Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Destruction of Rama Sethu and its Implications

By Dr. Dipak Basu, Professor in International Economics in Nagasaki University, Japan
(The article appeared on
iVarta on July 18)

The £280 million Sethusa-mudram project has been mired in controversy ever since it was inaugurated by Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, in July 2005. The Minister for Shipping Baalu has antagonized both the Sangh Parivar and CPI (M) at the same time. The decision to destroy the Rama Sethu, the ancient bridge between India and Sri Lanka is against India"s heritage, religious sentiments, environment and poor farmers of Tamil Nadu. The decision has made most of the Hindus, about 82 percent of the population of India very angry. The bridge is as holy to Hindus as the Wailing Wall is to the Jews, the Vatican to Catholics, Bodh Gaya to Buddhists and Mecca to Muslims. Decision to have a new Maritime University in Chennai, not in Calcutta, the home of the oldest marine engineering college in India has provoked the CPI(M) members of the Parliament as well.

On 3 and 4 May 2007, Parliament was held up by strong interventions of BJP MPs against the Sethusamudram Project because of the destruction it would cause to the Rama Bridge. On 9 April 2007, the Society of Hindu Personal Law Board moved the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court to prevent digging of "any part of the Ram Setu". The society said that NASA had published digital images and had radiocarbon dated the bridge as belonging to the Ramayana era.

The Rama Sethu was man-made:

The Rama Bridge, dated by a NASA digital image, is considered to be to be 1.7million years old, which matches the ancient age of human settlement in Sri Lanka. The existence of a man-made bridge and of its floating nature is forcefully emphasized by a former director of the Geological Survey of India and a member of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), S. Badrinarayanan. Badrinarayanan said in Mumbai Mirror (24 April 2007), that the Ram Setu was not a natural formation. "Coral reefs," he said, "are formed only on hard surfaces. But during (our) study we found that the formation at the Bridge is nothing but boulders of coral reefs. When we drilled for investigation, we found that there was loose sand two to three meters below the reefs. Hard rocks were found several meters below the sand."

"Such a natural formation is impossible. Unless somebody has transported them and dumped them there, those reefs could not have come there. Some boulders were so light that they could float on water. Apparently, whoever has done it, has identified light (but strong) boulders to make it easy for transportation. Since they are strong, they can withstand a lot of weight. It should be preserved as a national monument."

The Geological logging of the boreholes drilled by NIOT in the inter-tidal areas of Ram Sethu reveals very interesting details. In all the boreholes the top portion is seen to be occupied by recent marine sands. In almost of all the boreholes between 4.5 and 7.5m the borehole intersected hard formations, which have been found to be calcareous sand stones and corals.

It is always observed that these Corals have continuous vertical growth like Laksha dweep, Andaman"s, and Gulf of Mannar Natural Park. These have always been found to grow on hard rock bottom.

In the case of Ram Sethu area, we observe that the Coral formations hardly occur 1 to 2.5m in length and resting on loose marine sands. Most of these coral rock pieces are seem to be rounded pebbles of corals. These things appear to point these coral rock pieces and pebbles have been transported and placed in these areas.

Since the calcareous sand stones and Corals are less dense than normal hard rock and quite compact, probably these were used by the ancients to form a connecting link to Sri Lanka, on the higher elevations of the Ram Sethu ridge and this is analogous to modern day causeway.

A submarine linear ridge originates either by the coalescence of volcanic islands appeared as a chain one by one regularly over a moving plate when it reaches a hot spot like that of Hawaii or in the form of a ridge parallel to the coast as in the case of Mid-Atlantic ridge. These two cases represent volcanic phenomena in a permanent volcanic environment. In the Bay of Bengal, between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, there is no volcanic activity so as to give rise to a submarine volcanic ridge like those mentioned above in the location of the said bridge.

