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Ramasetuscwrit Presentation Transcript

  • 1. IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION WRIT PETITION ( CIVIL ) No. OF 2007 (A Writ Petition under Article 32 of Constitution of India invoking the Original Civil Jurisdiction) WITH PRAYERS FOR INTERIM RELIEF 1) Dandi Swami Sri Vidyananda Bharati-ji Monk of Shankaracharya Order …… Petitioners Versus Union of India & others ……. Respondents WITH I.A. No OF 2007 Application for Exemption from Filing Official Translation PAPER BOOK VOLUMES __ TO ___ FOR INDEX KINDLY SEE INSIDE Advocate for the Petitioner 1
  • 2. SYNOPSIS AND LIST OF DATES The Petitioners herein have filed the aforesaid Writ Petition invoking the Original Jurisdiction of Article 32 of the Constitution of India as a public interest litigation on behalf of citizens of India, in particular of the States of Tamilnadu and Kerala, seeking protection of the fundamental rights contained in Articles 14, 19, 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India against the implementation of the Setusamudram Shipping Canal Project (the “Project”). The Respondents including the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Environment in the Union of India as well as the Government of Tamilnadu are all controlled by the same political party, which is rushing through with the Project without any circumspection despite serious concerns about the dangers posed by the Project to the lives of the people as well as to sensitive biodiversity hotspots such as the region where the Project is being implemented. Although the decision to go through with a project such as the present one is a policy decision, it is well settled by decisions of this Hon’ble Court that even policy decisions must be set aside if they violate mandatory statutory provisions or the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The Project runs through the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Straits and Palk Bay in a region which was hit by the Tsunami of December 26, 2004. However, the mid-ocean channel has been conceptualized without having taken into account the warnings of world-renowned Tsunami experts that it could funnel and amplify the Tsunami waves in a manner that will result in lakhs of deaths and destroy the coastline of Southern Kerala and Tamilnadu, thus violating the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 and the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. Prof. Tad S. Murthy, a world-renowned Tsunami expert and a former editor of Tsunami Effects Review, has pointed out that the alignment of the mid-ocean channel is such that it will funnel 2
  • 3. and amplify the wave from a Tsunami from South East Asia so as to cause massive destruction to lives and property on the Southern Kerala and Tamilnadu Coasts. Neither the EIA report by NEERI completed in May/August 2004 nor the DPR by L&T/Ramboll for the Project completed in February 2005 have taken into account the likelihood or effects of a Tsunami despite the massive destruction caused by the Tsunami of December 26, 2004. Further, the Project involves not only dredging over many square kilometers of the ocean floor but also controlled blasting in the Palk Straits and Gulf of Mannar, which will endanger the flora and fauna of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve declared by UNESCO to be one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in Asia and declared as such by the Government of India and the State of Tamilnadu. The Gulf of Mannar is home to a number of endangered species such as the dugong (sea cow), the sea horse, sea turtles, whales and dolphins and to endangered habitats such as coral reefs, mangrove forests and sea-grasses that support the species named above. Apart from such serious violations of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the environmental clearances for the Project under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, have been granted in complete violation of statutory provisions and without taking into account the protective actions recommended by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, a Central Government Agency (“NEERI”), in the environmental impact assessment report (the “EIA Report”). It is vital to note that the Project also involves cutting through the Ram Setu barrier in Palk Straits (situated south east of Rameshwaram near Pamban and connects Talaimanar coast of Sri- Lanka) which is believed to be man made according to highly reputed marine archaeologists and geologists and whose origins stretch back into antiquity. No investigation has been done of the Rama Setu structure to 3
  • 4. determine if it is deserving of protection as an ancient monument or an archaeological site under the Ancient Monuments Act, 1958. There is considerable scientific evidence accumulated that the Rama Setu is man-made. Article 51A(f) of the Constitution enjoins protection of the cultural heritage of India. Therefore, it is respectfully submitted that the Archaeological Survey of India is required to determine under the Ancient Monuments Act, 1958 as to whether or not the Rama Setu is man-made. If it is man-made, its origins stretch back into antiquity, and certainly more than the 100 years required under the said Act. If so, it would be fit and proper for this Hon’ble Court to stop the project before it destroys the Rama Setu and to direct the Archaeological Survey of India to have the Rama Setu declared as an ancient monument or an archeological survey as the case may be and to ensure that it gets all the protection that such a monument requires. In addition, the environmental clearance dated 31.03.2005 is vitiated on account of arbitrariness and non-application of mind. One of the most important environmental aspects of the project is the problem of disposal/dumping of the dredged material. The study report highlights the fact that dredging will lead to increase in turbidity (i.e., suspended matter in the ocean) at, and in the vicinity of, the site; thereby preventing penetration of sunlight into the water body, which would endanger the survival of marine flora and fauna at and around the site. For these reasons, quick and efficient removal of the dredged material is crucial. Further, the disposal of the dredged material would have to be done in a manner that minimizes the likelihood of any adverse impact at the disposal site. On detailed examination and analyses, the EIA study by NEERI recommends that disposal would have to take place both on land, as well as at sea; the clay and silt to be disposed off/dumped on land or to be used to help reclaim land near Pumban island, and the sand to be dumped at suitable sites in the sea, at least 20-25 kilometres from the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve. 4
  • 5. NEERI’s note of caution has been totally disregarded. Firstly, the recommendation regarding the implementation of the project in two phases has does not appear to have been considered by the MOEF at all. Further, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), in its clearance dated 31.03.2005, while laying down a specific condition that “the Environment Management Plan recommended by NEERI should be implemented” (Specific Condition ‘xix’), has, at the same time, categorically prescribed that the “dredged material will be disposed off in the identified sites in the sea”, and that “no dredged material will be disposed off on land” (specific condition ‘I’). This is in clear conflict with the recommendations of NEERI, as well as the Environment Management Plan prepared by it. Clearly, despite the caution sounded by the NEERI itself, this condition laid down in the environmental clearance would itself render the project environmentally non-viable. No reason, much less a detailed/satisfactory one, has been given for this departure from the NEERI’s recommendations; showing the total non-application of mind by the MoEF.The enormous religious sentiment of the people of India with respect to Ram Setu which is regarded as a creation of Lord Rama and his Vanara army led by Lord Hanuman has also been intentionally disregarded by the Government of India and the Shipping and Environment ministries of the Government of India, which curiously enough belong to the same political party that is also the ruling party in Tamilnadu. This clearly raises issues under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Accordingly, it is respectfully submitted that this Hon’ble Court should intervene in the matter to ensure that mandatory statutory provisions in environmental statutes are not violated and that the fundamental rights of the citizens of India, particularly of Kerala and Tamilnadu are protected. 5
  • 6. IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION Writ Petition (Civil) No. of 2007 In the Matter of: 1) Dandi Swami Sri Vidyananda Bharati-ji Monk of Shankaracharya Order. Plot No 229, Road No 4 (TMC ), Mahendra Hills, Secunderabad. 500 003. AP. India. 2) Ms Deeksha Mishra R/o Gwalior, Govind Bhavan, Near Telephone Exchange Gwalior, MP. …… Petitioners Versus 1) Union of India, through the Secretary, Department of Shipping , Ministry of Shipping , Surface Transport & Highways, Transport Bhavan, 1, Sansad Marg , New Delhi 110001 2) Union of India, through the Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road New Delhi 110001 3) State of Tamilnadu, Through Chief Secratary. 4) Archaeological Survey of India Through Director General, Archaeological Survey of India, Janpath, New Delhi-110001 4) Geological Survey of India Through Director General, Janpath, New Delhi. 6
