Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

NESOHR on the Sethusamedram Project

The University of Jaffna, the Green Movement Sri Lanka, the Tamil Economic Consulting House (TECH) and the Environment Foundation together organized a public discussion at the Library Auditorium in University of Jaffna on August 30th 2005 on the "Socio-economical and environmental impacts of the Sethu Samudhram Canal Project (SSCP)."  NESOHR issued the following appeal to the international human rights community at this discussion.




A9 Road

Karadippokku, Kilinochchi

Tel: 94 (0) 21 228 5986


August 30, 2005

Sethusamudram Project:
An Appeal to the International Human rights Community

India is going ahead with its Sethusamudram project to dig a canal through the Palk Strait, the narrow strip of sea that run between the southern coast of India and the northern coast of Sri Lanka.  Such a canal will allow large ships to navigate through this strait rather than going around the island of Sri Lanka.  This project is an activity that is covered by the United Nations Convention on Transboundary Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) ( ).  The following extracts from the Convention are relevant to this activity.

1. The preamble to the Convention says, ".... to improve the quality of information presented to decision makers so that environmentally sound decisions can be made paying careful attention to minimizing significant adverse impact, particularly in a transboundary context."

2. In its appendix of list of activities to be covered by the convention, which it states is an integral part of the convention, the following activity is included: "Trading ports and also inland waterways and ports for inland-waterway traffic which permit the passage of vessels of over 1,350 tonnes."

3. Article 3 of the Convention on Notification promotes early notification of the proposed
activity to the affected party by the party of origin, and should include,

- Relevant information regarding the environmental impact assessment procedure, including an indication of the time schedule for transmittal of comments, and

- Relevant information on the proposed activity and its possible significant adverse transboundary impact.

4. In its list of criteria to be considered in assessing environmental impact, the convention

Effects: proposed activities with particularly complex and potentially adverse effects, including those giving rise to serious effects on humans or on valued species or organisms, those which threaten the existing or potential use of an affected area and those causing additional loading which cannot be sustained by the carrying capacity of the environment.

Given the above criterion and the fact that the proposed canal is only a few miles from the coast of northern Sri Lanka, we believe the case of Transboundary context is clearly established. NorthEast of Sri Lanka is the region that will be most affected by this project.

The political situation in this region is also very fluid at present.  There is a defacto government in this region.  The notification procedure has not included this defacto government.  Neither the government of India nor the government of Sri Lanka has taken any effort to inform the public in the NorthEast about the impact of the project.  Given these facts, we appeal that one of the following two options be adopted.

1. Halt the activity until the political situation in the NorthEast is resolved so that the affected parties in the transboundary context can fully participate in the assessment and decision process.


2. Accept the defacto state in the Northeast as an affected party in the Environmental Impact Assessment process and include it in the assessment process as specified in the convention.

Failing to follow neither of the above is a violation of the rights of the people in Northeast and we call upon the international human rights community to involve itself in rectifying this violation of a people's rights.


Posted August 31, 2005