When Megaengineering Disturbs Ram: The Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project

  • Michiel van Dijk
  • Virginie Mamadouh


The Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project involves dredging a canal through the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka. The goal of the canal is to shorten the travel time and distance for ships sailing from one side of India to another. The channel is also expected to stimulate economic development in the adjacent state of Tamil Nadu. Critics of the projects say that it is extremely harmful to the flora and fauna present in the Palk Strait and that it can never be exploited in a profitable way. At the start of 2007 the debate took a drastic turn. Hindu activists started to contend that Adam’s Bridge, a sandbar running across the Palk Strait, is in fact Ram Sethu. In Hindu mythology, Ram Sethu is a bridge built by Ram, a Hindu deity. In order to complete the project it is necessary to dredge through Adam’s Bridge or Ram Sethu. In September 2007, the Indian Supreme Court suspended all dredging on Adam’s Bridge, after Hindu activists started a legal case against what they regard as sacrilege. At the time of this writing, dredging on Adam’s Bridge is still banned and the government is carrying out a study into whether Ram Sethu can be declared a national monument. The main question in this chapter is what actually explains the sudden shift in the debate, turning it into a political storm on religion, while it started as a discussion on the project’s environmental and economic risks.


Environmental Impact Assessment Environmental Impact Assessment National Politics National Monument Congress Party 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Geography, Planning and International DevelopmentUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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