C SHIVAKUMAR @ CHENNAI:
Tamil Nadu government will be submitting a memorandum to Union Shipping Ministry to develop infrastructure service at Rameswaram to launch ferry service from Rameswaram to Sri Lanka again under the Sagarmala funding.
It will also be seeking improvement of existing Pamban Channel which links Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar to ensure East-West connectivity for medium size vessels.
This comes as Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari is scheduled to visit the city and have interaction with Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami.
It is learnt that the state government is looking at fresh site at Rameswaram for open sea jetty with alongside facility for a passenger ferry.
Initially, the ferry service was operated from Dhanushkodi to Thalaimannar for a distance of 30 nautical miles. The usual travel time would be 150 minutes.
After the cyclone destroyed the infrastructure facilities at Dhanushkodi in 1964, the entire facility was operated from Rameswaram.
This facility was in use till 1984 when the Union government directed to suspend operation on account of ethnic disturbance in Sri Lanka.
Presently, there is no port related infrastructure to handle cruise vessels or passenger ferries. It is learnt that Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, has prepared a preliminary report for operationalisation of ferry service between India and Sri Lanka from Mukkundaraya Chatram (near Rameswaram) to Thalaimannar.
It is estimated that for building the infrastructure which include sea jetty, baggage godown, passenger transit shed, offices for customs, immigration, port health and revenue will cost the exchequer Rs 100 crore.
Sources claim that the development of infrastructure will not only promote domestic tourism but also promote international ferry service.
Interestingly, the financial assistance by Union Ministry of Shipping under Sagarmala scheme is 50pc of the total project cost and the state is pinning the hope that innovative projects having national importance could be considered for 100 per cent funding.
Improvement of existing Pamban Channel:
Tamil Nadu government is also planning to improve the existing Pamban Channel by carrying out capital dredging till 10 metres to provide sea borne East-West connectivity to medium size vessels which are backbone for cargo movement.
The existing depth of the channel is only two metres and the old railway bridge having a Scherzner Opening span (35 meters wide) was constructed 100 years ago. The span is operated manually and is opened only once by Southern railways. Now the government is looking at carrying out dredging upto 10 metres and laying of buoys in the channel. It also plans to change the opening span of rail bridge with a mechanised and automatic system at a cost of Rs 350 crore.