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Sethusamudram project will be a boon to Jaffna, says Lankan Tamil geographer

PK Balachanddran

Amidst loud protests in Sri Lanka over India's plan to dig a shipping channel through the Palk Strait, a Tamil geographer of Jaffna University has come to its defence saying that the project will be a boon rather than a bane for the war-shattered economy of Jaffna.

"The fear that the digging of the channel will lead to an increase in the water flow, and that this will erode and submerge large parts of the western Jaffna coastline, is unfounded," says Dr Soosai Anandan.

He told Hindustan Times on Sunday, that the proposed channel was too far away from the Jaffna coastline for changes in the water flow to have any significant impact on the coast.

"The Jaffna coastline is 40 to 50 kms from the alignment of the canal," he pointed out.

"Water flow will be affected only up to a distance of about one kilometre from the canal," he explained.

"Increased shipping in the Palk Strait, will actually lead to prosperity both on the Tamil Nadu side and the Jaffna side. If the present minor ports on the Tamil Nadu will get a boost, so will the minor ports on the Jaffna coast. The presently undeveloped ports at Kayts, Thalaimannar, Kankesanthurai and Point Pedro will get a chance to develop," Dr Anandan said.

"Increased shipping will also lead to the development of the hinterland, currently ravaged by war. Trade and tourism will increase, and both the Sri Lankan North and South Tamil Nadu will benefit," he forecast.

The Government of India's Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project involves the digging of a channel in the Palk Strait, 12.8 metres deep and 300 metres wide, entirely within Indian waters.

The channel will help fair sized coastal vessels to ply between India's western and eastern coasts, without having to circumnavigate Sri Lanka.