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Ram Setu / Sethusamudram Ship Canal

Sri Lanka is connected with India by a chain of islands and sand-banks, called Adam's Bridge or Rama's Bridge, from a tradition among the Sri Lankans, that Adam crossed over it into the peninsula from their island, which they affirm to have been the original Paradise.

The Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (SSCP) is a 167 km long shipping canal, and envisages the creation of a navigable canal from the Gulf of. Mannar to the Bay of Bengal to facilitate the movement of ships. Sri Lanka is separated from India by the 50km (31mi) wide Palk Strait, although there is a series of stepping-stone coral islets known as Adam's Bridge that almost form a land bridge between the two countries. The Palk Strait, which separates India from Sri Lanka, is filled with bright sediment.

The Adams Bridge is a series of sand shoals created by sedimentation over a period of time. All islands are made up of a calcareous framework of dead reef and sand. They have a low and narrow sandy coast and some of them have rocky coast. Around all offshore islands, well-developed coral reefs have been noticed. Project authorities have not found any evidence of presence of a man-made structure in the proposed canal alignment.

In order to go from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal, the trade passes by a very long circuitous route round Sri Lanka, and a vessel sailing between Mumbai and Chennai performs a voyage of 5000 nautical miles, although the real distance by sea does not exceed 1500 miles.

Until the end of the 19th century, indigenous coastal navigation did not made these detours, but used a shorter route through the Straits which separate the peninsula of India from the island of Sri Lanka. But the head of the Gulf of Mannar, affected by the winds of both monsoons, is difficult of access because of the sandbanks and rocky islets with which it is encumbered. Vessels setting their course northwards had to clear a passage across this kind of offshore bar strewn with coral reefs.

Pliny the Elder, in his description of Sri Lanka, said that the sea between Taprobane and India was full of shallows. The importance of the Gulf of Mannar region dates back to the 2nd Century AD because of its highly productive pearl oyster banks and other religious significance. Roman traders did not take the risk of transfer of cargoes to smaller craft in the breaches in Adams Bridge.

The Gulf of Mannar lies between the SE coast of the Indian Peninsula and the W coast of Sri Lanka. Its S boundary lies between Cape Comorin, the S extremity of India, and Point de Galle, the SW point of Sri Lanka. The gulf is bounded N by Adams Bridge, a chain of islets and rocks extending from the E end of Pamban Island (911'N., 7925'E.) to Mannar Island, about 16 miles ESE.

In India, the Gulf of Mannar region in Tamil Nadu is one of the four major coral reef areas and the others are Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat, Lakhsadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands. With its rich biodiversity of over 4,000 species of various flora and fauna, part of this Gulf of Mannar between Rameswaram and Tuticoirin covering 21 islands and the surrounding shallow coastal waters was declared as a Marine National Park in 1986.

Adam's Bridge Adam's Bridge Adam's Bridge Adam's Bridge

A 50-km chain of limestone shoals between Talaimannar, located on Mannar Island and Rameshwaram Island of India, separates Sri Lanka from the Indian subcontinent. Adam's Bridge, the chain of limestone shoals between the southeastern coast of India and the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka, provides geographical evidence of the former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. Geological evidence suggests that this 50-km long bridge once connected India and Sri Lanka. Ancient records seem to indicate that a foot passage was possible between the two land masses until the 15th century when the land bridge broke up in a cyclone.

Adams Bridge is a narrow ridge of sand and rocks, mostly dry, which connects Pamban Island with Mannar Island, about 16 miles ESE. It is composed mostly of shifting sand banks, with intricate shallow channels between them. Shoal water extends up to 5 miles from the ridge, with depths under 11m. Farther seaward, depths increase sharply to over 183m about 12 miles SW of Adams Bridge.

Instead of being a remnant of the original rock, by which Ceylon is supposed to have been once connected with the Indian continent, it is in reality a comparatively recent ridge of conglomerate and sandstonea, covered with alluvial deposits, carried by the currents and heaped up at this particular point, while the gradual rising of the coast has contributed to give the reef its present altitude. The friable calcareous sandstone of the bar breaks up into great rectangular blocks, and this no doubt gave rise to the belief that it is a colossal causeway of artificial construction. From Rameswaram the mound curves round to the south-east; at first it is a sandy spit sixteen kilometers in length, very flat, and at the time of the south-east (? south-west) monsoon partly submerged. Then a gap begins and continues for 30 kilometers, but troubled by many banks of shifting sand ; on this follows a broader bend which almost reaches the island of Ceylon. Everywhere it presents the same friable calcareous sandstone.

Palk Bay (930'N., 7930'E.), the continuation S of Palk Strait, is bounded on the E by the coast of Sri Lanka, on the S by Mannar Island, Adams Bridge, and Pamban Island, and on the W by the coast of India.

Pamban Pass (917'N., 7912'E.) is the navigable channel, partly artificial, through the banks which occupy the space between the W end of Pamban Island and the mainland. It is of great advantage to coastal craft trading between ports on the W coast of India and ports of the Bay of Bengal. In 1979, it was reported that the maximum draft for vessels using the pass was limited to 2.1m. The pass is used by some coastal vessels of from 200 to 800 gt and about 61m in length; these are as large as can safely transit the channel.