A submarine linear platform or a linear plateau can form a horst, which is a linear block of rock-mass that rises up between two parallel faults or crusted fractures. Such structures and landforms are found only in the land area of Tamil Nadu (in the East-West Salem-Attur belt and in the basement rocks of Cauvery basin). But such structures and landforms are not found in its ocean region of Bay of Bengal in general and in the location of the said bridge in particular.

The possibility of this bridge being a submarine anti-clinal ridge is also ruled out because the bridge area is located in the recent sediments, which are not yet subjected to any folding activity. Hence this submarine feature, called Rama Bridge, cannot be included among the geological features described so far; and thus it remains to be man-made to connect the two landmasses of Tamil Nadu (India) and Sri Lanka, both being separated by the sea. That is, it would have been
developed manually to cross the ocean when the sea level was lower than the present one.

Prof. Padmanabha Rao, former head of the Radiation Safety Group& Deputy Director, Defense Laboratory (DRDO) in Jodhpur, Rajasthan has the opinion that Ramayana has mentioned five different types of human races apart from the north Indian Aryans. They were 1. Vanaras; 2.Golanguls; 3. Rukshyas; 4. Gradhru; 5. Rakshasas. Apart from the Rakshasas other four types of human races helped Rama to built the bridge. In Europe we have the evidence that Neanderthal, who were almost human but not human, existed side by side with the human in ancient time. In ancient India too, there were several near-human races apart from the human race. The origin of the human settlement in Sri Lanka in about 1.7 million years ago corresponds to the year when according to the Purana Rama first went to Sri Lanka. The Bridge, according to NASA, was also constructed at about 1.7 million years ago.

In Europe, epics of Homer and The Bible are not considered to be myths, but informal history. The ruin of Troy, described by Homer, is already excavated. Israel government made serious efforts to excavate every places mentioned in The Bible to find out its ancient past. In India as well, S.R.Rao, former chief of the Archaeological Survey of India, has discovered the ruins of Dwarka submerged in water off the coast of Gujarat. Japanese ground Radar Company Tojo-Vikas has found out ruins of huge places 30 meter under the ground of Ayhudhya. Thus, it is most unscientific to rule out Ramayana, Mahabharata and Purana as just myths, but not informal history of the ancient India.

The Canal will destroy 3.5 lakh jobs:

Apart from the obliteration of India"s heritage of immense historical value the destruction of Rama Sethu has other implication too. The project to dig up a canal by destroying the Rama Sethu will kill the fishing industry and destroy the livelihood of about 3.5 lakh fishermen in six coastal districts of Tamil Nadu. Already, dredging activity has scared the fish to other areas, reducing catches. These waters have anyhow become dangerous for Indian fishermen. An NGO representing the fishermen, Coastal Action Network (CAN), has filed Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court, which is due for hearing in July. The fate of the Sethusamudram Project rests on the judgment.

The project will without a doubt destroy South Asia and South East Asia"s first marine biosphere in the Gulf of Mannar. It is safe to conclude that the Rama Bridge, acting as a breakwater, induces a certain stillness and calm in the Gulf of Mannar. Over the centuries, this calm has flourished over three thousand six hundred species of plants and animals. It has five species of endangered marine turtles, innumerable fish, mollusks and crustaceans. As opposed to Palk Bay, Gulf of Mannar is deep, being over three hundred meters deep in most places. Because of the unique circulation of ocean currents, the nutrients to be found here are exceptional. In case the Rama Bridge is breached, the shallow silted waters of the Palk Bay will flow into the Gulf of Mannar, destroying its fragile ecosystem. On the other hand, breaching the Bridge would also impact on the meadows of sea grass in the Palk Bay, which are home to a large number of fish species and the rare dugong or sea cow.

The Canal is financially unviable:

Sethusamudram cuts off sailing time of less than a day and a distance of about five hundred nautical miles, which is a negligible saving compared to the costs of using the channel, according to the calculations of a former deputy chairman of the Tuticorin Port Trust, K.S.Ramakrishnan.

