Friday, December 5, 2008

Setusamudram: sacred site. Scrap channel project.

Setusamudram: sacred site. Scrap channel project.

Sacred Site nomination boosts campaign to save Gulf of Mannar

Friday, 12.05.2008, 07:31am (GMT-7)

NEW YORK: At the first international meeting of the campaign to protect the Gulf of Mannar, held at the Linnean Society in London recently, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) made the dramatic announcement that it would be seeking to have the Gulf of Mannar designated as one of the world's first internationally recognized 'Sacred Sites.' Following agreements reached at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona last month, 'Sacred Site' is a now an international term of protection for sites that are spiritually, religiously, culturally and ecologically important.
In the fight to save the Gulf of Mannar from destruction by the creation of a deep shipping channel, the move could prove to be a strategically important one. Flowing between South-East India and Sri Lanka, the Gulf of Mannar is home to Ram Sethu, or Adam's Bridge, a site of immense spiritual significance to both Hindus and Muslims worldwide.

Situated in South-Asia's largest biosphere reserve, it is also one of the last remaining biological hotspots on the planet, offering sanctuary to numerous endangered plant and animal species such as the dugong and the green turtle. However, despite the clear cultural, natural and spiritual importance of the area, and in the face of an on-going challenge in the Supreme Court of India, the Indian government is pressing ahead with dredging for the planned Sethusamudram Ship Channel, risking destruction of the sacred bridge and the fragile eco-system of the area.

The announcement of nomination for Sacred Site status was made by Martin Palmer, Secretary General of ARC, and religion and ecology advisor to His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. "The Gulf of Mannar has enormous spiritual significance within both Hinduism and Islam," he said during his announcement.

"Narratives in the Hindu Ramayana, which feature Ram Sethu, and the Muslim story of Adam being thrown out of Paradise and falling into what we now know as Sri Lanka, then walking across Adam's Bridge to become the vice-regent of God ruling the world, make the Gulf of Mannar the one place in the world - other than the Garden of Eden - where we could actually say 'this is a sacred site about our relationship with and our responsibility for the rest of creation.'

Cosmologically and ecologically the Gulf of Mannar is about as sacred a site as you could get. Our suggestion is that it should be nominated as one of the very first internationally significant sacred sites, along with places such as the sacred mountains of China and other such hugely holy and ecologically significant places. I have every confidence the nomination will succeed." Organizers of the campaign to protect the Gulf of Mannar have been quick to welcome the news. "Mr Palmer's announcement was dramatic and unexpected," says Kusum Vyas, founder of The Living Planet Foundation, based in Houston, Texas, which organized the London meeting.
"The meeting erupted into applause when he made the announcement - it was so thrilling. To get the Gulf of Mannar recognised on the international conservation stage will be a huge step forward in preserving its sanctity and ecology for future generations. We can't thank ARC enough." Asked to reflect on the current battle to preserve the Gulf of Mannar, Palmer said: "It is a classic struggle - to use Christian terminology - between God and Mammon, between those who see the world as a stage upon which a drama of cosmological significance is played out in which every aspect of creation has significance and meaning because it is created from love, and those who simply see this planet as a rather large supermarket to be raided."

ARC is a secular foundation designed to work both with the major religions, encouraging them to look into their own traditions in order to increase their environmental activities, as well as with major environmental organizations to get them to take the role of religions seriously.

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is world's oldest and largest global environmental network - a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries - it helps find pragmatic solutions to pressing environment and development challenges. The first international meeting of the campaign to protect the Gulf of Mannar was held at the Linnean Society in London last week and was organized by The Living Planet Foundation USA.

India Post News Service

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