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Saturday, November 22, 2008

World Meet in London to Save Shri Ram Sethu & Gulf of Mannar

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Save Shri Ram Sethu, Save World Heritage!
Living Planet campaigns to have Ram Sethu declared heritage site
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First International Meeting
Campaign to Protect the Gulf of Mannar:
Distinct Natural and Cultural Resource Site and
an Ideal Candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

We are pleased to announce the first-ever meeting calling for the Gulf of Mannar to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The meeting will be held at the historic Linnean Society of London, UK, from 25 - 26 November 2008. The theme for the meeting is "The Gulf of Mannar as a World Heritage Site and its Spiritual and Scientific Relevance to the Earth's Changing Climate".

Our goals for this two-day meeting are simple but bold - to raise awareness of the diverse global importance of the Gulf of Mannar, and call for the Gulf of Mannar to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage mixed Natural and Cultural site - an aim vital in the global campaign to preserve biodiversity. We hope to promote an unprecedented international campaign calling for cancellation of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP). As you may know, this project threatens one of the world's most pristine marine regions, the many marine species living there that already face extinction and the culturally and spiritually significant Ram Sethu, also known as Adam's Bridge.

World-leading conservationists, ecologists and religious scholars will present the case for designating the Gulf of Mannar as a World Heritage Site and explain why the SSCP should be abandoned. The area's spiritual and scientific relevance to the Earth's changing climate will also be explored. It is our hope that this meeting will send a powerful message to the world's leaders challenging them to support scientific and cultural debate in any developmental project that impacts upon the Earth's changing climate or our sacred sites.

A distinguished International Advisory Board headed by Dr. Peter Bunyard is supporting organization of the meeting. Renowned scientists and religious scholars such as Dr. Anantanand Rambachan will make presentations in the areas, which will be affected by the SSCP.

Among the participants will be Dr. Wangari Maathai, who received a Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She will send a message by video link from Kenya.

All interested parties are invited to attend this landmark event. If you wish to attend the meeting, please call Anna Karlsson at 0207 229 2093 or e-mail her at info@rainforestconcern.org to confirm your attendance.

For additional details please visit our website www.livingplanetfoundation.org

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A Bridge Too Far

"Carving a shipping channel through the underwater shelf that links India to Sri Lanka will destroy cherished beliefs and a delicate ecosystem, say Peter Bunyard and Kusum Vyas" Read More>>

Thank you for your continued support!

Religious Significance

In 2005 the Government of India approved a multi-million dollar Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP) that aims to create a ship channel across the Palk Strait. The plan is to dredge the shallow ocean floor to create enough leeway allowing ships to pass through the channel instead of having to go around the island of Sri Lanka. It is expected to save nearly 30 hours' shipping time by cutting over 400 km off the voyage.

Hindus across the world are opposing the SCCP, which they say will damage Ram Sethu. Hindus consider Ram Sethu to be a sacred monument of their faith and feel that any damage done to it would be sacrilegious and offensive to their religious sentiments. Several Hindu groups in India and across the globe are opposing the SSCP and have initiated movements to save Ram Sethu.

Hindu groups have filed petitions in various courts and the matter has reached the Supreme Court of India. Under the order of the court, the SSCP has been put on a temporary hold. The Indian government is keen to dig the canal and has said there is no

Proposed Ship Channel.

scientific evidence to prove the existence of Ram Sethu. The Hindus feel insulted by the Government's response and have responded by staging demonstrations and mass rallies against the government. As a result of huge opposition to the SSCP, the issue of Ram Sethu is already higher on the media and political agendas in India. The Government has now decided to do a re-think on the SSCP and has given serious consideration to the Supreme Court suggestion of an alternative alignment.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has constituted a six-member experts committee to look at an alternative alignment. This committee, which will examine the possibility of a canal through Rameswaram Island, will also study its impact on culture, environment and law and order. The committee is expected to submit its findings in a few months.

Ram Sethu Background
Ram Sethu also known as Adam's Bridge is a chain of limestone shoals, which appear during low tide as a narrow ridge of sand and rocks, mostly dry, that connects Rameshwaram in Southeastern India to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. At high tide it is covered by c.4 ft (1.2 m) of water. Hindus believe that Ram Sethu, which is mostly submerged, was built thousands of years ago, during the time of Lord Rama. According to Hindu sacred scriptures Valmiki and Tulsi Ramayana which are India's most well known spiritual texts depicting the life of lord Rama, the 30km bridge was built by Lord Ram on a journey from India to Lanka where he fought an evil tyrant called Ravana to establish the principles of justice and freedom. Its construction is elaborately described in the Ramayana. It is also mentioned in other scriptures - the Mahabharata, Kalidasa's Raghuvamsham, Skanda Purana, Vishnu Purana, Agni Purana and Brahma Purana.

Many historical inscriptions, coins, ancient travel guides, old dictionary references and ancient religious maps indicate that Hindus consider this structure sacred. Various travel guides, books, dictionary prepared during the 18th and 19th centuries, including translations of Marco Polo's account of his travels, refer to this Bridge as Setubund Rameswara or Ramar Bridge. Adam's Bridge was the name given to Ram Sethu by a British cartographer in 1804.
Temple records suggest that Ram Sethu was above sea level and passable on foot until a cyclone in 1480 AD broke some of the connceting rocks. Gradual shift in sea level encroached upon the remaining structure and ultimately buried the bridge.

Although most of structure is underwater today, the Hindus revere the remnants of the bridge, as the sacred Ram Sethu and till today continue the centuries old belief of offering worship at the site.

This belief was further corroborated in 2002 when satellite images released by NASA showed a chain of limestone shoals resembling a bridge in the Gulf of Mannar - between India and Sri Lanka. Hindus believe that the satellite images have confirmed what their scriptures had conveyed since time immemorial.

Another report by a retired Director of the Geological Survey of India to the Department of Earth Science stating that the "shoal stones placement make out that they were "deliberately placed there" proving that Ram Sethu was manmade" further strengthened the Hindu belief that the underwater structure was not a natural formation but it was the Ram Sethu of Ramayana.

The importance of Adam's Bridge is not confined to the Hindus alone. It is also considered sacred in the Sri Lankan tradition. Sri Lankans believe that the Adam's bridge links the mythical, Adams Peak, the scared mountain of Sri Lanka, where God placed Adam on earth to the mainland of India.

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