Saturday, March 22, 2008

SSCP: illegalities and failures in geological planning endangering geo-stability

SSCP: illegalities and failures in geological planning endangering geo-stability

Comments by K. Gopala Krishnan, Director (Retd.) Geological survey of India (20 March 2008):

The two reports submitted by us, one the Geological and geotectonic setting of the Palk Bay – Gulf of Mannar area and its relevance to SSCP (22 Pages with 24 figures and one table) and , the other one, Geoscientific status of Rama Sethu ( 9 pages 11 figures) have been completely ignored by the Committee of Eminent Persons (CEP) inspite of our personal presentation.

In these reports, we raised certain serious concern over some specific aspects of SSCP

1. No detailed Geo-technical evaluation report for SSCP as a whole has been prepared by any competent geo-scientific agency as a part of pre-project studies. A report entitled report on geological and geo-technical assessment of the sub-strata for the proposed Sethu samudhram Navigational channel submitted by National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) does not cover all the necessary aspects of geotechnical studies –

a) Study of a geological, structural and geotectonic features including sesimotectonic signatures (Earthquakes).
b) The determination of the strength and stability and or weaknesses of the foundation and walls of the proposed canals.
c) Rendering Geo technical advise to the project authorities for any remedial measures and treatments to be given to the weak planes in the foundation and wall structures as well as the type of materials to be used.

2. No detailed geo environmental assessment has been prepared for SSCP. The EIA report of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) does not include the following aspect of Geo-environmental assessment such as

a. Assessing the Geo-environmental resource potential – Minerals, Ground Water, natural geological and geo-morphological features as well as associated natural geological processes.

b. Environmental Impact Assessment of impacts likely to be caused to the above resources as well as to the environment as a whole.

c. Geo-environmental Management Planning defining the methodology and remedial measures for deducing the impacts for sustainable development.

3. Out studies indicated that there are 4 sets of active faults in the project area which are active during the present day producing vertical as well as lateral movements of blocks. The surface manifestations of these movements have brought in subsidence, submergence and slump structures.

4. Out studies also point to the existence of higher heat flow signatures in and around the project area which are reflected in the form of hot water springs on the surface. The source of this heat flow is related to the buried recent volcanic vents that are reported in Gulf of Mannar and off Pondicherry.

5. Geophysical studies indicate that SSCP area is vulnerable to earthquakes. Epicenters of recent earth tremors of moderate magnitude ( 4to7 M) are recorded in Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay and off Pondicherry Coast.

6. Our studies also indicated that Tsunami waves will move with high intensity following lateral movements of active faults.

7. Our studies also indicated various geo-environmental impacts on the project area and its environ. The most important impact likely to take place will be the instability of SSCP canals and the channels by susidence, erosion and collapse of canal mouths, collapse of canal walls inducing large volume of sediments to move and block sea passages as well as submarine land slides leading to local Tsunamis

8. We have suggested in our reports, the necessity for carrying out various types of detailed remote sensing studies using satellite imaginaries of different band widths and wave lengths including Thermal Infra- Red imaginaries as well as different modeling studies on various aspects.

9. We have recommended the constitution of a Multidisciplinary Scientific Expert Committee to review all aspects of SSCP in a holistic fashion and suggest suitable types of further studies and their quantum.

10. On the status of Rama Sethu in our second report we have stressed that no detailed holistic scientific study on Rama Sethu has been done so far by any competent agency. Whatever has been stated on the Rama Sethu are based on spill over data from investigations that had different objectives. The important question should be not on the status of Rama Sethu physical feature, but whether any temporary bridge structure ever existed over it or any remnant of such bridge structure is existing on it at present. So far no detailed study with this objective has been carried out. We have recommended such a Marine Geo- archeological studies on Rama Sethu for this purpose.

11. The report of CEP states that the corals found on the Adams Bridge are in-situ biogenic coral reefs. on page 42. However this has been negated and contradicted in the report itself (vide pare 5.3.2 (ii) on page 49), where it is stated that the corals where uprooted, fragmented during cyclonic storms and deposited over the tectonic platform of Adams Bridge.

12. In the report of CEP vide pare 5.3, it is mentioned in all the bore holes, the coral occur in different depths and that there is no uniformity and continuity in the vertical and horizontal prevalence in the occurrence of coral, and that it is a clear cut natural stratigraphic cycle of sedimentation process. It is not a man-made feature. This nature of occurrence of coral, not extending at the same level in the adjoining bore hole, will indicate that it ends between bore holes which will probably means that it is a boulder like formation. The other statement in the report that the presence of coral and sand layers towards the top over a silty clay sequence cannot be regarded as a man-made layer serving as a cause-way bridge can also be interpreted as a simple road construction engineering phenomena. It is common practice that during road construction that repeated layers of boulders alternating with soil will be put to get proper compaction, and the behavior in bore holes noticed on Adams Bridge is very much akin to road construction.