  • 7. 5) Tuticorn Port Trust Through Director Tuticorin District, Tuticorin, Tamilnadu. 6) Sethusamudram Corporation Limited, a Corporation set up by the Government of India having its registered office at Tuticorin District Tuticorin, Tamilnadu. 7) National Environmental Engineering Research Institute [NEERI], [a Central Government Agency] Nagpur. 8) L&T Ramboll Consulting Engineers Ltd 339/340 Anna Salai, Nandanam, Chennai-600 035. ……. Respondents To The Honorable Chief Justice of India And His Companion Judges of the Supreme Court of India at New Delhi The Humble Petition of the Petitioners above named. MOST RESPECTFULLY SHEWETH 1) That the Petitioners herein have filed the aforesaid Writ Petition invoking the Original Jurisdiction of Article 32 of the Constitution of India as a public interest litigation on behalf of the common people of India, in particular of the States of Tamilnadu and Kerala, seeking protection of the fundamental rights contained in Articles 14, 19, 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India against the implementation of the Setusamudram Shipping Canal Project (the “Project”). 7
  • 8. 2) Petitioner No 1 is a public spirited person, a Dandi Monk of the Shankaracharya Order and a local resident of Rameshwaram (presently residing at Thirunelveli) and is aggrieved by the Project. The Petitioner No. 1 is also espousing the cause of numerous downtrodden fishermen and others affected by the December 2004 Tsunami who live in the Rameshwaram area and whose lives would be put in further danger if the Project is implemented. The Petitioner No. 2 is a Lawyer by profession and is a public spirited person. The Petitioner No. 2 is also a disciple of the Petitioner No. 1 and believes in espousing the cause of the poor and down trodden masses of the nation who are unable to seek redress themselves through courts of Law. It is submitted that the Petitioners are law abiding citizens of India who have been granted various constitutional protections under the Constitution of India. At the same time, certain fundamental duties have been cast upon the Petitioners as Citizens of India and they are discharging their fundamental duties under Article 51A of the Constitution, such as: a) 51A (f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture; b) 51A (g) to protect and improve the national environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion towards living creatures. c) 51A (h) to develop scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry and reform 51A (i) is to safeguard public property and to abjure violence to protect by the fundamental duties 8
  • 9. 3) Although the Respondent Union of India may seek to defend the Project on the ground that it is a policy decision of the Government of India, it is well settled by the decisions of this Hon’ble Court that a policy decision must be set aside if it violates binding statutory provisions or the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It is respectfully submitted that the Project and its implementation are being pushed through in clear violation of the provisions of various environmental statutes, the mandate of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and the provisions of Articles 14, 19, 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution. 4) The Project runs through the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Straits and Palk Bay in a region which was hit by the Tsunami of December 26, 2004. However, the mid-ocean channel has been conceptualized without having taken into account the warnings of world-renowned Tsunami experts that it could funnel and amplify the Tsunami waves in a manner that will result in lakhs of deaths and destroy the coastline of Southern Kerala and Tamilnadu, thus violating the fundamental rights of citizens of India under Article 21 of the Constitution. Further, the Project involves not only dredging over many square kilometers of the ocean floor but also controlled blasting in the Palk Straits and Gulf of Mannar, which will endanger the flora and fauna of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve declared by UNESCO to be one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in Asia and declared as such by the Government of India and the State of Tamilnadu. The Gulf of Mannar is home to a number of endangered species such as the dugong (sea cow), the sea horse, sea turtles, whales and dolphins and to endangered habitats such as coral reefs, mangrove forests and sea-grasses that support the species named above. Apart 9
  • 10. from such serious violations of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the environmental clearances for the Project under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, have been granted in complete violation of statutory provisions and without taking into account the protective actions recommended by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, a Central Government Agency (“NEERI”), in the environmental impact assessment report (the “EIA Report”). 5) It is vital to note that the Project also involves cutting through the Ram Setu barrier in Palk Straits (situated south east of Rameshwaram near Pamban and connects Talaimanar coast of Sri- Lanka) which is believed to be man made according to highly reputed marine archaeologists and geologists and whose origins stretch back into antiquity. No investigation has been done of the Rama Setu structure to determine if it is deserving of protection as an ancient monument or an archaeological site under the Ancient Monuments Act, 1958. The enormous religious sentiment of the people of India with respect to Ram Setu which is regarded as a creation of Lord Rama and his Vanara army led by Lord Hanuman has also been intentionally disregarded by the Government of India and the Shipping and Environment ministries of the Government of India, which curiously enough belong to the same political party that is also the ruling party in Tamilnadu. U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite pictures showing Palk Straits, Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar and Ram Setu bridge are marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-1 (colly). 6) It is submitted that it has come to the knowledge of the Petitioners that Writ Petition No 323 of 2006 and Writ Petitions No 402 of 2006, were filed before this Hon’ble Court but the same have been 10
  • 11. dismissed. The Petitioners in the present writ petition have raised various other grounds including the Right to equality under Article 14, the Right of Freedom of Profession and Occupation under Article 19 and the Right to Life under Article 21 as well as violations of various environmental statutes which have not been placed before this Hon’ble Court in the earlier Petitions. Accordingly, these issues have not received any consideration by this Hon’ble Court. Further, it has also come to the knowledge of the Petitioners that Special Leave Petition (Civil) 20758 0f 2005 is pending on certain limited environmental issues relating to the project where this Hon’ble Court was pleased to grant Leave. 7) There is considerable scientific evidence accumulated that the Rama Setu is man-made. Moreover, NEERI which was mandated to examine this issue under the citing guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has simply proceeded on the basis that the Rama Setu is not man-made. Article 51A(f) of the Constitution enjoins protection of the cultural heritage of India. Therefore, it is respectfully submitted that the Archaeological Survey of India is required to determine under the Ancient Monuments Act, 1958 as to whether or not the Rama Setu is man-made. If it is man-made, its origins certainly stretch back into antiquity more than the 100 years required under the said Act. If so, it would be fit and proper for this Hon’ble Court to stop the project before it destroys the Rama Setu and to direct the Archaeological Survey of India to have the Rama Setu declared as an ancient monument or an archeological survey as the case may be and to ensure that it gets all the protection that such a monument requires. 8) Despite wide ranging investigations by the Petitioners, they have not been able to find any clearance having been granted by the 11
  • 12. State of Tamil Nadu or the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India for the destruction of the wildlife in Schedule I. Assuming that any clearance has been granted, it is not known on what basis the wildlife protection division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has estimated the numbers of endangered wildlife in Schedule I which would be destroyed as a result of the implementation of the Project. 9) The Gulf of Mannar falls in the Indo-Pacific region, considered to be one of world's richest marine biological resources. The Gulf has been chosen as a biosphere reserve primarily because of its biological and ecological uniqueness. The region has a distinctive socio-economic and cultural profile shaped by its geography. It has an ancient maritime history and was famous for the production of pearls. Pearls were an important item of our trade with the Roman Empire as early as the first century A.D., while Rameswaram, with its links in legend to the Ramayana, has been an important pilgrim centre. The region has been and continues to be famous for its production of chank (Indian conch) although irrational chank fishing has severely depleted stocks. 10) The Gulf of Mannar has 3,600 species of plants and animals that makes it India's biologically richest coastal region. It is, of course, specially known for its corals, of which there are 117 species belonging to 37 genera. It is an inlet of the Indian Ocean, between South Eastern India and Western Sri Lanka. The Gulf of Mannar is 130 km to 275 km wide and 160 km long. During high tide, the seawater would raise to more than 1.2 meters above the sea level. Full of beach ridges, the Gulf of Mannar can be grouped into: (I) Beach ridges south of Vaigai River; (II) Beach ridges between 12
