Protesting against the Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multi-purpose Seaport and the State government, the fishermen and their families under the aegis of the Latin Archdiocese on Tuesday laid siege to the port.
The day-night stir launched by the fishermen will continue till August 30. As a result, the port work was disrupted for the day. The Adani Port authorities, however, said they stopped work for the day considering the request of protesting fishermen.
Damage caused by construction
The protest began in the morning with all the churches under the Latin Archdiocese hoisting black flags after the morning mass. Soon after the mass, two motorcycle rallies of youths were taken out to the protest venue at Mulloor in Vizhinjam, which was followed by vehicles carrying protestors to the venue from various churches.
R. Christudas, Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Catholic Church, who inaugurated the stir, said the protest launched by the fishermen would continue until the demands raised by them were met. They wanted the State government to stop the port work immediately and hold a study on the damage caused by the construction of the breakwater at Vizhinjam.
Even before the work, the fishermen in the region had warned that any work on the breakwater would jeopardise the lives of inhabitants living along the coast of the capital city, as it would aggravate sea erosion. But their concerns fell on deaf ears. Now, around 500 families were hit by strong sea erosion allegedly due to the port construction and around 300 of the people there were housed in various relief camps. Besides, the unscientific work increased the chances for accidents, including at Muthalapozhi, where sea erosion gradually gnawed away a good portion of the beach, said Mr. Christudas.
The main demands of the fishermen, hence, included speedy implementation of the rehabilitation package announced by the State government, compensation for the fishermen involved in the sea accidents, steps to mitigate coastal erosion, etc.
The day-night protest was more or less peaceful with protestors squatting in front of the main entrance of the port disrupting the movement of vehicles and raw materials to the port. Meanwhile, Transport Minister Antony Raju said a ministerial-level meeting would be held on August 22 to address the fears of the fishermen. Stating that the State government cannot take a unilateral decision in matters related to port construction, he said the government had identified 17.5 acres of land for facilitating the rehabilitation of the affected fishermen.
Also read: Bearing the brunt of erosion
Jobs for 10,000 people
Meanwhile, Ports Minister Ahamed Devarkovil stated that the protest was organised by outsiders. The State government was holding large-scale rehabilitation as part of the project and the government was ready to hold discussion with anyone if there was any doubt about this. Speaking to mediapersons, he said about 10,000 people from the coastal belt were expected to find employment at a container freight station that would come up near the project site soon. Efforts were on provide skill training free of cost to equip them for the new jobs, he added.
The minister said 1062 homless families along the coast had been included in the list of beneficiaries of the LIFE housing project. They would be relocated to two sites at Valiathura. He added that owners of the houses damaged by the piling work at the site would be adequately compensated. Mr.Devarkovil also also listed the major works initiated by the State government so far as part of the rehabilitation package.