13. In the report of CEP, the figure 5.1 on page 46 shows reconstructed natural depositional events in Adams Bridge area. It shows the bore hole log of BH5 of NIOT, and attributes different specific marine and current energy conditions for the formation of various layers within the vertical column. Coral formation is attributed to high energy shallow marine storm conditions. Similar condition should exit for the deposition of similar formations in adjoining boreholes also. As it is already been stated that corals do not extend at the same level to adjoining bore holes, if the above energy criteria is invoked, it will point to sudden change in the marine current energy conditions within short distance between two bore holes. This cannot happen in nature. Therefore it could only be inferred that the rocks, coral and any other occurring in the same level in two adjoining bore holes can only be different rock boulders which are earlier formed under different marine conditions and are placed at the same level by extraneous forces.

14. Para 5.4 of CEP report states that the opening of Sethu Samudram Channel will not have any impact due to cyclonic storms and Tsunamis on this fragile ecosystem. This is an erroneous conclusion. It is shown in the report of CEP that sediment influxes in large quantities are taking place even during normal times from the Bay of Bengal to Palk Bay. Palk Bay is already a shallow sea with highly turbid water. On the other hand Gulf of Mannar is a deep sea with clear water. At present, Adams Bridge / Rama Sethu acts as a barrier /check-dam preventing the sedments ladden turbid waters to flow from Palk Bay to Gulf of Mannar. If SSCP canal is cut across Adams Bridge, the turbid waters along with sediments will flow with high velocity and force through this narrow channel during Tsunamis and cyclones and fall into the Gulf of Mannar. The Gulf of Mannar side has a steep slope and this sediment-ladden water will fall like a waterfall creating further turbulence, and affect the tranquil nature of Gulf of Mannar waters, which will lead to disturbances in the fragile eco-system prevailing there.

15. Under para 5.4.3 and 5.4.4 it is stated that the future Tsunami waves also will travel towards the Indian coast only in East-West direction. The North-South trending SSCP Canal will actually reduce the wave energy. This is again a false statement as the SSCP Canal on the northern side cutting the Palk Strait is oriented along ENE – WSW direction and not along North-South. As such the future Tsunami waves even if they travel only in westward direction, this channel will act as a narrow tunnel to push the waves to cause heavy destructions.

16. Under para 5.4.5, the CEP report says the opening of the channel of SSCP will not play any role in increasing or decreasing the placer deposits of monazite, ilmenite, garnet, etc in the southern Tamilnadu and Kerala and that such minerals are already occurring in enormous amounts in other parts of our country. The above statements are highly inaccurate. No placer mineral deposit having monazite, ilmenite, etc of such large reserves and high grade occur in any other part of India.

17. It is to be noted that the above minerals are called heavy minerals because of their higher specific gravity. These minerals having been brought to the ocean along with sand and other mineral grains need particular type of current energy to jig, separate and concentrate them. The currents also need a specific orientation and direction for transporting such material to our coast. It has already been pointed out in the previous paras that opening up of SSCP Canal across Adams Bridge will induce large volume of turbid water of Palk Bay to fall into Gulf of Mannar with great force disturbing its tranquility. Such a disturbance will certainly reduce the current energies and their orientations. As a consequence there may not be much concentration of the heavy mineral or deposition of the same on our coast.

18. During the last Tsunami it was observed that the Tsunami waves after hitting the coast moved considerable distances on the land and later withdrew with force dragging lot of material back into the ocean. If large future Tsunamis which are likely to come through SSCP Canals into Gulf of Mannar attack the coast with added force, it is likely that they can drag the already existing heavy mineral deposits back into the ocean. This probability cannot be ruled out since incursions and withdrawal of sea are taking place along Tamil Nadu Coast regularly nowadays and detailed modeling studies with different wave energy patterns, varying amounts of heavy minerals and different orientation directions are necessary coupled with detailed Tsunami modeling studies in this area.

19. The CEP reports attempts at proving that Rama Sethu / Adam’s bridge is formed by natural sedimentation process only and it is not a man made structure. However, as has been stated earlier no holistic scientific studies on Rama Sethu are conducted with a clear objective to find whether any temporary cause-way cum bridge existed there or any part of it is existing at present on the structure.

In our studies regarding the scientific status of Rama Sethu the following geographical signatures are noticed.

