Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project

Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project

Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by creating a shipping channel through the shallow sea sometimes called Setu Samudram, and through the island chain of Adam's Bridge, also known as ram sethu. This would provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian Peninsula. The project involves digging a 44.9 nautical mile (83 km) long deepwater channel linking the shallow water of the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar. Conceived as early as 1860 by Alfred Dundas Taylor, it recently received approval of the Indian government. Government of India plans to break limestone shoals called Ram's Bridge or projects are land based channels. [ [] ]


Due to shallow waters, Sethusamudram presents a formidable hindrance to navigation through the Palk strait. Though trade across the India-Sri Lanka divide has been active since at least the first millennium BCE, it has been limited to small boats and dinghies. Larger ocean going vessels from the West have had to navigate around Sri Lanka to reach India' eastern coast.cite book|last=Francis, Jr.|first= Peter|title=Asia's Maritime Bead Trade: 300 B.C. to the Present| publisher = University of Hawaii Press| year = 2002| isbn=082482332X] Eminent British geographer Major James Rennell, who surveyed the region as a young officer in late eighteenth century, suggested that a "navigable passage could be maintained by dredging the strait of Ramisseram [sic] ". However little notice was given to his proposal, perhaps because it came from "so young and unknown an officer", and the idea was only revived 60 years later.cite journal |last=Rodd |first=Rennell |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1930 |month=April |title=Major James Rennell. Born 3 December 1742. Died 20 March 1830 |journal= The Geographical Journal |volume=75 |issue=4 |pages= pp. 289–299 | url= |doi=10.2307/1784813 ] Efforts were made in 1838 to dredge the canal, but did not succeed in keeping the passage navigable for any vessels except those with a shallow draft. cite web|title= Adam's bridge| url=|work= Encyclopædia Britannica|year=2007|accessdate=2007-09-14]

Possibly conceived in 1860 by Commander A. D. Taylor of the Indian Marines,Fact|date=September 2007 the project has been reviewed many times over the years but no decision was ever made. It was part of the election manifestos of all political parties during elections. The Union Government of India appointed the Sethu Samudram Project Committee in 1955, headed by Dr. A. Ramasamy Mudaliar, which was charged with the duty of examining the desirability of the project. After evaluating the costs and benefits, this committee found the project feasible and viable. However it has strongly recommended land based passage instead of channel cutting through Ram's bridge due to several advantages of land based passage like Shifting sandbanks, Ability to prevent navigational hazards etc. [cite news|title = Use land based channel and do not cut through Ram bridge:Sethu samudram project committee report to Union Government|url=|date = September 30, 2007|accessdate = 2007-10-15 | quote = "“In these circumstances we have no doubt, whatever that the junction between the two sea should be effected by a Canal; and the idea of cutting a passage in the sea through Ram’s Bridge should be abandoned.”.] . Several reviews of the proposals followed. Finally, the United Progressive Alliance Government of India headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the inauguration of the project on July 2, 2005.

uggested Alignments by earlier committees


The strategic advantages to India derive from obtaining a navigable sea route close to the coast, with a reduction in travel distance of more than 350 nautical miles (650 km) (for larger ships). The project is expected to provide a boost to the economic and industrial development of coastal Tamil Nadu. The project will be of particular significance to Tuticorin harbour, which has the potential to transform itself into a nodal port. The State Government has announced its proposal to develop 13 minor ports, including Ennore, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Thondi, Valinokam, Kolachel and Kanyakumari.

Development of the canal and ports is also expected to provide increased maritime security for Tamil Nadu.

Other Arguments

Safety, requirement of Constant Dredging, question arising on its suitability for Heavy Ships, time spent due to slow speed that would be necessary for passage in the canal, cost aspects... were some of the arguments put forth by Captain (retired) H Balakrishnan of the Indian Navy has to say about the project in an interview to Shobha Warrier of Rediff: [cite web|title= H.Balakrishnan's interview to Rediff| url= [] ] In the case of the Suez and the Panama canals, ships save thousands of nautical miles in sailing distance and hundreds of hours in sailing time.The difference with the Sethu Samudram project is that the ships will probably save a few hundred miles and at the most two hours in sailing time.

Issues to be resolved


Some naval hydrographers and experts suggest that the project is unlikely to be financially viable or serve ships in any significant way. The savings for ships that originate from Kanyakumari or Tuticorin is between 10 and 30 hours. For ships from other destinations like the Middle East, Africa, Mauritius and Europe,the average savings by using this canal is just 8 hours.

