Government rejects fisher's demand to halt Vizhinjam port construction

Latin Catholic Archdiocese to intensify agitation against the government

Published - August 23, 2022 02:19 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Fishermen lay siege from both land and water to the Vizhinjam port project site in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.

Fishermen lay siege from both land and water to the Vizhinjam port project site in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

The State government has dug its heels in on the position that the administration and Adani group would forge ahead with the construction of the Vizhinjam port despite escalating protests by the Thiruvananthapuram archdiocese-backed coastal community.

The government laid its cards in the Assembly on Tuesday while rejecting an opposition motion to adjourn the House to discuss the government's failure to rehabilitate fishers displaced by the mega project.

Diocese demand

The diocese's increasingly strident demand to halt the breakwater construction and conduct an environmental and social impact study before forging ahead with the project had prompted the United Democratic Front (UDF) motion.

Opposition walkout

Later, the opposition walked out of the House, accusing the government of betraying the coastal community.

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the government and Adani group spoke in the same voice. He warned the emotive protests would spiral out of control unless the government took all stakeholders into confidence.

Mr. Satheeshan said the opposition was not against Vizhinjam port. However, harbour construction should go hand-in-hand with rehabilitating the displaced coastal community. The government could not justify the coastal community's misery by blaming global climate change alone.

Church rejects the government's stance.

The diocese rejected the government's position. It cautioned the laity would block the capital's thoroughfares with fishing boats and nets during Onam celebrations if the government did not climb down. It claimed other communities would join the strike soon.

CM terms protests "anti-people and anti-development."

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed the agitation "anti-people and anti-development". He said no fisher would lose his livelihood or home to Vizhinjam protect. The government would rehabilitate them. "The strike organisers had enlisted outsiders and scripted the protests", he said.

No peril for fishers

Mr. Vijayan rejected the archdiocese's contention that the ongoing breakwater construction had caused beach erosion, choppy waters and sedimentation hazardous to traditional fishers.

He told the Assembly that the conducted by the National Green Tribunal and Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) testified otherwise. The Congress-led Manmohan Singh government had endorsed the findings and sanctioned the port's construction.

Mr. Vijayan said climate change had made Kerala's coastline vulnerable to cyclones, raising sea levels and tidal surges.

Arbitral Tribunal case

Fisheries Minister V. Abdurahman said the agitation coincided with the government's decision to fine the Adani group for delaying the port's construction. Adani has challenged the move in the Arbitral Tribunal. Any attempt to discontinue the project would entail significant financial losses for the State. It would mar its investment climate.

No fisher's land acquired

Mr. Abdurahman said the government had not acquired any land occupied by fishers for the Vizhinjam project. Hydrological surveys had revealed no sedimentation at the harbour mouth or off the coast of adjacent fish landing centres.

Speaker rejects the UDF motion

Congress legislator M. Vincent moved the adjournment motion. Ports Minister Ahmed Devarkovil also spoke. Speaker M. B. Rajesh rejected the opposition's demand for an adjournment debate.

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