• It rises as a Very Steep Wall-like Feature from the Gulf of Mannar
• It is a “Strait” joining two seas-Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar
• It is an “Isthmus” connecting two land masses – Rameswaram and Thalai Mannar islands under the sea.
• It is a unique curvilinear feature.
• It is nearly 17 Lakhs year old.
• It is a “Barrier Zone” that separates two contrasting seas- the shallow and turbid waters of Palk Bay from the deep and clear waters of Gulf of Mannar.
• It is a “Barrier / Protection Zone” against “Tsunami” impacts.

Due to theses reasons themselves, Rama Sethu can be declared as an “International Geographical Heritage Site” and protected.

20. Our studies also brought to light the accuracy and authenticity of Valmiki Ramayana in terms of Geographical and certain distinct Geological aspects.

The veracity of this historical narration is evident in Valmiki’s references to a number of places and natural features in the country such as rivers, hills, etc., are still extant especially in southern parts of Tamil Nadu. The references to “Ayamukha Paravatha from which the placid waters of Kaveri are seen” indicating the iron ore bearing Kanjamalai hills, south of Salem is so accurate in terms of Geography and Geology Similarly, the locales and descriptions of Agasthiyamalai, Thambrparani river, the rising Mahendra Giri Hill, Rameswaram and Gandahamana Paravatha are described in detail very accurately.

Valmiki’s descriptions of sea waves lashing against the foot hills of Mahendra Giri is supported by the reported occurrence of marine, fossiliferrous limestone in this area. It is to be noted that Mahendra Giri is at present far inland to the north of Nagercoil. Another interesting geological phenomena was described in the yuddha kanda of Valmikl Ramayana. When Rama requested the lord of sea to give way for his army to cross over to Srilanka and when the lord of sea did not appear in front of Sri Rama, Valimiki decribes that Sri Rama sent powerful arrows into the ocean. The entire earth trembled and large waves erupted followed by high heat and fire. It is very significant that this area is prone to earth quakes, high tidal waves and tsunami, and buried volcanoes. Valmiki also describes about certain floating stones that have been used for the construction of Rama’s bridge. In nature, two such stones namely, pumice (a volcanic rock) and non-silicifide coral rock will float in water. These rocks occur in the Adam’s Bridge and Gulf of Mannar areas All these geographical, geological features and phenomena cannot have come from the wild imagination of a poet sitting thousands of miles away in Ayodhiya. It is therefore, very clear that Ramayana is certainly a historical document supported by scientifical evidences

21. Astronomical evidences brought out recently by Pushkar Bhatnagar (Era of Rama, Ruba &CO, New Delhi) indicate that the age of Rama is around 7000 Before Present (BP). It is well known scientific fact that specific planetary positions will not repeat in millions of years. Using the planetorium software of NASA, Pushkar Bhatnagar recalibrated and recalculated the planetary positions described in Valmiki Ramayana during different events in Rama’s life, such as Rama’s birthday, the day before Rama’s initial Pattabhishegam, the killing of demons Kara–Dhushan, killing of Vali, meeting of Hanuman and Sita at Srilanka etc., the last three being eclipses. These determinations coincide very accurately with the periods of events described in Ramayana.

22. Our report on Rama Sethu also interprets the following from the bore hole data of NIOT. Below a zone of loose marine sand upto 7 to 9 m depth, a zone of boulders made up of calcareous sandstone and coral inter-layered with silt and sand is encountered between 9 to 20 m. Below 20 to 22 m another marine loose sand is encountered. Similar geological setup is also reported from certain publications on the Thalai Mannar side of Srilanka. Such type of boulder beds between loose sand layers cannot be formed either by natural marine processes or by river processes along the sea coast. As such these beds should be a man-made structure only.

23. To confirm such an interpretation, we have suggestedgeo-archaeological studies on the Rama Sethu / Adam’s bridge by large scale and deep pitting upto 25 m depth till the second loose sand zone is reached. Under-water video graphy and sampling of the four walls and the bottom at 50 cm interval for finding the composition, nature and age of the different formations are suggested. This will clearly establish the true nature of the Rama’s bridge.

SSCP illegalities and failures in geological planning
By K. Gopalakrishnan, Director (Retd.), Geological Survey of India (20 March 2008)
Geological planning is very essential. We have presented detailed technical paper for about 20 papers which have not been considered by thee committee. Another is Rama Sethu on scientific aspects. In this we have used geography, geology and scientific and Ramayana is historic and whatever wee have described is authentic. On the bridge constructed itself so that they are taking only what they are searching for is with reference to those investigators and the title of import itself. It is in the understanding substrata for understanding the project.

