Debating India

TAMIL NADU

Sethusamudram project launched

Sunday 3 July 2005, by RADHAKRISHNANA*R.K., SUNDAR*S.

A bridge with neighbours: Manmohan; Sonia confident authorities are alive to environmental issues

Project expected to act as a catalyst of industrial development Fulfils one of the promises made in the CMP "Will transform lives of the people of this region" Care and concern for fishermen "Taken up after long struggle"

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A DREAM COME TRUE: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurating work on the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project at a function in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, on Saturday. With him (from left) are Union Minister for Shipping T.R. Baalu, DMK president M. Karunani dhi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Tamil Nadu Governor Surjeet Singh Barnala, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and MDMK general secretary Vaiko. Union Communications Minister Dayanidhi Maran is behind Mr. Karunanidhi. - PHOTO: S.R. R AGHUNATHAN

MADURAI: As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pressed the button here on Saturday, dredging began in the Bay - 45 km off the Kodiakkarai coast in Tamil Nadu - signalling the beginning of work on the Rs. 2,427.40-crore Sethusamudram channel.

Three-and-a-half years from now, the project, expected to act as a catalyst of industrial development, spur trade and commerce, promote coastal shipping and generate employment, will be ready to receive the first vessel.

The project, whose first proposal dates back to 1860, is also of strategic importance. "This channel will be a bridge with our neighbours," said the Prime Minister. "I hope this project will benefit not only us but [also] our neighbours. All of us have a common and shared destiny. Their prosperity is our prosperity; their welfare is our welfare."

Dr. Singh described the project as "one of the most ambitious ever to be conceived in the Indian port sector" and said the inauguration of the work constituted fulfilment of one of the promises made in the Common Minimum Programme. "I am certain that the people of this region will, in a few years time, see their lives transformed for the better by this project," he said.

Keen on developing ports

The Centre was keen on developing ports with all forms of investment, from both the private and public sectors. "Over the next few years, we expect to see major transformation of all our ports, large and small, whether for shipping or for fishing," he said.

Dr. Singh announced the setting up of a world-class automobile testing facility near Chennai. "This will be a major project that will attract huge investment both directly and indirectly. It will give a boost to Tamil Nadu’s already developed automotive sector. Let Tamil Nadu be a rival to Detroit in future," he said.

Boost to coastal economy

United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi said the coastal economy and maritime trade would receive a boost once the project was complete.

Describing the project as "technologically challenging and economically vital," she said it would benefit lakhs of people through the creation of new jobs. "It is truly a day of satisfaction, a historic moment for Tamil Nadu and for the country."

Ms. Gandhi said she was aware of the environmental issues involved and added that she was confident that the project authorities were "alive and sensitive" to these concerns.

"The fishermen communities also will need to be paid particular attention... They need our care and concern, and we must make sure that their interests are protected, and that their welfare is central to our endeavours," she said.

``In fact, we will make sure,’’ she said.

Special position

She said Tamil Nadu had a special position in the UPA. "What I do want to convey is the special position that Tamil Nadu occupies in the UPA. Dr. Kalaignar Karunanidhi [DMK president] himself is one of the main architects of the UPA and he has helped guide our coalition over the past year," she said.

Mr. M. Karunanidhi detailed the long struggle from the time C.N. Annadurai was Chief Minister before the project was taken up for implementation.

The project involves dredging 82.5 million cubic metres over 89 kilometres.

The width of the proposed channel at the sea-bed level is 300 metres - to facilitate two-way navigation.

The project envisages dredging of a ship channel in the shallow portion of the sea to the south of Tamil Nadu to connect the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal through the Palk Strait so that ships moving between the east and west coasts could have a straight passage within India’s territorial waters, instead of having to go around Sri Lanka.

See online : The Hindu

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