New Internationalist

Sri Lankan ecosystems in dire straits

November 2005

Environmental activists, fisherpeople, community organizations and trade unions from all over Sri Lanka have called on the Indian Government to halt a controversial ship canal project in the Palk Strait until an Environmental Impact Assessment acceptable to both countries has been conducted.

India claims the canal will boost its shipping industry, save fuel costs and reduce sailing time for vessels that will no longer have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka. By contrast, Greenpeace India has called for the immediate abandonment of the $540-million project. On 24 August, a protest march organized by the Green Movement of Sri Lanka was blocked by police to prevent hundreds from demonstrating in front of the Indian High Commission in the capital, Colombo. Activists say the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project will destroy the fragile marine ecosystems in the region along with the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of fisherpeople. The 167-kilometre channel will link the deep seas of the Gulf of Mannar with the Bay of Bengal by dredging an estimated 84.5 million cubic metres of sand from the seabed. Experts warn that the excavations will transform current physical formations that have protected these waters, and increase both coastal erosion and exposure to natural disasters, including tsunamis.

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

This column was published in the November 2005 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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