I want clear indication of how to approach the court and not scientic. The court understand is another thing as technically they have opted. It should be simplified and in easy language. We do not need to go to concrete details and court also will not be able to. So we will be describing in this committee of eminent persons by all Vice Chancellor that what we have observed about the nature, its consequences and specialize. Hence we will reserve to this because they are satisfied with all the factual basis.

When we read this report, this is also is about something else. They give detail reconstruction that is given by the other company which have referred , who appointed, how they gave this report , what was the reference to that. We do not know whether they oriented this towards this. There geological formation. Upto what extend is the geological formation is the most important question. What is the distance between ocean surface and the geological. For the top two to three metres you go loose sand. Anything that happens naturally by the course of events is called geological formation.

First thing is whether the bridge is man-made or natural formation. now we have to say that it is man-made and not natural. But we can establish this point only archeological survey.

So far as the present investigation that has been made, says that they admit that it is not possible to say unless a comprehensive geological survey is made and the outcome also they cannot predict. The purpose of this investigation is made to find whether any layer is naturally formed or artificial. The assertion on the report that there is nothing man-made is hypothetical and assumption so what are the reasons they give for he purpose say, we have to advert only to that.

So far as Gulf of Mannar is concerned depth goes upto 3000 metres and it is very deep. The sea is very calm and clear and cyclones do not cross them. The risk for that is Sethu bridge once you make 3,000 wide and so m uch deep, it will affected the Gulf of Mannar. They say it will not affect and nothing will happen and water will still remain calm and that would not affect anything. we have to clearly demonstrate that it is fully assumption and it is totally incorrect and the very fact is not fair.

Once the canal is cut on the Sethu, it will fall like a waterfall sediment. In the Gulf of Mannar area from the Rama Sethu, they say it is very steep. There is 4 meter steep which is not so steep but suddenly it goes down to 3000 metres. So this is the area and also prons and other things. Even NEERI has not clearly stated about this.

Bay of Bengal is cyclonic prone and it is a hybrid for fish potential. We have got high saline in the sea which nurtures lot of species. That is the most important thing. Which drafting reply we will emphasis this part alone in simple language, difference between the two seas, Gulf of Mannar and Palk Blair and distance between Arabian Sea. Wee will extract this statement also then come into this details and how ecology will be disturbed. They now taken the kilometer distance for his salinement. From the island, Gulf of Mannar is 20 kilometer. There are two islands. Why not it is 15 kilometeres? Answer is we cannot go beyond 15 kilometers because of International Maritime Boundary Line. Three things are breeding ground, slope in that area and breeding stretch. That is the only maximum distance we can go but that will be minimum towards the island is concerned.

Park Strait is a very shadow region and there once they cut the channel 10 metres depth and 200 metres deep, it will become part of Bay of Bengal. Therefore speed will affect the channel. Actually we are cutting Bay of Bengal also into Gulf of Mannar. What is the distance between Palk Strait and Rama Sethu? It is only 80 kms. It is nothing if the wave come in great speed then it will directly hit and Gulf of Mannar will be lost.

The North South statement about the alignment is also a false statement because they are talking only about the bottom portion and then they are talking about the sudden change in construction. East Coast is very shallow. You are giving no room for the big ship to manovar. 52 kilometres of work has already been completed.

In the documentation that Mr. Gopalakrishnan has placed in page 27, it has been declared as geological monument. This Thirumala map shows area and it comes under Geological Act. In Tamilnadu we have huge fossil which has been declared as geological monuments. You must stress on different regimes which has happened in the pathway and Gulf of Mannar with regard to geological, physical and Chemical formation and how by going through this channel we have personal regimes. The present alignment of North South or towards east which will also bring in some problems which will bring more of Palk Way and Gulf of Mannar to join. The monument is a reliable point which require some more expertise.

What are the breeding grounds? Wherever there is certain stagnation of water, they are best for breeding grounds. Rama Sethu area where ever the depth is less than 500 metres it is best for breedingt. Very important thing is corals. One of the reason that Mr. Balakrishnan say is sea should be clear, calm, light should be there and turbidity should not be there.
Bottom should be hard because it needs surface to hand on. So you cannot have an erosion. 100 metres will also hold good below that we cannot have. Water should also be minimum of 20oC
In Encyclopedia it is given that if water is very calm and quite, corals can be there and they also need clinging surface to hold on which should be hard. It cannot breed on sand.

Coral rock is not hard. It will break. It is very brittle, it cannot build on weight. People can walk on it but it cannot bare heavy weight. If it is along with calcareous sediment, the man can walk on coral rock and you can see it in Rameswaram.