Any ship using SSCP will have to pay pilotage charges. There are various ways to calculate pilotage charges. Ramakrishna arrives at a figure of Rs 1.11 lakh per kilometer, which a ship has to pay for pilotage. For a channel length of Sethusamudram that would require pilotage, which Ramakrishnan fixes at fifty-six kilometer, a ship would end up spending eight times more than it would to go around Sri Lanka. Ramakrishna, therefore, concludes that ships won"t use the channel. The bulk of international shipping, comprising vessels larger than sixty thousand tonnes, cannot use the SSCP because the draught of ten meters is inadequate.

The Project for the Canal will destroy India's thorium deposits:

The Ram Setu, besides its heritage value it embedded thorium deposits in its/ vicinity. The Sethusamudram Project will become an undoubted tsunami maximizer. Since the tsunami of December 2004, several computer models have established its path and destructive mode since originating from a nine Richter earthquake hypo-centred off the west coast of north Sumatra in Indonesia. Traveling at speeds exceeding eight hundred kilometers per hour, the tsunami left its damaging impact within less than three and a half hours. Significantly, on the Indian east coast,
the area between Nagappattinam and Chennai bore the brunt of the tsunami"s fury, the area of Rajamanickam" s study mentioned above. On the other hand, the areas beyond the Rama Sethu faced less ravaging tsunami energies. South of the bridge, sea depth ranges from two to three hundred meters, supporting South Asia"s greatest marine biosphere. Right north, though, the shallowness is just three meters and does not go beyond twelve for most parts of the area till the Palk Strait and beyond. Clearly, the bridge has produced this varied bathometry. One consequence of this bathometry is the sedimentation process, which is rapid in the Palk Bay and Palk Strait, with the prospect of Vedaranyam in the north joining Jaffna peninsula in four hundred years. This incredible shallowness very likely acted as a quasi land breaker against the tsunami, forcing it to return to the Bay of Bengal, and make its way to Maldives and further west around Sri Lanka, another route for the tsunami and the energy will be directed towards South Kerala and Imagine if the great natural breakwater of the Rama Bridge was absent. It is very easy to show that the proposed channel with a depth of twelve meters will indeed provide wash away Thorium deposits from the Kerala coast.


Baalu by having the new Maritime University of India in Chennai, instead of Calcutta, also has demonstrated his lack of knowledge of even India"s recent history and provoked a backlash against the Tamils, who can now be branded as sectarian and narrow minded people, who only understand their narrow self interests.

Marine Engineering and Research Institute (MERI) in Calcutta is regarded as one of the most acclaimed Marine Institute around the world. Just like the oldest such institute in Britain, The Royal Institution of Naval Architects and the Institute of Marine Engineering in Glasgow, the MERI is also located in the city but connected to the Garden Rich Workshop, a very reputed hipbuilding center of India. Chennai has no such claim, but the new Maritime University will be located in Chennai just to satisfy the Tamil vanity.

Tamil may mention the maritime exploits of Rajendra Chola but thousands of years before him traders from Bengal and Bihar had established Champa kingdom in Vietnam, Sri Vijaya kingdom in Sumatra and Malaysia, Barman Kingdom in Cambodia. The names of cities like Kanchan Bari, Panch Bari, Ayoudhya in Thailand, Aranya Pathe in Laos, Bander Sri Bhagwan in Brunei, Rangan (Rangoon) and Bagan (Pagan) in Burma; names of islands like Java, Bali, Sumatra are not in Tamil but in Bengali or Maithili or in Magadhi Prakit. The name of the present king of Thailand Bhumibal Atulya Dev or the ancient name of Bangkok as Banga signifies that historic link, which the Christian Tamil Baalu ignores.

The proposed destruction of Rama Bridge is another example of the same destructive narrow-mindedness of the Christian Tamils like Baalu who has no respect or interest on Indian heritage and the sentiments of the vast majority of the people of India, who are Hindus.

hits since Chaitra 7, 2064 Vikram (March 26, 2007)