• 14/03/2006

On March 4, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board formed an expert technical group to look into the objections raised in public hearings to SSCP. M Ravindran, former director of the National Institute of Ocean Technology, chaired the group that included T Balasubramanian, director of Annamalai University's Centre for Advanced Study in Marine Biology; R Nagendran, professor at Anna University's Centre for Environmental Studies; and R Santhanam, dean of Fisheries College and Research Institute at Tuticorin. The committee examined the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute's (NEERI's) environment impact assessment report (EIA) and the detailed minutes of all the public hearings. The panel submitted its final report on May 30, 2005. The group unanimously concluded that the report depended on secondary data and the quantum of primary data generated was negligible: "The possible impacts on fisheries during dredging and dumping and the impacts due to the movement of ship in the canal area is not analysed to minimise the effect on the livelihood of the local populations.' Says Ravindran: "In the EIA they haven't decided on the dumping site for dredged materials.' He adds, "It was clear that everyone objected to the project except the political parties who desperately wanted the project. Even the local officials of the forest department and the Union environment ministry are opposed to it. Besides, no engineer has supported it.'

The group recommended that detailed studies (currently lacking) have to be carried out for the following parameters before the total impacts of the project can be fully understood: hydrodynamic/physical/chemical/oceanographic parameters; bio-resources; seabed characteristics; navigation safety in the canal; risk analysis and handling of oil spill. Other findings:

Risk analysis of possible accidents in the canal and impact of oil spills not properly analysed

Organised baseline study of all relevant parameters for three seasons not done

NEERI ignored prescribed procedures for such studies

Project's likely impact on Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve not adequately analysed

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