  • 13. Kotangudi River and Palar River; (III) Beach ridges between Palar River and Gundar River system; (IV) Beach ridges between Gundar River and Vaippar River; and (v) Beach ridges south of Vaippar River. In addition, the biosphere reserve in the area has 17 different mangrove species. The total water logged land has been calculated to be 5.96 sq. km. Eight series of Strand Lines can also be observed, apart from the Sea Cliff and Caves. The Palk Strait is an inlet of Bay of Bengal which is 64 kms to 137 kms wide and 137 kms long. Several Indian rivers including Vaigai flows into the Palk Strait and it also contains many islands which belong to Sri Lanka. 11) The Tuticorin Port Trust, has been appointed by the Government of India as the Nodal agency for the Project. The Tuticorin Port Trust appointed NEERI to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed Project and submit the EIA Report. The Tuticorin Port Trust also appointed L&T Ramboll as the official consultants/contractors for the project and entrusted to them the work of preparing the Detailed Project Report for the Project (the “DPR”). 12) The Project was originally conceived in the year 1860, by the British Commander A.D. Taylor of Indian Marines. As per the present plan, the total length of the Project would be about 260 km, i.e., about 120 km from Tuticorin Port to Adam's Bridge (in Gulf of Mannar), and about 140 km north of Rameswaram from Adam's Bridge to Bay of Bengal channel (in Palk Bay). Together, the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay cover an area of 18,500 kms. The canal is being investigated for different depths (for 9.15 m, 10.7 m and 12.8 m). In general, the canal will have a depth of 12 meters enabling 10,000 to 12,000 GRT vessels to pass through. The Government of India is proposing to dredge a width of 300 meters 13
  • 14. through a 44 nautical mile stretch. It is estimated that 32.5 million cubic meter sand will be dredged in the Adam's bridge area and around 52 million cubic meters in Palk Strait area. 13) Between 1860 and 1922 as many as nine proposals were formulated to cut the channel across the narrow strip of land mostly through the Rameshwaram Island to connect the Gulf of Mannar with Palk Bay. After independence, four proposals were mooted between 1956-1996 regarding the viability of the project. None of the pre-independence proposals nor the first three post independence proposals speak of cutting the Rama Setu. However, the fourth committee not being a committee consisting of marine experts has proposed to cut Rama Setu in order to implement the Project. Threat of Tsunami if the project is implemented. 14) As stated above, if the Project is implemented and a channel with a depth of 12m is created, then it will act as another route for a Tsunami wave to travel and will be directed towards Southern Kerala. It is important to note that neither the EIA Report declared in May-August, 2004 by NEERI nor the DPR by L&T Ramboll in February 2005 have taken into account the effect/ likelihood of a Tsunami such as the one on December 26, 2004. 15) Various world-renowned Tsunami experts have warned that the project could have dangerous consequences if it is implemented. Prof Tad. S. Murthy, an advisor to the Government of Canada on Tsunamis, in an interview has stated as follows: “……I feel that the Bay of Bengal entrance of the present orientation of the channel will undoubtedly funnel tsunami 14
  • 15. energy into the channel and this will meet the tsunami traveling from south of Sri Lanka at the southern part of Kerala and through constructive interference will augment the tsunami wave amplitudes. The southern part of Kerala was not much impacted by the 26th December 2004 tsunami mainly because the tsunami that arrived from the Indian Ocean has to diffract around Sri Lanka, which necessarily has to take a very wide turn (because tsunamis are long gravity waves and cannot bend as easily as short waves, just like a big car versus a mini. A mini cut corners, but a big car has to take very wide turns.) and missed south Kerala……” “…It is very easy to show that the SSCP channel with a depth of 12m will indeed provide another route for the tsunami and the energy will be directed towards south Kerala.” A copy of the interview given by Prof. Tad S. Murthy is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure P-2. 16) Prof. Rajmanickam, an eminent coastal geo-morphologist and minerologist, in an interview has stated as follows: “The monitoring system, I mean the High Level Monitoring Committee that the Government had appointed recently, sadly does not have a hydrographer, sedimentologist, geo- morphologist, geologist, coastal tectonics expert, or experts from atmospheric sciences. So, what will this present monitoring committee do? The fields I have just mentioned are the dominant sciences that are to ensure the safety and the stability of the 15
  • 16. Sethusamudram Project and its environment. So, I really do not know how this present monitoring committee, which lacks all these expertise, is going to do its required job of ensuring safety and stability to the channel and its environment! A copy of the Interview of Prof Rajamanickam is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure P-3. 17) Another expert, C. P. Rajendran from Centre for Earth Science Studies, Akkulam, Thiruvananthapuram has written an article in CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 89, No. 2, 25 JULY 2005 in which he has stated as follows: “The question of cyclonic disturbances in changing the sedimentary budget of the region has not been properly addressed by the EIA studies, and consequently skews the predicted estimates of the sedimentation pattern and its rate. This means that total amount of material to be dredged could be much more than what had been predicted. Another question is how would the cyclones rework the dredged material to be dumped at various sites, although fortified with embankments (e.g. Dhanushkodi). A copy of C.P. Rajendran’s article is annexed herewith and marked annexed as Annexure P-4. 18) In a study made by Dr Ramesh, M.B.B.S, and Doctor for Safer Environment, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, he expresses a concern over risk factors such as Cyclonic Disturbances, ignored fundamentals of sedimentations dynamics, unrealized dumping 16
  • 17. sites and over other issues is being ignored. A Copy of the report by Dr. Ramesh marked and annexed as Annexure P-5. Rama Setu is a man-made structure and is of an enormous religious significance 19) It is submitted that India which has a peninsular coast of 3554 nautical miles is surrounded by two seas i.e. the Bay of Bengal towards the east and the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea towards the west. These two seas have different currents and if commingled, may cause disastrous conditions. The two are presently separated by the “Ram setu” the mention of which is made in many spiritual Hindu holy works like, Valmiki Ramayana, Skanda Purana, Kurma Purana, Bhagwat Purana, Garuda Purana, Narada Purana, Vishnu Purana, Agni Purana, Brahma Purana and Padma Purana. (A Copy of Translated text of the Rig Ved, Krishna Yajur Ved, Narada Purana, Vishnu Purana, Agni Purana, is marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-6 Colly). Mention of the existence of the Ramsetu is referred to in the Gazetteer of India. (A copy of the Gazetteer of India, Hindi Vol 1 & 2 along with the English translation as marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-7). Markings of the Ramsetu are a part of the Survey Marine Maps of the years 1747, 1788 and 1804 which is being marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-8. 20) That the bridge’s unique curvature and composition by age reveals that it is man made. The legends as well as archeological studies reveal that the first signs of human inhabitants in Sri Lanka date back to the a primitive age, about 1,750,000 years ago and the bridge’s age is also almost equivalent. Ramsetu or Adam's Bridge is a chain of Shoal, nearly seven in all, and is 30 km in length. Sir Emerson Tennet in his book 'Ceylon' writes -quot; The barrier known 17
  • 18. as Adam's Bridge which obstructs the navigation in the canal between Ceylon and Ramad, consists of several parallel ledges of conglomerate and sand dunes, hard at the surface and growing course and soft as it descends till it rests on a bank of sand, apparently accumulated by the influence of current at the change of the monsoonsquot;. Also according to geological survey, it is apparent that Miocene Era limestone beds are under the Adams Bridge which connects Jaffna peninsula in Sri Lanka and Rameswaram in India. A Copy of opinion of S. Badrinarayanan former Director General Geological Survey of India and a member of NIOT is marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-9 colly Destruction of the Eco-Marine Biosphere and the Coral Reef. 21) The Gulf of Mannar reefs are developed around a chain of 21 islands that lie along the 140 km stretch between Tuticorin and Rameswaram. These islands are located between latitude 8°47’ N and 9°15’N and longitude 78°12’E and 79°14’ E. The islands lie at an average of about 8 km from the main land. They are a part of the Mannar Barrier reef, which is about 140 km long and 25 km wide between Pamban and Tuticorin. Different types of reef forms such as shore, platform, patch and fringing type are also observed in the Gulf of Mannar. The islands have fringing coral reefs and patch reefs around them. Narrow fringing reefs are located mostly at a distance of 50 to 100 m from the islands. On the other hand patch reefs rise from depths of 2 to 9 m and extend to 1 to 2 km in length with width as much as 50 meters. Reef flat is extensive in almost all the reefs in the Gulf of Mannar. Reef vegetation is richly distributed on these reefs. The total area occupied by reef and its associated features is 94.3 Sq. km. Reef flat and reef vegetation including algae occupies 64.9 and 13.7 Sq. km, respectively. Visibility is affected by monsoons, coral mining and high 18
