Chennai, Oct 9: Asserting the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP) was economically viable, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today said the current (sixth) alignment, through the Adam's Bridge (Ram Setu), was decided only by the Vajpayee Government at the Centre in 2002. Clearing misconceptions about the Rs 2,427 crore project, Mr Karunanidhi, in a statement here, wondered why the BJP, which was now opposing the project, did not raise the Ram Sethu issue when it gave the nod for the project while heading the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government in 2002.
He said after the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) submitted its Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment Report in October 2002, the BJP Government, headed by Mr Vajpayee, selected the sixth alignment, rejecting five others.
''When the BJP Government gave permission for the implementation of the project, why did the party not say that Ram Sethu existed in the sixth alignment and the bridge should not be demolished?'' he sought to know.
''Would they (BJP) have made a hue and cry if the project was implemented during their regime?'' Mr Karunanidhi asked and remarked ''the question of Ram Setu comes only because the Congress-DMK combine has come forward to implement the project.'' According to the BJP, the Ram Setu would not exist, if the party, along with AIADMK implemented the project, the Chief Minister said.
The AIADMK, after committing in its election manifesto, was opposing the project as it feared that the credit for implementing the historic project would go to the Congress and the DMK Governments, he said.
Mr Karunanidhi said after the BJP Government had cleared the project, public opinions were sought in six coastal districts of the state during 2004-05 and at no point of time, also opposition raised in the name of Ram Setu from any quarter. ''The public opinion meetings were conducted at 14 places in three phases and not even one person uttered the word Ram Sethu during the hearings,'' he claimed.
Reiterating Ram Setu was not man made, Mr Karunanidhi said none of the studies undertaken so far, had said there was scientific evidence to prove this.
In the absence of any evidence, the BJP Government or any other government had not taken any step to declare Ram Sethu as cultural or national heritage, he said.
Listing out the various benefits the project would bring to the coastal districts of the state, he said the SSCP would provide a fresh lease of life to thousands of poor people who relied only fishing for their livelihood.
Meanwhile, Marumalarchi DMK (MDMK) General Secretary Vaiko, in a statement said the project should be implemented at any cost.
The right approach would be to implement the project without hurting the sentiments of any religion, he suggested.
He said the channel should have a depth of 15 to 20 metre,against the planned ten to 12 metre depth so that it would allow passage of bigger vessels.