Shipping ministry officials said a new alignment for the canal would require fresh geological studies like soil testing, wave and sedimentation testing and, most importantly, an environmental impact assessment.
Ministry officials add that the current deadline of November 30, 2008, cannot be met since work on the project has been stopped following a Supreme Court order on September 14. So far, only 35 per cent of the dredging work has been completed.
The current alignment of the canal runs through the controversial Adam's Bridge, which was selected by the National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI), because of its distance from the land that would minimise the enviromental impact.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which considers Adam's Bridge of religious significance, has suggested an alignment that runs through the ecologically sensitive marine bio-park in the Palk Bay.
Ministry officials said this was not a feasible arrangement, as it is closer to the land mass and would affect local fishermen. The Palk Bay was one of five alignments that the NEERI rejected while conducting the environmental study for the project.