bench, that also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, of the stand and submitted that Swamy’s PIL may now be disposed.
“That the Government of India intends to explore an alternative to the earlier alignment of Sethusamudram Ship Channel project without affecting/damaging the Adam’s Bridge/Ram Sethu in the interest of the nation,” the affidavit filed by the ministry said.
Also known as the Adam’s bridge, the ‘Ram Sethu’ is a chain of limestone shoals between Pamban or Rameswaram Island off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu and Mannar Island on the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. The Sethusamudram shipping channel project has been facing protests from some political parties, environmentalists and certain Hindu religious groups.
Under the project, a 83 km-long deep water channel was to be created, linking Mannar with Palk Strait, by extensive dredging and removal of the limestone shoals. The apex court had on November 13 last year granted six weeks to the Centre to clarify its stand on the mythical Ram Sethu, a chain of limestone shoals between the coasts of India and Sri Lanka. It had also granted liberty to Swamy to approach the court if the response of the Centre was not filed.