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Find out if Ram Setu is a monument, SC orders

May 08, 2008 08:15 PM IST India India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to find out if the Sethusamudram Project is an ancient monument.

The Court said the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) could make a study to settle the issue.

The Sethusamudram project envisages dredging of a ship channel across the Palk straits between India and Sri Lanka. The project will allow ships sailing between the east and west coasts of India to have a shorter passage instead of having to go around Sri Lanka. This will lead to a saving of up to 424 nautical miles (780 km) and up to 30 hours in sailing time, reports IANS.

Several Hindu groups have opposed the project, saying it would destroy a bridge used by Lord Ram and his army, going by the Indian epic Ramayana.

In a controversial affidavit filed before the Supreme Court last year, the Union Culture Ministry had said the Ram Sethu was a natural formation and not a man-made structure. The affidavit was later withdrawn after protests.

The Supreme Court gave the Government time July 22 to file a statement on its advice. It also asked the Government to study an alternative route for the controversial project, which has been on hold for the last two months

AIADMK chief and former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, Janata Party President Subramanium Swamy and Dandi Swami Sri Vidyananda Bhartiji, a monk of Sankaracharya order, are among the people who have filed petitions against the project.

Green groups allege the project was given clearance without a comprehensive environmental impact assessment and risk evaluation.