  • 19. sedimentation load. These reefs are more luxuriant and richer than the reefs of Palk Bay. 22) There are about 96 species of corals belonging to 36 genera in the Gulf of Mannar. The most commonly occurring genera of corals are Acropora, Montipora and Porites. Coral associates such as ornamental fishes belonging to the family Chaetodontidae, (butterfly fish); Amphiprion spp (clown fish), Holocentrus spp (squirrelfish), Scarus spp (parrotfish), Lutjanus spp (snapper fish) and Abudefdul saxatilis (Sergeant Major) are found. Extensive sea grass beds are present; green turtles, olive ridley turtles and dugongs are dependent on the sea grasses. 23) The Central Government’s Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 1991 regulates onshore development activities, which affect coastal environments, and strictly prohibits the collection and trade of corals. The Wildlife Protection Act 1972 protects certain areas and certain marine species. Efforts continue to bring corals under this act and to encourage enforcement that is more stringent. Coral reef conservation is also included in the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, the National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environmental Development (1992) and the Action Plan of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The conservation and management of coral reef resources is within the mandate of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the focal point for the Indian Coral Reef Monitoring Network and the National focal point of ICRI. 24) India has 6 marine protected areas; the largest is the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve (GoMBR), which encompasses 10,500 sq km. The reefs there have been neglected and there is no systematic monitoring of the status of the reefs except for 19
  • 20. occasional EIA studies for development activities. There is a great need for training of conservation officers to manage the protected areas and funding for infrastructure development. 25) Coral Reef Monitoring Action Plans (CRMAPs), prepared under the first phase of the GCRMN, have been launched within the framework of the ICRMN for all reef areas except the Gulf of Kutch. Government support has been extended for the implementation of the CRMAPs and to build capacity to monitor reefs through training. However, activities are still at a beginning and overall the capacity for monitoring and management is lacking. Other significant international initiatives on the Indian coral reefs underway and under development include UNDP/GEF DPF B Projects on the Gulf of Mannar and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Coral Reef Degradation in the Indian Ocean project (CORDIO), an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Training Project (ICZOMAT) funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and an India-Australia Training and Capacity Building (IATCB) programme. The above stated data is based on the article downloaded from http://envfor.nic.in/icrmn/misc/ cres.html which is marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-10. 26) Coral reef systems as also the ecosystem of the tropical rain forests are the most matured marine ecosystems of our planet. They play an important role in global biochemical processes and in the reproduction of food resources in the tropical regions. Coral reefs act as a barrier against wave action along coastal areas thus preventing coastal erosion. In addition, coral reefs protect mangroves and sea grass beds in certain areas, which are the breeding and nursing grounds of various economically important fauna. Coral reefs are also important breeding, spawning, nesting, 20
  • 21. and feeding areas for many economically important varieties of fishes and other marine organisms. Coral reefs are a distinctive shoreline habitat of stunning visual appeal found only between latitudes 30°N and 30°S. They grow only where sea surface temperatures are above 20°C, the seabed is kept silt-free by prevailing currents and waves, and there is intense surface sunlight. Most living coral communities do not grow at depths of more than 50 m, although some grow at depths of 100 m. The people living along the coast obtain a considerable proportion of their food and earnings from the productivity of coral reefs. Coral reef ecosystems are very sensitive to external impacts both natural and manmade, which violate their homeostasis. 27) Therefore, according to the above reports, the implementation of the Project may destroy coral reefs which, in turn, may tend to cause High sea tides, surges, hurricanes, cyclones etc. Copies of various articles on Coral Reef Eco-system and news articles to protect marine-biosphere is marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-11 (colly). 28) Evaluation of the environmental/ecological impact of a maritime project is usually based on a detailed study of geological, biological, physical and chemical oceanographic parameters. These factors play an important and collective role. If any one of these factors is stressed beyond the manageable and threshold limit, the system gets affected adversely beyond repair. Turbidity (suspension of clay and mud in a column of water) is one such factor. This could be fatal to an ecosystem. Unfortunately, according to an estimate, the Project dredging may displace around 9.7 million m3 bulk of rock, shoal and sediments, making the water column highly turbid till the project is completed. The 21
  • 22. operation will displace/release a few hundred thousand tons of clay-size particles. The stressed turbidity causes imbalance in O2– CO2 ratio, imperative for life and health of phytoplanktons, which are the lowest in the marine ‘food chain’. Moreover, if this kind of turbidity continues for a long duration (i.e., till completion of the project), penetration of sunlight below 2–3 m depth will be blurred. This will check the photo-inhibitation and lower the pH of water as CO2 supply will continue due to respiration of animals, while release of O2 will diminish amidst the slow pace of photosynthesis. This process will encourage abundant growth of anaerobic organisms and may worsen the health of other organisms. Coral reefs, the land-bridging platforms and lungs of the shallow oceans, are at decline worldwide due to anthropogenic impact/activity. Coral reefs are biotherms that favour high biodiversity vis-à-vis supporting standing crop of phytoplanktons. Like tropical rainforests, coral reefs have evolved complex interdependent community structures despite or more likely, because of paucity of nutrient resources in their environments. The turbid conditions that the Project is likely to cause will harm and destroy corals within a short span of time. 29) Moreover, Vibro Core operations are carried out for assessing the physical characteristics and determination of the geo- technical properties of the softer sediments. Dr Seshagiri, Former ,Director of the Geological Survey India expresses his concern over the amenability to conventional dredging of not only the rocky strata but also of the softer sediments with high N-Value. A Copy of Dr. Seshagiri’s views, published on Sept. 9, 2005, is marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-12 22
  • 23. 30) Further, the Project envisages dredging of the sea floor of 12.8 meters deep, 300 meters wide for permitting 2 way traffic of ships. If there happens to be a sudden tilt in the sea bed while dredging, it may cause numerous violent processes, such as a major change in drift, possible change in gravitational pull etc. These alarming concerns have been expressed by Prof. Rajamanickam, one of India’s most eminent Coastal geo-morphologists and mineralogists. A similar opinion has been expressed by Dr. Ramesh in his article titled as “SSCP and Unconsidered High Risk”. 31) Geographically, past experiences have shown that ignoring these environmental concerns could cause a lot of damage. For example, when Panama canal was first designed, the problem of land slides was ignored thus resulting in additional excavation, i.e., more than double the original volume estimates resulting in cost and time over runs. NEERI EIA Report does not address all relevant issues. 32) The objectives for the EIA study are stated to be “assessment of environmental impacts, its quantification and for delineating environmental management plan for [the Project] to enable the Ministry of Shipping to obtain environmental clearances from concerned local, state and central Government authorities”. The final report of the NEERI states that a rapid environmental impact assessment study report was first prepared, after which a comprehensive EIA report was prepared. [Para 1.5.1 of the NEERI report]. The final comprehensive report appears to have been prepared in/around May/ August, 2004. 33) The study is stated to have included components pertaining to the coastal water environment, marine environment, land 23
  • 24. environment, biological environment, socio-economic and health environment, ecological risks etc. An Environment Management Plan was also drawn up as part of the study. [Para 1.5.4] 34) Further, the EIA study itself states that permission/approval form the following agencies/organizations would be required for the project : Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board • Tamil Nadu State Forest & Environment Department • Tamil Nadu Maritime Board • State Wildlife Warden • Chief Conservator of Forests • Ministry of Environment and Forests • Ministry of Defence / Indian Navy • Archeological Department • Ministry of External Affairs • The Government of Sri Lanka • [Para 1.7] 35) The Petitioners, despite their best efforts, have not been able to locate material available in public domain which would show that approvals/permission from each of the said agencies were in fact obtained before commencement of work on the Project. The record clearly shows that the environmental clearance dated 31.03.2005 given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (the one clearance which does appear to have been obtained) is vitiated by sheer non-application of mind and arbitrariness. This would be clear from the grounds raised by the petitioners in the present petition. 36) In any event, it is relevant to point out that the entire EIA study was undertaken by the NEERI in the pre-tsunami era; the final report having been submitted in/around May, 2004, much before the 26th December, 2004 Tsunami. The occurrence of the tsunami 24
