To stop the destruction of the Sethu Samudram – Scientists, Academics and Religious Leaders Converge in London
Tue, 2008-11-25 05:23
By Walter Jayawardhana
London, 25 November, (Asiantribune.com) Ecologists, academics and scientists and religious leaders around the world organized by the US based living Planet Foundation are meeting today (November 25) at London’s historic Linnean Society, Burlington House in Piccadilly to ask Indian and Sri Lankan governments to persuade UNESCO to designate the Gulf of Mannar a World Heritage site and stop the imminent devastation that could cause to the environment by the controversial Sethu Samudram project. The seminar will last two days continuously.
The organizers said, "The aim is to prevent the destruction of the Gulf of Mannar , one of the last remaining intact eco-systems of the world and home to the famous Ram Sethu or Adam’s Bridge , a site sacred to one billion Hindus worldwide."
"The gathering is set to provide enough multi-disciplinary evidence to persuade" the two countries to ask UNESCO to grant World Heritage designation to the Gulf , the Living Planet Foundation said.
Interviewed in a London Hotel, one of the participating scientists of the seminar Dr. Ranil Senanayake told this correspondent, "Sethu Samudram canal project is a 140 years old idea proposed by the British imperialists not compatible with the thinking of the 21st century. Today, much better things could be thought about for better results. Dredging through this geological formation would cause innumerable damages that cannot be reversed."
Asked to pinpoint one, Dr. Senanayake said that the present waves in the gulf bring the mineral sands from which Thorium could be processed. The sea currents deposit tons of mineral sands on the South Indian and North Sri Lankan beaches .He said Thorium processed from these mineral sands is believed to be the source of energy of the future, from which atomic power could be produced without allowing any chance of producing nuclear weapons. Once, the bridge is destroyed such sand deposits would stop by the gulf basin currents, the scientist warned India and Sri Lanka.
Many scientists have assessed the Gulf of Mannar is a shallow stretch of water separating India and Sri Lanka. Despite its important ecological and cultural significance as one of South Asia’s largest biosphere reserves, the Indian government, under pressure from Tamil Nadu state politicians, is pressing ahead with plans to build a shipping channel called Sethusamudram , right across it, threatening the numerous endangered plant and animal species that live there as well as livelihood of local fishermen.
The proposal has been met with a chorus of international disapproval. It has also become the subject of a case in the Indian Supreme Court, which has temporarily delayed the devastating dredging.
Scientists have said the Gulf , free from oceanic currents , provides the calving grounds for a substantial part of the diverse whale population of the bay of Bengal. It is also identified as the habitat for rare and endangered plant and animal species including the threatened green turtle and dugong. The sea grass meadows of the gulf are the largest remaining feeding grounds for the globally endangered dugong. The centuries old pearl and conch shell fishing still exists there.
"The dredging will destroy this fragile eco-system. What we need is not an industry that will benefit only few shipping companies and dredgers. When, ships starts sailing along the canal even the limestone wells of Jaffna could become salty. What we need there is a sustainable development project," scientist Ranil Senanayake said.
- Asian Tribune -