From the dune-covered coast of the peninsula the long mound proceeds first to the south side of the Rameswaram reef, and in this part of its course there occurs, near Paumben, an artificially widened channel which has long served as a passage for ships. So long ago as 1484 (1480?) the canal is said to have been destroyed by a storm, as has since happened on several occasions; under the English Government it has been deepened.

The advantages of this narrow channel are so striking, and the facilities already afforded by its enlargement are so highly appreciated, that surprise is excited that a work of such imperial importance as the deepening of this channel should have been so long deferred, and so imperfectly accomplished, when tardily undertaken. Such was the circuit that a vessel is obliged to make in sailing from Bombay to Madras, in order to guard against calms on the line, and to weather the Maldives and Ceylon, that practically she performs a voyage of five thousand miles, although the real distance by sea does not exceed fifteen hundred. The barrier that here obstructs the communication between Palks Bay and the Gulf - appropriately called the dam, - is about a mile and quarter in length. The rocks, which are flat upon the upper surface, have been so curiously broken up and intersected by the action of the waves, that they present the closest possible resemblance to deliberate arrangement, and bear every appearance of having been placed there by art according to one early witness.

The British made a complete survey of Adam's Bridge, in 1895, taking soundings between each island, in addition to making many borings to a depth of twenty-five to thirty feet, and found nothing but sand. Adam's Bridge was about twenty-one miles across, and about half the distance was either sand-banks, or water less than three feet deep. The wider the channels between the sand-banks, as a rule, the shallower they were, but in some places where the channels were narrow, the depth was as much as 30 leet in one case. It was a curious thing that, whether the channel was shallow or deep, a sand-bank was invariably thrown up like a bar at its mouth, so that no boats, except the smallest canoes, could pass through.

On referring to a chart which was made by Lieutenants Powell and Ethersey, of the Indian Navy, between 1838 and 1845, it was found that the changes in the sand-banks and the channels were so great, that the map made in 1895 of the channels and the islands differed entirely from it, so that it might be taken for granted that the whole of Adam's Bridge consisted merely of shifting sand-banks.

Adam's Bridge Adam's Bridge

The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project is a massive canal project which aims to reduce the travel times of ship navigating between the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka thhrough the Palk Strait. Possibly conceived in 1860 by Commander A. D. Taylor of the Indian Marines, as many as nine pre-independence proposals (between 1860 and 1922) were formulated for cutting a Channel across the narrow strip of land mostly through the Rameshwaram Island to connect the Gulf of Mannar with Palk Bay. Post independence proposals included Sethusamudram Project Committee 1956; Nagendra Singh Committee Report (1967) (C.V. Venkatgeswaran); Lakshminarayana Committee Report (1981); Pallavan Transport Consultancy Services Report 1996. Although it was part of the election manifestos of all political parties during elections since 1947, the project has been reviewed many times over the years but no decision was ever made.

India has a peninsular coast of 3554 nautical miles and has had maritime trade with various countries of the world since time immemorial. Also, shipping trade between the east and west coasts of India has prevailed for a long time. But the coast of India does not have a continuous navigation channel connecting the east and west coasts. Currently the ships coming from the west coast of India and other western countries with destination in the east coast of India and also in Bangladesh, China etc. have to navigate around the Sri Lanka coast. The existing waterway is shallow and not sufficient for the movement of ships. This is due to the presence of a reef, known as Adams Bridge, located south east of Rameswaram near Pamban, which connects the Talaimannar Coast of Sri Lanka.

Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project envisages dredging of a ship channel in the shallow portion of sea to connect the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal through Palk Bay so that ships, depending on draught required, moving between East and West Coast of India could have a continuous navigable sea route around the peninsula within Indias own territorial waters. This will save up to 424 nautical miles (one nautical mile is equal to 1.852 kms.) of distance and upto 30 hours of sailing time for ships between East and West Coast.

In order to reduce the steaming distances between the east and west coasts of India and to improve the navigation within the territorial waters of India a number of proposals were considered, to cut a ship Channel called Sethusamudram connecting the Gulf of Mannar with the Palk Bay.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved May 19, 2005 the proposal for implementation of Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project at a cost of Rs.2,427.40 crore consisting of a capital cost of Rs.2,233 crore and financing cost of Rs.194.40 crore including Interest During Construction (IDC) component of Rs. 126.80 crore. M/s. Sethusamudram Corporation Limited will be the nodal agency for raising resources, and implementing the project through Tuticorin Port Trust. A part of dredging work amounting to about 13.5 million cu. Mtrs., of dredging, was assigned to the Dredging Corporation of India, on nomination basis, who have started the work of dredging from July 2, 2005.

Dredging work in the Adams Bridge area was temporarily suspended based on an order passed by the Supreme Court in September 2007. In 2007, the Congress government submitted before the Supreme Court that there was no scientific evidence to prove the bridge was man-made but subsequently withdrew its affidavit following the volley of protests and given the religious sentiments involved in the issue.

