The UPA government-appointed expert committee on the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project has rejected the demand to declare it as a national monument, as its findings conclude that the Ram Setu is not a man-made structure, and has said the implementation of the project will bring economic gains to India.
In its report submitted to the Centre, a copy of which has also been filed in the Supreme Court, the committee headed by S Ramachandran said the Setu should not be brought on the World Heritage List, as urged by petitioners including
Janata Party leader Subramanium Swamy.
The committee concluded that most social apprehensions regarding the bridge are based on "assumptions and presumptions" and are not based on facts or scientific data.
Contrary to popular belief, the committee said the Ram Setu, also known as the Adam's Bridge, is a natural structure. It favoured the project as the "water route on the Palk Strait would bring economic boom to India, particularly in south India."
Having been forced to withdraw its earlier affidavits denying the existence of Ram and Ramsetu as man-made, the Centre had on Friday filed a fresh affidavit that skirted the controversial issue of faith.
"The Union of India is of the belief that it should not be called upon to respond to issues of faith, except in recognizing their existence," the Centre said in its affidavit.
The court is scheduled to consider the Centre's request to vacate the order restraining it from damaging the Setu along with the committee's report on Wednesday.
"To cite a few historical instances, the Suez Canal project and Panama Canal project have been implemented and expanded in the regions of Egypt and Central America. In fact, these vital water routes have allowed Egypt and Central America to grow and reap huge economic benefits," the report said. Similarly, the Sethusamudram project would be
beneficial to the country, the report stated.
The committee denied that dredging of Adam's bridge is influencing the physical, chemical and biological parameters of the Palk Strait. According to the findings there is no adverse effect in the region. "The field data on fish landings from March to September 2007 showed no decrease in fish catch, instead a marginal increase was noted," the report added.
The committee has also referred to a study by a German scientist to conclude that Ram Setu is a natural structure.