Canal Conundrum

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe arrives with flowers to receive blessings at the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka on Wednesday 4 April 2018. On wednesday (4), Wickremesinghe survived a no-confidence motion in the Sri Lankan parliament with a 46 vote majority after a 12-hour debate with 122 MPs voted in his support while 76 MPs voting to remove the prime minister. (Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Sept 16, 2009 (LBO) – Work on the controversial Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project in the Palk Strait between Sri Lanka and India has halted again after the last dredger digging the channel was pulled out of service, a media report said. The project, about which Sri Lanka has expressed reservations, is meant to create a shorter shipping route between India’s eastern and western coasts, India’s Livemin business newspaper said.

Billed as India’s Suez Canal, the Sethusamudram project is expected to reduce ship journeys between India’s western and eastern coasts by as much as 30 hours or up to 424 nautical miles by creating a channel between the Indian mainland and Sri Lanka.

Ships now take a detour around Sri Lanka in the absence of a continuous navigational channel connecting the coasts, because of Adam’s Bridge, a network of reefs and shifting sandbanks south-east of Rameswaram near Pamban in Tamil Nadu.

Sri Lanka has expressed concern about the project on environmental grounds while shipping industry officials have said it might also help reduce transhipment traffic through Colombo as Indian harbours become more accessible.

The Sethu project involved boring a new shipping lane connecting the Gulf of Mannar and Ba