Canal Conundrum

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

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