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What the Indian expedition to Ram Setu/Adam’s Bridge could reveal

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By S. VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI. Indian scientists will soon undertake a possibly first scientific expedition to date the chain of corals and sediments forming the Ram Setu, also known as Adam’s Bridge.

This 48-km long bridge-like structure between India and Sri Lanka finds mention in the great Hindu epic Ramayana, but little is known or scientifically proven about its formation.

 Recently, a central advisory board on archaeology, functioning under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), approved the project proposal submitted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) to study the sediments and determine its origin.

 The CSIR-NIO will undertake a three-year scientific project. “The idea is to see whether Ram Setu is a man-made structure or not. The most important aspect of the project is to establish its age scientifically. Once it is known, the information can be verified and co-related with its mention in the Ramayana and similar scriptures,” said Prof. Sunil Kumar Singh, director, NIO.

Carbon dating techniques, which are now available in India, will be primarily used to determine the age of the sediments.

Broadly, the explorers will apply a number of scientific techniques while attempting to date the Ram Setu, study its material composition, outline the sub-surface structure along with attempting to excavate remnants or artifacts, if any, from the site.

 The project is expected to formally commence by the end of March. An initial survey will make use of underwater photographs to check if any habitation remains inundated in the area. A geophysical survey will be performed to understand the structure.

 “Over the years, several kinds of depositions, including sand, have covered the actual structure. Initially, only physical observation, and no drilling, will be done. A scientific survey will be performed to understand the sub-surface structure,” said Singh.

 Once this is fully understood, the scientists plan to drill into the structure, gather samples and later perform laboratory-based studies.

 The NIO director added: “Some scriptures mention wooden slabs along the Setu (Hindi for Bridge). If so, they should have fossilised by now, which we will try to locate. Using high-end techniques, we will look for corals and date the gathered samples. The NIO is equipped with the latest technology. Most of the scientific analysis will be done at NIO or within laboratories in India.”

 As the locality around Ram Setu is shallow, with depth not more than three to four metres beneath water, the scientists will use local boats to ferry along the Setu. This is because large vessels or ships cannot sail at such shallow depths.

Side scan SONAR will be used for bathymetry. This is similar to studying topography of a structure on land. Soundwaves signals will be sent to the structure, which will provide an outline of the physical structure of the Ram Setu.

 As part of the silo seismic survey, mild earthquake-like tremor shocks will be sent at shallow depths close to the structure. These energised shockwaves are capable of penetrating into the structure. The reflected or refracted signals will be captured by instruments that will provide sub-surface structure.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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