Setu project: replies to arguments of Counsel Nariman on geotechnical, oceanographic, environmental studies
Geological Survey of India, the premier earthsciences organisation together with National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, the premier oceanography organisation should be involved in any study as was done in Tehri dam case by appointing an advocates' commission.
It is surprising that for the Setu channel, these organisations were not involved as consultants for geo-scientific studies including oceanographic investigations before approving the channel project.
Some arguments were made by UOI counsel Nariman on 24 and 25 July about geo-scientific studides related to SSCP. Replies to these arguments are submitted. Former Directors of Geological Survey of India Dr. K. Gopalakrishnan, Dr. S. Badrinarayanan and Dr. K Subramanian had made the following submissions which are also made available to the SC:
1. Geological and Geo-tectonic Setting of the Palk Bay – Gulf of mannar area – Their relevance to SSCP
2. Rama Sethu – Geographical, Geological, Historical and Geo-Archaeological Perspectives (These two reports are submitted personally to CEP)
3. Ocean Current Movements in Palk Bay – Gulf of Mannar region and their significance in relation to SSCP
4. Comments on the report of the committee of Eminent Persons on SSCP(Presented as a separate volume entitled "Geological Aspects of SSCP".
References to these documents are made in the following point-wise comments made by Dr. K.S. Gopalakrishnan
Mr. Nariman has stated that 'a geological survwey in the area had not thrown up any evidence to suggest that Rama Sethu was a man-made structure'
Mr.Nariman has cleverly not mentioned what geological evidences were searched for to suggest a man-made structure at Rama Sethu, which were not found.
On the other hand our report under reference-2 above clearly brings about evidences for the occurrence of a Boulder-Conglomerate bed having different rock types such as calcareous sandstone, fossiliferous limestone and corals, between a loose beach sand horizon at the top and another loose sand formation below the boulder bed. Such boulder beds are nowhere reported along the southern Tamil Nadu coast. Also this boulder bed occurs perpendicular to the coast. This type of boulder beds can not be formed by any marine sedimentary process. It is significant that Valmiki Ramayana describes that the Rama Sethi was built by using huge rocks and trees available on the coast. As such occurrence of this type of boulder bed at Rama Sethu proves it to be not by normal sedimentary process by only by a human hand.
Elsewhere Mr. Nariman is reported to have said that "we believe that the bridge is not man-made structure but a super-man made structure".
Does this mean that the Govt. accepts that there is a bridge structure on Rama Sethu that is not by sedimentary process and that it was built by the super-man Rama who is an avatar of God?
Nariman has also stated that the project was not rushed through and that each and every aspect was considered in depth at various levels by expert committees and only after all requirements were required (acquired?), was clearance given.
In the reports submitted to CEP, we had clearly brought out that the three geo-scientific aspects, viz., Geotechnical Evaluation Studies, Geo-Environmental Assessment Studies and the Nature of Current Movements in the entire Project area and its environs, have not been studied at all in depth, covering all aspects in each of the above three spheres, by any competent agencies.
The geo-technical studies restricted only to the canals and channels of SSCP were done by NIOT, but not for the whole project area. Also these studies did not take into account the important aspects such as recent fault movements, earth- tremors, higher heat flow in the area and possible volcanic activity etc. Neo-tectonic activities (recent earth movements) associated with faulting during 1948-49 had caused submergence and subsidence of southern parts of Dhanushkodi town ship was brought out by GSI's studies. Recurrence of such activities will affect the Rama Sethu canal's stability. Similarly, the neo-tectonic activity with subsidence in the Palk Bay along the extensions of the Vellar river fault as brought out by GSI may affect the ENE trending section of channel/canal. This aspect has also not been studied by NIOT or any other agency. These aspects have been cited in our report under Reference-1 above.
No detailed Geo-environmental studies for the entire project area and its environ was carried out by NEERI. Whatever geo-scientific studies carried out by NEERI, and that too only in Palk Bay relates to rates of sedimentation. Actually, NEERI does not possess the expertise to carry out any GEO-Environmental Studies. Only GSI has got the core competence for study of six geological parameters, viz., geology, geo-morphology, soil, land-use, surface water and ground water, out of the specified 12 parameters earmarked by the Dept. of Environment, Govt. of India, for the purpose of environmental clearance (See p.44 of GSI pamphlet entitled 'Annals and Antiquity of GSI,2002, included in Refence-4 above).
