Alt route for Sethu project not economical: Report

New Delhi: The government today told the Supreme Court that a high-level committee in its report has suggested that alternative alignment other than mythological Ram Sethu for Sethusamudram project was not economically and ecologically feasible.

However, Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman submitted before a bench comprising justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad that the Union Cabinet was yet to consider and take a decision on the report prepared by the committee headed by eminent environmentalist R K Pachauri.

The bench gave the government eight weeks time to apprise it about the future development of the project.

Nariman said that the Pachauri committee considered the issue of alternative alignment but concluded that it was not "economically and ecologically feasible".

In its report, the committee dealt with the issue of risk management and arrived at a finding that an oil spill would cause risk to the ecosystem. The case relating to Ram Sethu came under judicial scrutiny due to a batch of petitions filed in the apex court against the ambitious Sethusamudram project, whose execution allegedly could damage the mythological bridge.

Sethusamudram project is aimed at constructing a shorter navigational route around India`s southern tip by breaching the mythological Ram Sethu, said to have been built by Lord Rama`s army of monkeys and bears to the demon king Ravana`s kingdom Lanka.

As per the Sethusamudram project, the shipping channel is proposed to be 30 metres wide, 12 metres deep and 167 kms long.

Earlier, on April 19, the Centre had refused to take any stand on the issue of declaring Ram Sethu a national monument and had asked the Supreme Court instead to decide it.

The government had said that it would stand by its earlier affidavit, filed in 2008 and cleared by the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs (CCPA), in which it had said that it respects all religions but it was of view that it should not be called upon to respond to the issues of faith, except in recognising their existence.

The amended affidavit was filed after the Centre had withdrawn its two affidavits in which it had questioned the existence of Lord Ram and Ram Sethu.

Following an outcry led by the Sangh Parivar over the controversial submissions, the apex court on September 14, 2007 had allowed the Centre to re-examine entire material afresh to review the Rs 2,087 crore project.