  • 25. has resulted in a fundamental change in circumstances, warranting a thorough multi-disciplinary re-examination and reevaluation of the environmental and other aspects of the project. Though the environmental clearance was given on 31.03.2005, 3 months after the tsunami, no efforts were made to undertake any fresh exercise in view of the changes in the conditions brought about by the tsunami. 37) The Petitioners have also learnt that in March, 2005, the office of the Prime Minister of India had raised concerns regarding the impact of a future tsunami on the project, which ought to have been subjected to a multi-disciplinary evaluation. As stated above, the tsunami which hit the Indian coast on 26.12.2004, and caused wide spread devastation, should have warranted a review of the entire project, and, at the very least, suitable changes should have been made to account for the impact of the said tsunami, as well to provide for the effects of any future tsunami. However, even the concerns raised by the office of the Prime Minister of India were given a go by, and no review/re-examination of the project was ever undertaken; on the other hand, environmental clearance was accorded in an arbitrary and mechanical manner, as set out in detail in the grounds of the present petition. Other Issues 38) Moreover, the dangers posed by the Project violate the UN Law of Sea Convention, 1982. Part II Section2, Article 6 deals with Reefs, Article 9 tells on Mouths of Rivers, Article 10 speaks about Bays. 25
  • 26. Part V Article 61 - Conservation of the living resources, Article 64 - Highly Migratory species. Article - 65 and Part VII, Section 2, Article 120 also speaks on Marine Mammals. Part VII Section 2, Article 116 speaks on fishing rights. Part XI Section 2, Article 145 and Article 237 emphasizing that protection of Marine Environment is obligatory. In the same part Article 146 urges the need for protecting the Human life, Article 149 and Part XVI, Article 303 both deals with Archaeological and historical objects. Part XIII Section 3, Article 254 dealt with Rights of neighboring land-locked and geographically disadvantaged States. A Copy of Law of Sea Convention, 1982 is marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-13. 39) In an article entitled “Will ship use canal at such costs?” by K.S. Ramakrishnan, Former Deputy Chairman, Madras Port Trust while expressing his views suggest that the comparative cost that a ship has to pay while passing through the canal, the Levy will be Rs. 60 Lakhs while the same ship has to spend only 1/8 of the Project’s likely levy i.e., just Rs. 7 Lakhs for the ship to Sail round Shri Lanka to reach Chennai Port. A copy of the Article of K.S. Ramakrishnan is annexed herewith and marked as ANNEXURE P- 14. 40) In another Article published by Dr. Lareef Zubair on April 28, 2007 titled “The Dangers of Sri-Lanka and Tamil Nadu face from Setusamudram”, Dr. Zubair expresses his alarm about threats to 26
  • 27. both Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Copies of articles by Lateef Zubair are marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-15 (colly). 41) Former CM of Tamilnadu Ku. J. Jayalalitha stated that “Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, should have waited for the NOC (No-objection Certificate) from the State of Tamilnadu which is mandatory under the regulations framed by the Ministry itself”. A press statement of the former Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalitha is annexed herewith and marked as ANNEXURE P- 16 colly. 42) The Petitioners understand that till now the Indian Government has not officially notified Sri Lanka of the Project proposal. Moreover, it is also the Petitioners understanding that an NOC has not been obtained from the Government of Sri-Lanka or Maldives which is mandatory. 43) It is vital to note that the Jaffna Peninsula in Sri Lanka and Rameswaram in India are linked via Miocene era lime stone reefs. And if, for the purpose of the Project, these reefs are dredged, there is a fear that half of Jaffna peninsula & nearly 85 islands on the western and north western coast of Sri Lanka and half of Rameswaram in India will go under water. There is also a fear that a sizable section of the fishermen in North and North western part of Sri Lanka will also be adversely affected as well as the fishermen of the Republic of Maldives. In fact, a Memorandum on the likely destruction due to the proposed Project was submitted to the Indian High Commissioner H.E Smt Nirupama Rao, by National Movement against Setusamudram, an organistation consisting of 123 members. A copy of the petition filed with the Indian High Commission is marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-17 27
  • 28. 44) It is submitted that the government seeks to implement the project ignoring the claims of the people living in the area whose lives and property are threatened by the implementation of the project. It is submitted that the government does not have a program to rehabilitate and compensate the members of the fishing community within India who will be adversely affected by this project. A Copy of Dr. Ramesh’s Article “Wake Up Sri Lanka” raising these issues is marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-18. 45) The Petitioners are also alarmed by the news items which show that religious hindu sentiments have been affected by the project and that it has led to a nation-wide agitation which in turn can lead to violence. Copies of these news items are marked and annexed as ANNEXURE P-19 (Colly) . 46) It is important to note that neither the EIA Report declared in May- August, 2004 by NEERI nor the DPR by L&T Ramboll in February 2005 have taken into account the effect/ likelihood of a tsunami such as the one on December 26, 2004. A copy of the DPR submitted by L&T Ramboll is annexed herewith and marked as ANNEXURE P- 20. A copy of the EIA Report submitted by NEERI is annexed herewith and marked as ANNEXURE P- 21. 47) The Respondents have been moving at a very fast pace in implementing the Project only to ensure that it is a fait accompli before this Hon’ble Court is able to dispose of the pending cases. Copies of the progress charts downloaded from the website of Sethusamudram Corporation are annexed herewith and marked as ANNEXURE P- 22 (colly). 28
  • 29. 48) That in view of the above, it is submitted that the project as sought to be implemented by the government cannot be allowed to continue. The petitioners are seeking reliefs from this Hon’ble Court, interalia, on the following grounds:- GROUNDS A. Because the Project has been conceptualized without taking into account the likelihood of a Tsunami or its effects in a manner that is arbitrary and unreasonable and violates the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 and the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. Neither the EIA report by NEERI completed in May/August 2004 nor the DPR by L&T/Ramboll for the Project completed in February 2005 have taken into account the likelihood or effects of a Tsunami despite the massive destruction caused by the Tsunami of December 26, 2004. Prof. Tad S. Murthy, a world-renowned Tsunami expert and a former editor of Tsunami Effects Review, has pointed out that the alignment of the mid-ocean channel is such that it will funnel and amplify the wave from a Tsunami from South East Asia so as to cause massive destruction to lives and property on the Southern Kerala and Tamilnadu Coasts. B. Because neither the EIA Report nor the DPR have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the effects of the Tsunami of December 2004 on the sensitive Gulf of Mannar and Palk Straits and Palk Bay region, in particular bathymetry (depth) surveys, sedimentation effects and effects of ocean currents. C. Because the precautionary principle has not been kept in mind when giving environmental clearances for the Project under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986. In Vellore Citizens' Welfare 29
  • 30. Forum v. Union of India, (1996) 5 SCC 647, at page 658, this Hon’ble Court pointed out that “Where there are threats of serious and irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.” Despite the fact that there is a serious likelihood of danger to the unique habitat and the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mannar from dredging and dumping of material from the ocean floor to widen the channel to 300 metres wide and 12 metres deep, the Respondents are going ahead with the Project without considering the serious environmental degradation that may result. The endangered species in this region include the dugong (sea cow), sea horses, five species of marine turtles and whales and dolphins. There is also a unique link species between vertebrates and invertebrates called the Balano-glossus that is unique to the region. These species thrive in the endangered habitats consisting of mangrove forests and sea grasses surrounding the islands on the Southern Coast of Tamilnadu which have been declared a national park under the Wildlife (Protection) Act. UNESCO has declared the Gulf of Mannar as a biosphere reserve because it is a biodiversity hotspot and the Government of India together with the Government of Tamilnadu have confirmed this declaration of a biosphere reserve for purposes of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. D. Because, as a biosphere reserve declared by the Government of India and the Government of Tamilnadu, the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve is entitled to the protections contemplated by Chapter IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and no permit for activities destructive of wildlife such as those inherent in the Project may be granted except in order to protect wildlife. 30