No studies on current movements for the project area as a whole were carried out by competent agency like, NIO, NIOT or the Marine Wing of GSI. Our paper under reference 3, derived from Google Earth photos, clearly brings out the fact that in the western sector, the currents from Palk Bay converge on the Pamban channel (about 2.5 km wide and about 5m deep) and move with force to Gulf of Mannar side, where they are deflected by the coralline islands to west and SW towards the southern Tamil Nadu coast. On the other hand, in the central sector, the currents stopped somewhat by the Rama Sethu , overflow into Gulf of Mannar and produce a swirling structure with sediments. If the proposed narrow and deep SSCP canal (300m x 12m) across Rama Sethu is cut, it will bring in erosion and destabilization of the canal itself, besides further heavy devastations in the Gulf destroying the marine life in those parts. Also, due this activity, the orientation and force of current movements will change drastically in the gulf, which will prevent deposition of future heavy mineral placer sands with monazite, rutile, ilmenite etc along our southern coast. They may even destroy and remove the already existing deposits of such minerals from our shores to the deep ocean back.
Mr.Nariman is reported to have said that 'each and every aspect was considered in depth at various levels by expert committees and only after all requirements were acquired, was clearance given'.
It is not known whether any geo-scientific and marine experts were included in these expert committees.
It can be seen that the Final Detailed Project Report by L&T Ramboll Consulting Engineers have submitted their report in Feb. 2005 itself, before the receipt of or data from such important reports such as (i) Marine geophysical surveys carried out for the Proposed Sethusamudram Navigational Channel by NIOT (Feb.2005), (ii) Geological and Geo-technical Assessment of the sub-sea strata for the proposed Sethusamudram Navigational Channel by NIOT (April, 2005), and (iii) Final report on conducting Bore-hole investigations along SSC alignment at Adam's Bridge by Fugro Geo-tech Ltd, April, 2007).
Environmental clearance letter from MoE&F has been issued on 31.03. 2005 itself without the Geotechnical report from NIOT (April, 2005) and the report form Fugro Geo-tech Ltd (April, 2007).
Similarly many other important reports such as (a) Report on Geological Studies and Sub-surface strata conditions at the site of Sethusamudram canal in the vicinity of Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi by Dr. S.P.Subramaiam, Dept. of Ocean Engineering, IIT, Madras (no date), (b) A Report on the feasibility of underwater drilling and controlled blasting of SSCP by Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad (No date), and (c) Study of Rock Mechanics Properties of sandstone samples collected from SSCP (Name of author or organization not mentioned; letter dated 30 August, 2007) are received very recently after the commissioning of the project.
(The details regarding the dates of receipt s of various reports stated above are taken from the report of ECP. Please also see the reference -4 above; part-1, letter to Dr. Kalyana Raman).
The major doubts and apprehensions raised by Dr. Tad. S. Murthy, the international "Tsunami Expert" regarding the orientations of SSCP canals vis-à-vis the future tsunami waves, which were forwarded by PM's Office to SSCP authorities were brushes aside by the Tuticorin Port Trust that has no expertise in the field of tsunamis without any technical explanations.
Contrary to the submission of Mr. Nariman to the court, it can be seen from the above facts that the project was rushed through without even waiting for many of the reports commissioned by SSCP authorities themselves. No renowned geo-scientific, oceanographic or tsunami experts were included in the various expert committees. Many scientific aspects were not considered and tackled by SSCP authorities before starting the project.
The contention of Mr. Nariman that the proposal of Alignment No.6 was the result of a comprehensive and careful examination of all relevant considerations, backed by sound environmental, navigational, engineering and trans-boundary considerations etc., does not also stand to reason, without proper geo-technical, geo-environmental and ocean current studies supported by mathematical, scle and computer generated modeling studies by competent agencies.