Context: The Supreme Court recorded that the government is in the process of considering the question of declaring Ram Setu a ‘national monument’.
What is Monument of National Importance
- A monument or a site is declared to be of National Importance by the Archaeological Survey of India provided it meets the following requirements:
- The monument or archaeological site is not less than 100 years old.
- It has special historical, archaeological or artistic interest, making it worthy of declaration as of national importance.
- It qualifies under specified provisions of definition of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
- The interested public do not have major objections to such declaration.
- The authenticity and integrity of the ancient monument or archaeological site and remains have not been damaged.
- It is free from major encumbrances.
- The central government maintains national monuments, while the state government maintains state monuments.
About National Monument Authority?
- National Monuments Authority (NMA) under the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India has been setup as per provisions of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains AMASR (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 which was enacted in March 2010.
Functions and powers of National Monument Authority
- Make recommendations to the Central Government for grading and classifying protected monuments and protected areas declared as of national importance under sections 3 and 4, before the commencement of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010.
- Make recommendations to the Central Government for grading and classifying protected monuments and protected areas which may be declared after the commencement of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010, as of national importance under section 4;
- Oversee the working of the competent authorities;
- To suggest measures for implementation of the provisions of this Act;
- To consider the impact of large-scale development projects, including public projects and projects essential to the public which may be proposed in the regulated areas and make recommendations in respect thereof to the competent authority;
- To make recommend actions to the competent authority for grant of permission
About Ram Setu
- Ram Setu, also known as Adam’s bridge, is a chain of limestone shoals between Pamban Island or Rameswaram Island, off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka.
- The structure has significance in both Hindu and Muslim mythology -– while Hindus believe this is the bridge (setu) built by Lord Ram and his army to cross to Lanka and fight Ravan, as per Islamic legend, Adam used this bridge to reach Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, where he stood on one foot for 1,000 years in repentance.
- Scientists believe Ram Setu is a natural structure formed due to tectonic movements and sand getting trapped in corals. However, over the years, “evidence” has been offered to claim that the bridge is man-made.
- In 2003, space-based investigations, using satellite remote sensing imagery, by researchers at the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad concluded that Ram Setu is not man-made, “but comprises 103 small patch reefs lying in a linear pattern with reef crest, sand cays and intermittent deep channels”. Cays, also known as keys, refer to low-elevation islands situated on surfaces made of coral reef.
- Thus, it is reasonable to assume that Ram Setu is a linear ridge made of coral reefs and forms a shallow part of the ocean that is being constantly impacted by sedimentation processes.
- The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal project aims to create a shipping route between India and Sri Lanka by building an 83-km-long deep water channel, which would also reduce travel time between the eastern and western coasts of India, as ships would no longer have to circle Sri Lanka to travel between the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. Versions of this project have been proposed from as far back as the 1860s.
- The Sethusamudram project has been opposed on environmental grounds and Mythological grounds, with some claiming that it will harm marine life, and that dredging of the line of shoals will make India’s coast more vulnerable to tsunamis.
Need for protection
- The coral reef platforms between Thoothukudi and Rameswaram in the Gulf of Mannar were notified as a marine biosphere reserve in 1989.
- More than 36,000 species of flora and fauna reportedly live there, flanked by mangroves and sandy shores which are considered conducive for turtles to nest. This is also a breeding ground for fish, lobsters, shrimps and crabs.
- Of the 600 recorded varieties of fish in the region, 70 are said to be commercially important.
- This area is already threatened by discharge from thermal plants, brine run-off from salt pans, and illegal mining of corals.
- The SSCP, if it becomes a reality, will be the final blow to this sensitive environment and to the livelihoods of the people there.
- India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ does not begin at Harappa or the Vedic Period; it goes back billions of years when the Indian tectonic plate moved thousands of kilometres from the south of the equator to its present location.
- The Ram Setu carries the unique geological imprints of an eventful past.
- Therefore, it needs to be preserved not just as a national heritage monument, but also as a geoheritage structure as defined from a scientific perspective.
About the News
- Controversial Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP) can be traced back to the British, who proposed creating a channel to link the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar, it was only in 2005 that the project was inaugurated. The matter had reached the apex court, which in 2007 had stayed the work for the project on the Ram Setu.
- Dr. Swamy former member of the parliament had raised the issue of declaring Ram Setu as a national monument in his PIL against the controversial Sethusamudram Ship Channel project, initiated by the UPA-I government.