  • 31. E. Because there is considerable evidence that the Ram Setu is man- made. A report of the Department of Earth Sciences of Government of India states as follows: [quote]… During the glacial Maxima, the sea level was about 130 m lower than what is today. This is evidenced both on the east and west coast of India, where submerged Corals occur around 1 to 2m water depths and they are clear indicators of near coastal zone… However, during the last ice age (18,000 year BP) the entire area from India to Sri Lanka and further south and southeast were contagious land due to the highly lowered sea level. As and when there were major melting of glaciers both from the mountains as well as from the Antarctic area, the sea level was rising. These features were well recorded and studied by several submerged Coral formations all over the world. About 7,300 years BP the sea level in the southern part of India was about 3.5 m above the present level. This has been deciphered by Dr.P.K.Banerjee, who studied Corals that found in the land part as of Pamban, Rameswaram, and Tuticorin etc. Subsequently the sea level went down and rose +2m above than what is today between 5000 to 4000 years B.P. .. In almost of all the boreholes between 4.5 and 7.5m the borehole intersected hard formations, which have been found to be calcareous sand stones and corals. It is to be pointed out here that Corals are comparatively less dense, compact and somewhat easy to carry. The Corals normally grow atop compact to hard formations for the purpose of stability, and as the sea level rises, the Coral colony grows up vertically to maintain water depth of 1 to 2 m, which is essential for their survival. It is always observed that these Corals have continuous vertical growth like Lakshadweep, 31
  • 32. Andaman's, and Gulf Of Mannar Natural Park. These have always been found to grow on hard rock bottom. In the case of Adams bridge area we observe that the Coral formations hardly occur 1 to 2.5m in length and resting on loose marine sands. Most of these coral rock pieces are seem to be rounded pebbles of corals. These things appear to point these coral rock pieces and pebbles have been transported and placed in these areas. Since the calcareous sand stones and Corals are less dense than normal hard rock and quite compact, probably these were used by the ancients to form a connecting link to Sri Lanka, on the higher elevations of the Adams bridge ridge and this is analogous to modern day causeway. In support of these observations there are many archaeological and geoarchaeological evidences on the south east coast of India around Rameswaram, Tuticorin and the western coast of Sri Lanka. There are raised Teri formations that supported a rich assemblage of mesolithic – microlithic tools indicating the presence of strong human habitation and activity in these areas as early as 8000 to 9000 years B.P and as recent as 4000 years B.P. On Sri Lanka side there are indications of human habitation extending to late Pleistocene (about 13,000 B.P) based on bone and fossils of human and animal form. All these point to a flourishing human activity on both side of Adams Bridge and probably when the sea levels were just right the link between India and Sri Lanka could have been established. [unquote] Source: Dept. of Earth Sciences, Govt. of India (March 2007) F. As Ram Setu clearly was not built within the last 100 years, to the extent that it is man-made, it is entitled to be designated an “ancient monument” under Section 2(a) read with Section 4 of the 32
  • 33. Ancient Monuments or an “archaeological site” under Section 2(d) read with Section 4 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. G. Because there is considerable scientific evidence accumulated that the Rama Setu is man-made. NEERI which was mandated to examine this issue under the citing guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has simply proceeded on the basis that the Rama Setu is not man-made. Article 51A(f) of the Constitution enjoins protection of the cultural heritage of India. Therefore, it is respectfully submitted that the Archaeological Survey of India is required to determine under the Ancient Monuments Act, 1958 as to whether or not the Rama Setu is man-made. If it is man-made, its origins certainly stretch back into antiquity more than the 100 years required under the said Act. If so, it would be fit and proper for this Hon’ble Court to stop the project before it destroys the Rama Setu and to direct the Archaeological Survey of India to have the Rama Setu declared as an ancient monument or an archeological survey as the case may be and to ensure that it gets all the protection that such a monument requires. H. Because the Project will certainly result in destruction of endangered species such as dugongs, two varieties of dolphins, certain turtles and certain species of whales in the Gulf of Mannar region, which are all listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act and are entitled to protection under the provisions of that Act. I. Because even the Prime Minister’s Office has expressed serious doubts about the advisability of the Project on grounds of public safety from future Tsunamis and the weaknesses in the EIA report, 33
  • 34. the techno-economic feasibility study and the detailed project report. J. Because the costs of the Project have already gone up manifold from the Rs. 2,300 crores projected in the Detailed Project Report on the basis of which the Project was determined to be economically feasible. Even at the originally projected cost of Rs. 2,300 crores, there were serious doubts about economic feasibility of the Project. Now, therefore, the Project has clearly become economically unviable. K. Because, at the very outset and without prejudice to all the other submissions and grounds raised in this petition, it is respectfully submitted that there has been a fundamental change in circumstances which warrants a complete, comprehensive and exhaustive multi-disciplinary reevaluation of the SSCP project and its likely impact on the lives of thousands of persons inhabiting the southern coast of Kerala; the change in circumstance being the tsunami which hit the Indian coast on of 26th December, 2004. It is submitted that the entire EIA study was undertaken by the NEERI in the pre-tsunami era; the final report having been submitted in/around May, 2004, much before the 26th December, 2004 Tsunami. Though the environmental clearance was given on 31.03.2005, 3 months after the tsunami, no efforts were made to undertake any fresh exercise in view of the changes in the conditions brought about by the tsunami. L. Because, in addition, it is also relevant that the region is known to be, essentially, a sedimentation sink; and there is ample evidence pointing to the fact that the tsunami has altered the bathymetry of the region. The sea bed has risen in height in most places, on 34
  • 35. account of deposit of silt etc. carried by the tsunami and deposited in these areas. None of these factors have ever been taken into account by any of the expert bodies/authorities. M. Because the prospect and impact of a future tsunami have also not been considered or dealt with before grant of environmental clearance. The petitioners have learnt that in March, 2005, the office of the Prime Minister of India had raised concerns regarding the impact of a future tsunami on the project, which ought to have been subjected to a multi-disciplinary evaluation. However, even the concerns raised by the office of the Prime Minister of India were given a go by, and no review/re-examination of the project was ever undertaken; on the other hand, environmental clearance was accorded in a mechanical manner, as set out below. N. Because, in addition to the above, the environmental clearance dated 31.03.2005 is vitiated on account of arbitrariness and non- application of mind, as is clear from the following: (i) One of the most important environmental aspects of the project is the problem of disposal/dumping of the dredged material. The study report highlights the fact that dredging shall lead to increase in turbidity at, and in the vicinity of, the site; thereby preventing penetration of sunlight into the water body, which would endanger the survival of marine flora and fauna at and around the site. For these reasons, quick and efficient removal of the dredged material is crucial. Further, the disposal of the dredged material would have to be done in a manner that minimizes the likelihood of any adverse impact at the disposal site. The study report analyses the two available options, viz, disposal on land, and 35