At the present tariff rates, ships from Africa and Europe will lose $ 4,992 on every voyage [] , as the savings in time for these ships are considerably lower that what is calculated in the DPR. This loss is significant as 65% of the projected users of the canal are those from Africa and Europe. If tariffs are lowered to a point where ships from Africa and Europe will not lose any money from using the canal, the IRR of the project falls to 2.6% [] . This is a level at which even public infrastructure projects are rejected by the government.

Depth envisaged for this canal is designed for ships with weight of 30000 tonnes and less. Most of the new generation ships (with weight more than 60000 tonnes and tankers with weight above 150000 tonnes) cannot make use of this canal. [ [ New generation ships cannot make use of this canal. It does not make nautical sense] ]

Cash crunch for the project

Axis Bank Ltd. was appointed “loan arranger” for the project in 2005.Since its inception in 2004, costs have skyrocketed to at least Rs 4,000 crore, interest rates have crawled higher and old loan terms have lapsed.Even before the first dredger began its work in 2005, costs had already spiralled to more than Rs 3,500 crore. The loan sanctions, valid only up to Rs 2,400 crore, lapsed. To secure more money, Sethusamudram Corp. Ltd would have to return to the drawing board, draw up new reports, sit with parliamentary committees and receive fresh approval. [ [ Ram Setu project faces cash crunch- Hindustan Times ] ]


The Environmental Impact Assessment carried out by the Indian governmentOn July 2, 2005, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project.The Project would disturb the ecological balance and would be the reason for the death of corals.It is also an important fishing ground for the state of Tamilnadu.There exists an Biological park in the vicinity of the proposed project.

Political and economic

There have been concerns about the impact of dredging. Nevertheless, the economic benefits will be mutual for Sri Lanka as much as it is for India by reviving minor ports in Sri Lanka. The underdeveloped region of Northern Srilanka is currently occupied by LTTE. Sethusamudram project could potentially allow economic benefits to this region. This is being viewed with mutual suspsicon of both Sri Lankan and Tamil leaders. Further it is expected that in addition to Colombo, new ports to be developed near Jaffna.There has also been criticism expressed, on the basis that the project could damage relations with [Sri Lanka] .


This land bridge is the site of the famous Lord Rama's Bridge, making it a historical, religious and cultural monument of great significance. For this reason, many, including chief ministers of states [] , oppose the project.

While the age of the Ram Setu is disputed it's importance as a religious symbol in the minds of some Hindu's is not. Nevertheless, the Govt. of India through Mr. Nariman submitted before the Supreme Court of India on 22 july 2008 that “Kamba Ramayanam also expressly says the bridge was destroyed by Lord Ram so that no one can cross over to Sri Lanka and ships can sail through. Even the Telugu version of Ramayana says Lord Ram destroyed the bridge.” []

see also rama sethu


* A mysterious series of accidents have stalled the work. First, the dredging vessel Duck6sank. It was replaced by the Dredging Corporation of India’s biggest dredging vessel, but its spud broke. Another ship was then sent to retrieve the spud, but its crane snapped and crashed into the sea [ [ Can the monkey god save Rama’s underwater bridge? - Times Online ] ]

See also

*Suez Canal
*Panama Canal
*Adams Bridge


External links

* [ Ram Setu by Rishi Mohan]
* [ An Emergency Call to Save Ram Sethu]
* [ Complete Information about Sethu Samudram]
* [ Times of India Specials]
* [ Sethusamudram Corporation Limited]
* [] {website gone)
* [ Geo-Strategic Implications of Sethusamudram]
* [ Manitham's Interim Report on Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project]
* [ The Hindu : Opinion / Editorials : SETHUSAMUDRAM CONCERNS:Monday, Sep 20, 2004]
* [] (page not found)
* [ PM inaugurates Sethusamudram project amidst protests (S Ramaswamy in Madurai)July 02, 2005 20:59 IST]
* [ SSCP inspires debate on what is public purpose- Policy-Economy-News-The Economic Times:2 Aug, 2007, 0445 hrs IST,Jacob John]
* [ Sethusamudram Canal: An Expensive Voyage?(21st July 2007)Jacob John]
* [ Sethusamundram project is unviable | Crosscurrents | Down To Earth magazine]
* [ Lord Ram is an imaginary character: Karunanidhi (September 15, 2007 11:16 IST)]
* [ Rediff India]

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