As analysed this as a mariner. The basic thing mentioned in te official document is that it reduces sailing distance to some nauticle mailes. This reduction in voyage will lead to reduction in voyage of time. This reduction in the voyage of time means saving in feul which is translated in terms of cause effectiveness. This is the basic definition for SSCP project.

Path way area is a high risk area for cyclonic activity which is in October to January that is North East monsoon. The matter is that any cyclone or depression that comes near Nagapatnam is going to affect Sethu Samudiram, Gulf of Mannar and Pathway. More severe cyclone will influence the channel. If it crosses East Coast of India at 100 miles, Sethu Samudiram will be affected because winds speed is so high that excess of 100 kilometeres it will go into the Sethu Samudiram. It is the crux of the matter of tropical cyclone. So it is clear that any ship that travels through Sethu Samudiram will be more safe if it gois straight. Second the cyclonic activity is going to bring lot of sediment. It will empty itself in Sethu Samudiram effect you have to do maintaining for which little amount was allotted as 0.2 million per cubic metres.

Next aspect is with regard to sediment. Maritime terrorist is here to stay. It does exist and lot of conventional arms are going around in the world. One example is maritime terrorism. On October 2000, Alquida carried suicide attack on US canal, then French Limberg was attack in the same manner.

Sethu Samudiram is next to area of operation of LTTE and they have carried out enough and daring attack on suicide ships. Now they also have their air capability but we cannot say LTTE has lost in the war and we cannot say LTTE will not pose any threat.

Allied factors of Sethu Samudiram official website carry lots of false statements. It gives an impression as if Navy and Coast Guard are traveling on daily basis. Navy is of two types: eastern fleet that was established in Bangladesh war and Western fleet. These two meet probably only once in a year.

You need large sea area to manovar. We cannot forger about navy risk. Example Naval attack in Karachi, Turkey shoot. During war time no ship will be near the coast. Even their justification is not correct. This Sethu Samudiram Channel is not a open water way. This is a very important point. If I am at sea I can sail my ship in the way I want but in Sethu Samudiram it is not possible. This is a drawback because if any rubber boat carrying weapons comes on the way in the Sethu Samudiram Channal,the big ships cannot find it and even if they find out by luck, they will not be able to change the direction of the ship without being hit.

They say that 50% of saving. But 50% saving of what? 75% of internal rats return. Cant they be more specific?

Reference was made with regard to the article written by former deputy Chanel of Chennai port trust. The official website do not show what is the pilotage rate and what is the charge that you are going to levy. Even if we calculate the pilotage rate with regard to the Chennai Port it comes to 50 lakhs. They also till now do not know how much they are going to spend every ear for dredging and maintenance. The total cost of saving is only 7 lakhs if one travels through Sethu Samudiram Canal.

The savings in time is not commensurate with the savings in distance because of slow speed of travel through Sethu Samudiram because we have to change the speed slow from open sea to Sethu Samudiram. Example Eden to Chennai via Sethu samudiram is104. net savings is only 4 lakhs. Even if you charge 6 lakhs you are saving only marginal. The time saving is also only 19.2 hours but the website says it is 30-36 hours to maximum at this nautical speed.

They have mentioned about environment good like using LSHD diesel but the cost of lower sulphur high diesel is one and a half time higher than the high speed diesel. So the cost effective matter is wiped out.

What is the alternative? We can only close this project, cut your losses to minimum as it is not too late and close it without seeing any prestige.

The another matter that one should see is threat matrix. No major scientific study is available in the official report describing the construction of Sethu Samudiram Shipping Project. Reference was made with regard to the The NewsToday evening paper issue on 2nd Feb’08 to the article written by Sri. V. Sethuraman which states that this project is a threat to national security. This project is economic approach. But external cost of approach should have been brought which should have been taken into account.
LTTE ranks number one in all the marine terrorist according to Peter Lehar, who is a security analyst in St, Andrews University at Scotland. Reference was also made with regard to Arabindo Acharya and Nadika Prashardani Vidha in page 207 which states that LTTE has periodically hijacked the ship which is there is part VI. Next stress made with regard to the suicide operation by black sea tigers which is there in page 209.
Keezhakarai is a coastal populated area which is very near to Sethu Samudiram.
The Asian tribune in Srilankan paper had said that one third of Jaffana coast will submerge if Sethu Samudiram is done. Hence they have not consulted Geological survey, NIO also. This shows the competency of the members of not even knowing the outside concern. I don’t know whether it is accidental or deliberate. There was no mariner, not security expert no Biologist, etc.
More than 50 lakhs people depending on the marine fishing and their families are going to be affected. The country gets around 4000 million as export duty from fishery industry from Tamilnadu itself. This revenue will be affected because of this project.

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