The National Environment Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur has carried out an Environment Impact Assessment study for the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project. The study predicted certain impacts which are addressed in the Environmental Management Plan for the project. Based on the above study and the Environmental Management Plan, the Ministry of Environment and Forests accorded environmental clearance to this project April 23, 2008.

In January 2010 the Ministry of Shipping nearly doubled the initial cost estimates of the controversial Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project. Initially, the project was to be developed at an estimated cost of Rs 2,400 crore. But we are revising the cost estimates, part of which would be requested for immediately to clear dues pending to the Dredging Corporation of India (DCI), said a senior official in the ministry.

Adam's Bridge Adam's Bridge

From its frequent disruption by the sea, and the deposit of sand-drift on its surface, the formation to the east, between Ramiseram and Manaar, presents less of the artificial appearance which is exhibited in the vicinity of Paumbam, and which no doubt sufficed in ancient times to establish reality a causeway constructed by superhuman power. The Hindus ascribed its origin to Rama, and among the Mahometans, the belief that Adam had found a retreat in Ceylon on his expulsion from Paradise, led to the conjectures that he must either have alighted from the sky, or passed by this singular causeway.

The name and situation of the banks of Adam's bridge were connected with a variety of curious traditions among the locals. It was universally believed among them that Ceylon was either the Paradise in which the ancestor of the human race resided, or the spot on which he first touched on being expelled from a Celestial Paradise. Adam's bridge is, with them, the way by which he passed over to the continent; and some imagine that the Gulf of Manaar, like the Red Sea in scriptural history, closed after him to prevent his return.

This bar is the scene of one of the most beautiful episodes in the great epic of Ramayana. The hero Rama, accompanied by his true-hearted spouse Sita, endures many years of exile in the woods and deserts of Southern India. Then Sita is carried off by Ravana, the King of Lanka (Ceylon). Rama goes forth to wage war against Lanka and to recover his faithful wife; he will throw a bridge across the sea. The people of the forest, who have the form of apes and fight with trunks of trees and pieces of rock, are his numerous and mighty allies. The host encamps on the strand.

Lost in contemplation Rama with his army gazes on the vast ocean ; disturbed, and as though kindled by the wind, the world of waters resembles a sea of air, and the air the ocean ; far away on the horizon heaven and sea merge into one another, the one adorned with stars the other with pearls. For three nights the never-yet-conquered Rama lingers in deep meditation on the strand, waiting until the god of the sea shall appear to him.

Impatient, he seizes at last his bow, and shaking the earth, as it were, looses flaming arrows like living fire into the abysses of the sea; so does Indra hurl his lightning. The waves rise like the mountains of Vindhya and the monsters of the deep fly terrified to the sea-god. The god appears; his colour is like the dark lazure stone, sparkling with gold. He speaks to Rama and says: It was thine ancestor Sagara who hollowed out for me my bed; therefore I am called Sagaride, the Lord of the streams. I cannot suffer a bridge across my waters, lest others should see that I may be overcome. But if thou willest to throw up a dam, the ape Nala may construct it; neither the creatures of the deep nor storms shall hinder thee, and I will hold back the waves for thy sake and Nalas.

The command is given and hundreds and thousands of strong apes begin the work. They tear up trees by their roots and throw them, covered with blossom, into the sea, and upon them bushes and creepers, and then great blocks of rock and again trees, and then again rocks. So the dam is raised ; Rama, his brother Lacsmana, and with them Sugriva, Hanumat, and all the other doughty warriors of the army of apes march over the dam to the decisive battle.

Thus did Nala in the space of a month construct a bridge extending eight hundred miles in length and eighty in breadth, and when the work was finished the monkeys cried out "Victory to Rama, Victory to Rama." Long before the beginning of the modern era, the poet described the origin of the bar. As long as the ocean endures, he says, so long will this dam exist and the fame of Rama. Even at the present day a number of small isolated islands are called Nalasetu, i.e., the bridge of Nala.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its right-wing Hindu affiliates believe that the "Ram Setu" was the structure that Lord Rama and his army of apes and monkeys built to reach demon king Ravana's Lanka some thousands of years ago. According to the Hindu epic "Ramayana," the monkeys crossed over to Sri Lanka and rescued Ram's consort, Sita, from the Lankan king Raavan, who had abducted her.

The 2017 show, "Ancient Land Bridge," on Discovery Communications-owned Science Channel quoted American archaeologists saying that the 50-kilometer (30-mile) line between India and Sri Lanka was made up of rocks that are 7,000-years old while the sand on which they are sitting is only about 4,000-years old. The experts concluded that the incongruity in the age of the sand and the stones proved that the stone bridge must have been built by human beings.

"This TV program has supported what we have been saying all along. Now let the Supreme Court decide and not disregard the faith millions of Hindus both in India and abroad have for Lord Ram," BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said in December 2017. He had previously filed a petition in the court opposing any alteration to the bridge. "These findings are a tight slap on those people who had been questioning the very existence of Lord Ram and called him a fictional character. Ram Setu will now never be demolished," said Surendra Jain, general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a hardline right-wing Hindu organization.

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Page last modified: 14-12-2017 17:04:18 ZULU