Reiterating her government’s commitment to the policy that ‘projects are implemented for the sake of the people and not vice versa’, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Saturday said that the Sethusamudram Project, hastily implemented by the UPA government, would completely destroy the livelihood of fishing community, besides harming the marine environment along the Gulf of Mannar.
“Sethusamudram project will not benefit southern Tamil Nadu in any manner as it would leave the fishing community in the lurch by destroying resources. It’s because of these reasons the AIADMK government is opposing the project. However, DMK chief M Karunanidhi is adamant on implementing the same. I leave it for you to guess for whose benefit he is demanding it,” Jayalalithaa said while campaigning for AIADMK candidate from Ramanathapuram Anwar Razza.
Stating that already `830 crore had been wasted on the Sethusamudram project, the AIADMK general secretary said though the project would connect the western and eastern seashores of India, it would not benefit the Tamil Nadu economy in any manner.
Referring to Karunanidhi’s charge that she had initially supported the scheme, she said, “Indeed I supported it and ordered the preparation of a project report in 1994. The Pallavan Transport Consultancy Services filed the report in 1996. Many organisations, including NEERI, studied the project and found that the canal could be dug only for a depth of 12 metres.”
The UPA government, in 2004, had sought no objection certificate from the Tamil Nadu government. However, the report of an expert committee, formed by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, had cautioned that extensive studies should be undertaken before commencing the project. Besides, the committee had pointed out that there were several lacunae in the NEERI report on the environmental impact of the project.
An expert committee, headed by RK Pachauri, had recommended that the project was not feasible based on the economic and environmental reasons, but the Centre ignored the report and told the Supreme Court that the project should be implemented.
Jayalalithaa said that many marine species of plants and breeding ground of fishes had been destroyed in the bridging work. “The committee had warned that the impact of drilling in the area should be taken into account. However, the project was commenced in a hasty manner, without getting the NoC from the State,” she said.
Further, the depth suggested by the panel was shallow, making it difficult for big ships to pass through. Even then, passage of a ship could reduce the depth of canal due to sand erosion, which meant that continuous drilling work needed to be undertaken in the area.