An Item Of Greater Importance Than Joint Regional Defence With India

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Notwithstanding the importance of the Joint Regional Defence Agreement with India under review at present, Sri Lanka and the South Asian region per se seem to be faced with a dilemma of alarming proportions involving India according to the following article courtesy of the Economist of Nov 4th 2004.
It should be of primary importance to initiate a World lobby against this proposal commencing with a concerted Sri Lankan Government effort to address this issue to India which may of vital importance to regional preservation rather than its security which would appear to be of secondary importance although an issue which also merits justification towards ratification.
What good would it be logically to initiate a Regional Defence Agreement in a region which according to reliable information offset against the Sethsamudaram Project would have a devastating environmental impact on Sri Lanka and could essentially innundate and wipe out an entire archipelago of Islands where even the Maldive Islands would be at risk together with all inhabitants in the region?
Read on !

Courtesy of The Economist.

The Palk palaver

Nov 4th 2004 | COLOMBO
From The Economist print edition

A unilateral canal

A BIG bugbear in India's relations with its neighbours is its habit of announcing cross-border infrastructure projects without consulting them. Sri Lanka, for example, is incensed about a plan to dig a shipping canal through a 19-mile (30km) stretch of shallow sea in the Palk strait, which separates the two countries. At present, big ships plying between the east and west coasts of India have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka. This channel, first conceived in 1860 by a British seaman, will save 21-36 hours of sailing time.

The project—the Sethusamudram Ship Canal—is included in the coalition government's programme at the request of one of its parties, from the state of Tamil Nadu. But it is controversial in India because of its environmental impact. The area is home to thousands of species of plants, animals, corals and shells. Sri Lankan environmentalists are even more worried, fearing that water from the Bay of Bengal will rush into the narrow Palk Bay, alter the currents there and sink as many as 85 small islands off the northern coast. A particularly alarmist report forecasts that the entire Jaffna peninsula would sink.

The project's promoters—who took out full-page advertisements this week to argue their case—deny there is any threat. Their studies show that there will be no big change in the direction of currents, and no blasting is envisaged. Only sand and clay will be dredged, to be dumped 15 miles away where the drift is northward, away from Sri Lanka's coast.

Economic worries are looming too: increased shipping and periodic dredging in the shallow and narrow Palk Bay may threaten the livelihoods of over 200,000 Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen. The canal will also hurt Colombo, the island's main international port, which relies on India for 70% of its trans-shipment business—though the very biggest ships will still have to sail the southern route.

Sri Lanka has already reacted sharply to the Indian decision to go ahead with the project, though to little effect. An inter-ministerial committee has been formed to study the impact, which is hardly likely to rattle India. Chandrika Kumaratunga, Sri Lanka's president, will have raised the issue again during her visit to Delhi. And her hosts, no doubt, will have listened politely.



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