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CAG redflags Sethusamundram project

Chennai, Aug2(): Sethusamudaram project which was backed by DMK’s then shipping minister T R Balu has been red flagged by CAG, the government auditor. CAG says the Sethusamundram project is based on imagination and not on reality. Sethusamundram project had run into opposition by BJP, who objected to dredging operations that were believed to cut an imaginary Ramar bridge. Environmentalists objected saying that it would harm marine life and affect livelihood of fishermen in Ramanathapuram.

DMK then ally of UPA pooh poohed the Ramar Sethu bridge and termed that the Sethusamundram project would give a big boost to the Tuticorin port and South of Tamil Nadu, as more vessels of bigger capacity would cross since they would no longer have to go around the Lanka coast. The UPA floated a Sethusamundram corporation and awarded the dredging work to Dredging Corporation of India. The project report mentioned of a 10.5 metre dredging, which CAG says is not enough for big ships. The projection of traffic through Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar too was faulty, says CAG. CAG said that the cabinet was not given any reason for awarding the contract and nor was any global tender invited. Rs. 2474 crore was sanctioned for the project in 2005 and around Rs 800 crore was spent on dredging, after which the Supreme Court halted the work of Sethusamundram project in 2014.

Pachauri committee report had termed the project unviable. The Tamil Nadu government had objected to the project as TNCP had not given environmental clearance. Dr Swamy had written to PM Modi about the unviable project. Nitin Gadkari who is in charge of shipping in the BJP ministry, did not comment on the project as it is in the courts. The channel was to help movement of big vessels coming from Western countries to India’s east coast, China and Bangladesh. Jayalalitha had termed the project was formed to fulfill the self interests of DMK. The CAG report will probably put the project in the back burner.