  • 36. disposal in the sea. On detailed examination and analyses, the study recommends that disposal would have to take place both on land, as well as at sea; the clay and silt to be disposed off/dumped on land or to be used to help reclaim land near Pumban island, and the sand to be dumped at suitable sites in the sea, atleast 20-25 kilometres from the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve. The following passages from the study report are relevant: “ Thus impact due to dredge disposal could be minimized by selecting option of land disposal for dredged spoil containing higher percentage of clay and silt. Balance dredged spoil containing sand could be disposed in sea. As sand particles have discrete setting, rise in turbidity of sea water at disposal location is not envisaged thereby minimizing impact on primary production…” “………… It is proposed that spoil containing a mixture of clay and sand will be disposed on degraded areas of Pamban island for reclaiminf the land subject to approval of Forest and Environment Department (TN) for use of area falling under CRZ as dumping of wastes in CRZ area is not permissible activity. Balance 30 million cu. meters spoil containing mainly sand ……………… will be discharged in sea 25 Km away from the dredging area keeping safe distance from the medial line……………………………” 36
  • 37. (ii) Even the Environment Management Plan envisages a similar methodology for disposal of the dredged material. The following extract from the ‘Executive Summary’ of the study report, dealing with the Environment Management Plan is relevant : “Environmental Management Plan Construction Phase ……………Dredged spoil comprising clay and sand upto 2 m of dredging depth will be used for reclaiming degraded land in Pamban island subject to approval of FED for CRZ. Balance dredged spoil will be disposed in sea at a depth 30-40 m, 20-25 km away from islands in National Marine Park in Gulf of Mannar. Dredged spoil generated in Palk Strait / Palk Bay area will be disposed in open sea in Bay of Bengal at 25-40 m depth, 30-60 km away from dredging area.” (iii) The study report also recommended that the project be implemented in two phases; the first phase involving dredging the channel upto 10m depth, and the depth being increased to 12m in the second phase only after observing and analyzing the environmental impact of the first phase. 37
  • 38. The report itself adds a word of caution, stating that “the route would become environmentally viable only if the management plans and recommended measures are strictly followed”. (iv) This note of caution has been totally disregarded. Firstly, the recommendation regarding the implementation of the project in two phases has does not appear to have been considered by the MOEF at all. Further, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), in its clearance dated 31.03.2005, while laying down a specific condition that “the Environment Management Plan recommended by NEERI should be implemented” (Specific Condition ‘xix’), has, at the same time, categorically prescribed that the “dredged material will be disposed off in the identified sites in the sea”, and that “no dredged material will be disposed off on land” (specific condition ‘I’). This is in clear conflict with the recommendations of NEERI, as well as the Environment Management Plan prepared by it. Clearly, despite the caution sounded by the NEERI itself, this condition laid down in the environmental clearance would itself render the project environmentally non-viable. No reason, much less a detailed/satisfactory one, has been given for this departure from the NEERI’s recommendations; showing the total non- application of mind by the MoEF. H. Because, in addition to the above, non-application of mind in grant of environmental clearance is also evident from the fact that issues regarding introduction of alien species into the Gulf of Mannar, as well as the Palk Bay, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, have been completely overlooked by the MOEF. The ‘Convention on Biological 38
  • 39. Diversity’, 1992 (an international convention adopted under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, to which India is a signatory), casts the following obligation on all member states: “ Article 8 In-situ conservation (a) – (g) …………………………………………………… (h) Prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species;” NEERI in its study report, while accepting the richness in biodiversity of the Gulf of Mannar, has specifically adverted to the risk of introduction of alien species into this pristine and unique habitat, in the following words : “ The Channel will facilitate the movement of fish and other biota from the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean and vice versa. By this way, the entry of oceanic and alien species into the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar, as also the dispersal of endemic species outside the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar could occur.” “Excavation of the channel in the Adams Bridge sector would provide a deeper passage in the sector, which is shallow at present, and serve only as a barrier. Underwater currents play a significant role, not only in the transportation of large marine organisms, plankton biota, fish eggs and larvae but also on shore dynamics, 39
  • 40. specially of the islands, reef and paars. Strong current would erode the banks of the canal and carry the sediments from one sector to another, which ultimately results in accretion of sand in one sector and erosion in another sector. Once the canal is deepened, the passage would greatly increase the movement of fishes and other large animals from Bay of Bengal to Indian Ocean and vice versa. Hence, the entry of oceanic and alien species into Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar and also dispersal of endemic species outside Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar would be facilitated.” This aspect has not been adverted to at all in the environmental clearance. No steps have been prescribed to cater to this inevitable eventuality and its impact on the local marine population. The argument that some water from the Bay of Bengal enters Palk Bay and has always flown over the Ram Setu even before the Project is no answer because the mid-ocean channel envisaged under the Project would be 12 metres deep and 300 metres wide. Such a deep, wide channel will permit a much greater range of sea-going species to pass through into the Gulf of Mannar, which until now has offered a relatively sheltered habitat for numerous endangered species. Such uncontrolled migration will certainly lead to the extinction of numerous species. I. Because NEERI itself has predicated its EIA study on the absence of cyclones and other severe weather conditions on the Bay of Bengal. However, there have been numerous severe cyclones in this region including one in 1964, which washed away the Pamban Bridge. Therefore, NEERI’s study is itself fundamentally flawed. 40
  • 41. No environmental clearance could have been granted based on NEERI’s study if this was the underlying assumption. J. Because the environmental clearance also does not advert to the possibility of blasting at all, and does not prescribe any safeguards or conditions in this respect. This, despite the fact that NEERI, in its EIA study report, has specifically stated that “dredging may also require blasting if hard strata are encountered”, and that “in the event of blasting, adverse impact on sea bottom fauna is envisaged”. This aspect, as stated above, finds no mention at all in the environmental clearance dated 31.03.2005. K. Because, in the respectful submission of the petitioners, a reading of the environmental clearance shows that it does not prescribe specific, concrete and tangible measures/safeguards regarding environmental and ecological protection, but merely pays lip service, as it were, by setting out vague and generalized conditions, such as the following : “xiv Strict monitoring should be undertaken at four hourly interval round the clock to monitor the movement of sediments of dredged material in the dredging area and daily on the coast and other sensitive areas of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere/National Marine Park. xvi Effective monitoring of aquatic ecosystem may be done to ensure that no damage is done to the turtles, dugongs, flora and other endangered species. 41
  • 42. Such vague and general conditions, which are basically unenforceable, are not what is expected of a body such as the Ministry of Environment and Forests which is charged with protecting the environment under the Environment Protection Act. L. Because the EIA study conducted by the NEERI also does not comply with the requirements of the EIA Manual, which represents the policy of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The EIA study conducted by NEERI does not conform to the requirements of the EIA Manual with regard, inter alia, to the following respects: The option of how the environment would fare if there were • ‘no project’ was required to be considered under the EIA Manual as a fundamental analytical tool for determining whether the environmental clearance should be granted to the Project. No assessment was made of the impact of the project on • significant historical, cultural and archeological sites/places in the area, which is mandated under the EIA manual. A reading of the EIA study report does not disclose any study having been conducted by the NEERI in this behalf, with the aid and assistance of experts in the relevant fields. On the other hand, this aspect has summarily been brushed aside, in the following words found in the executive summary of the NEERI report: “…… there are no archaeologically significant structures along the proposed canal alignment. 42
