- The week-long ongoing protests against the construction of the Adani Group’s Vizhinjam International Transhipment Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram,
- Intensified on Monday (August 22), with fisherfolk laying siege to the port from the sea and land.
- The fishing community under the leadership of the Catholic Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram has said the protests will continue until all their demands are met.
- At talks between Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman and representatives of the archdiocese on August 19, the government agreed to most of the fisherfolk’s demands, but no breakthrough was achieved.
- On Tuesday (August 23), Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Assembly that the protest in some areas seemed “orchestrated”.
- The government, he said, was ready for talks, and wanted to resolve the concerns faced by the fishing community — however, it could not agree to halting the project.
What are the demand?
- The biggest demand of the protesters is that the construction of the Rs 7,525-crore deepwater port and container transhipment terminal at Vizhinjam on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram,
- Should be stopped and a proper environmental impact study should be carried out.
- The community has also put forward six other demands:
- Rehabilitation of families who lost their homes to sea erosion,
- Effective steps to mitigate coastal erosion,
- Financial assistance to fisherfolk on days weather warnings are issued,
- Compensation to families of those who lose their lives in fishing accidents,
- Subsidised kerosene, and
- Mechanism to dredge the Muthalappozhi fishing harbour in Anchuthengu in Thiruvananthapuram district.
- The government has conceded all demands except providing a kerosene subsidy, and halting the construction of the port.
- It has agreed to find accommodation for relocated families before Onam (which begins at the end of this month).
Grievances of the fishermen
- A J Vijayan, a member of the Coastal Area Protection Forum who has been opposing the project from the beginning, said the protests were widening as awareness among the fishing community increased, and they experienced the impact of the project on their day-to-day life.
- More than 100 families lost their homes to coastal erosion last year, but there is no official data on the relocated families except for some church records, Vijayan said.
- He claimed around 300 families were living in schools and camps, and many others were staying in rented accommodation or with relatives.
- The fisherfolk also fear that the proximity of the port to the fishing harbour will impact the tranquillity of the sea and fishing.
- There are apprehensions that the proposed shipping channel will lead to loss of livelihoods.
- Pulluvila said that since construction began, fisherfolk have had to travel deep into the sea for catch, and this has increased fuel costs.
- Since the government has eliminated the subsidy on kerosene, their pockets are being directly hit.
About the project
- Then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy laid the foundation stone of the Rs 7,525 crore port being built under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model with Adani Ports Private Limited, in December 2015.
- The port will have 30 berths, and will be able to handle giant “megamax” container ships.
- The Adani Group has said the ultramodern port, located close to major international shipping routes, will boost India’s economy.
- The port is expected to compete with Colombo, Singapore, and Dubai for a share of trans-shipment traffic.
Project already delayed
- As per the initial agreement, the project was supposed to be operational by 2019.
- The Adani Group cited several reasons for the delay, from the 2017 Ockhi cyclone to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The company also faced a shortage of granite boulders to build the 3.1-km breakwater, only 1 km of which has been built so far.
Q) Which port is the only Indian port to be listed in the World’s top 30 Container ports?
- Chennai port
- Kandla port
- Paradip port
- Jawaharlal Nehru port