  • 43. However, there exists a probability of cultural/archaeological artifacts being encountered during the excavation of the canal…” M. Because the environmental clearance granted under the Environmental Protection Act by the Ministry of Environment and Forests betrays complete non-application of mind. The environmental clearance does not take account of the fact stated by NEERI that controlled blasting will be required if hard strata are encountered during dredging. NEERI has admitted in the EIA Report that dredging itself will destroy bottom flora and fauna in a 6 sq. km area of the Palk Straits/Gulf of Mannar region. It has admitted further that an even greater effect on the surrounding region is likely in the event that controlled blasting is done. Nevertheless, the environmental clearance of March 31, 2005 does not take this into account or prescribe any steps to resolve this issue. N. Because NEERI, the agency selected to do the EIA Report for the Project has had no experience of doing an EIA for a large marine project of this nature. Moreover, as stated by one of India’s most eminent coastal geo-morphologists Prof. Victor Rajamanickam, the EIA study by NEERI was defective because it did not involve specialists from earth sciences such as geo-morphologists, sedimentologists, mineralogists, oceanographers, climatologists, etc., whose presence was a vital pre-condition to doing a proper analysis. O. Because the traditional mode of survival of the fisherman and the tribals will be destroyed by the destruction of coral 43
  • 44. reefs which are the breeding grounds of the fishes. The Project does not make any provision for alternative employment. P. Because the Government of India has not made any provision for compensation for the fisherman community and other tribes in the islands of the Project area. Along the coast in the Gulf of mannar and Palk Bay, there are 138 villages and towns of 5 districts are being adversely affected. The Socio–economic profile of the fisherman in the villages is so low that more than 40% families are in debt. The result of the Project will be to deprive these communities of fish and they will starve. Q. Because the implementation of SSCP is uprooting the livelihood of 5 lakh fisherman and their families which is the violation of the constitutional protection of the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) and Artice 14, 21 which guarantee the right to life and livelihood and the freedom of the fishermen to carry on the trade or business of their choice. R. Because the implementation of SSCP will destroy the Coral reef which is the breeding ground for the fishes which will affect the business of the fishermen which is the violation of Article 19(1)(g) and Article 21. S. Because no survey has been conducted for the tribal inhabitants over the islands and their rehabilitation has not been worked on before the project implementation which is violation of the Constitutional Protection under Article 44
  • 45. 244(1), Schedule V Constitution of India ,and the other various Acts which bars prohibit or restrict the transfer of the land of the tribals. T. Because implementation of SSCP constitutes a gross violation of the constitutional duties of the State under: 1) Article 48A which casts the duty on the State to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country. 2) Article 46 which casts a duty to the State to protect the economic interest of the tribes and other weaker sections. 3) Article 49 casts a duty on the State to protect monuments or place or objects of artistic or historic interest from spoliation disfigurement destruction, removal, disposal or export as the case maybe. U. Because the petitioners are discharging the fundamental duties cast upon every citizen of India under Article 51A . 1) Article 51A (f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture; 2) Article 51A (g) to protect and improve the national environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion towards living creatures. 3) Article 51A (h) to develop scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry and reform 51A (i) is to safeguard public property and to abjure violence to protect by the fundamental duties 45
  • 46. V. Because the implementation of SSCP has not taken into consideration the various provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, and Air Pollution Act, Forest Conservation Act of 1980, Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act 1974, Water prevention and Control of Pollution rules of 1975, Water prevention and Control of Pollution Cess Act of 1977 and the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification issued by Ministry of Environment and Forests under the Environmental Protection Act. W. BECAUSE there is a gross violation of the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from ships of 1973 as modified by the protocol of 1978 (MARPOL 73-78) to which India is a signatory. X. BECAUSE the implementation of the Project has not taken into consideration that the Cultural and the Customary Rites of the Hindus would be violated by the Project as Ram Setu is claimed by hindus to be their TEERTH. The destruction of Ram Setu by the Project will cause irreparable damage to the religious sentiments of Hindus as Ram Setu is considered as a holy place for performing religious ceremonies and oblations which is mentioned in various Puranas and Valmiki Ramayana. Thus, the Project clearly violates the constitutional guarantees of the right to practice one’s religion under Article 25 and Article 26 of the Constitution. Y. BECAUSE the Coral reef system as also the ecosystem of the tropical rain forest, are the most mature marine ecosystems of our planet. Implementation of the project will tend to destroy coral reefs which, in turn, would tend to cause High 46
  • 47. sea tides and will increase the destruction caused by storm surges, hurricanes, cyclones etc. Z. Because the result of the Project being undertaken near the medial line between the “historic waters” of India and Sri Lanka in Palk Bay and Palk Straits is that these waters will be turned into international waters. Countries such as the United States will be able to claim a right of free passage (as opposed to merely of innocent passage) without the consent of India. AA. Because, far from improving national security, the project will seriously jeopardize India’s national security. The Government of India has not applied its mind at all to this issue. BB. Because, assuming without admitting that Ram Setu is not man-made and is a natural phenomenon, it is still worthy of being designated a world heritage site because of its importance to Hindus and to Muslims, who believe that the original Adam crossed this bridge to Sri Lanka and stood still on one leg for 1,000 years to repent his sins. CC. Because even an inter-ministerial committee of the Government of Sri Lanka has warned about serious damage to the environment in Sri Lankan waters on account of the Project. Petitioners crave leave of this Hon’ble Court to produce relevant documents in Court if and when they become available. 47
  • 48. PRAYER In view of the facts stated and grounds pleaded hereinabove, the petitioners respectfully pray that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to grant any or all of the following prayers, each of which is made without prejudice to the others: 1) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari, calling for the records pertaining to the decision of the Union of India to undertake/proceed with the ‘Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project’, and quash the said decision; 2) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari, calling for the records pertaining to the ‘Environmental Clearance’ dated 31.03.2005 granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project, and quash the same; 3) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari, calling for the records pertaining to clearance/permission granted to the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and quash the same; 48
  • 49. 4) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus, directing the respondents herein not to implement the ‘Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project’; 5) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus, directing the Central Government to declare the ‘Ram Sethu’ as an ancient monument of national importance, under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958; 6) Pass such other and/or further order(s) as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit in the present case. FILED BY Advocate for the Petitioners DRAWN ON FILED ON 49
  • 50. IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION I.A. No of 2007 IN Writ Petition (Civil) No. of 2007 In the Matter of: Dandi Swami Sri Vidyananda Bharati-ji And Oths. …Petitioner Versus Union of India & others ……. Respondents AN APPLICATION FOR ACCEPTING ENGLISH TRANSLATION To The Honorable Chief Justice of India And His Companion Judges of the Supreme Court of India at New Delhi The Humble Petition of the Petitioners above named. 50
  • 51. MOST RESPECTFULLY SHEWETH 1) That the Petitioners herein have filed the aforesaid Writ Petition invoking the Original Jurisdiction of Article 32 of the Constitution of India. All the set of the facts on which this Petition is based are fully set out and the Petitioners carve leave of this Honorable Court to refer to and rely upon the same in support of the present Application. 2) That the Annexures ________________ accompanying the Petition were originally in hindi and the Petitioners have got them translated them into English from a local Advocate who is well versed with both Hindi and English translation. It is therefore, not only fit in proper but also in the interest of justice that the English Translation filed by the Petitioner be taken on record and the Petitioner be exempted from filing Official Translation for the same. 3) That this application is being made bona fide and in the interest of justice. PRAYER It is therefore respectfully prayed that Your Lordships maybe pleased to : 51
  • 52. a) Accept the English translation of Annexure____________________ and grant exemption for filing Official Translation for the same; b) Pass such other and further orders as maybe deemed fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the present case. DRAWN AND DRAFTED FILED BY Ms Deeksha Mishra Advocate Advocate for the Petitioners 52