Kerala govt rules out halting Adani port in Thiruvananthapuram
The CPM-led Kerala government on Tuesday ruled out any possibility of stopping work at the upcoming Vizhinjam seaport being built by the Adani group in Thiruvananthapuram but agreed to consider any reasonable demand from protesting fisherfolk who had been displaced by coastal erosion allegedly caused by the project.
“The government has agreed to all but one of their demands. The demand to stop work for the port can never be accepted,” chief minister and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan categorically told the Assembly.
“Stopping a project of national importance and one that has progressed so much is not rational and cannot be agreed to,” he added.
Hundreds, protesting since August 16 under the leadership of the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, have been demanding that the work be suspended and a new impact assessment commissioned.
The chief minister said an expert committee would be formed to study the issues caused by coastal erosion and an interim report would be sought within three months of constituting the team to initiate further action.
The protest committee summarily dismissed the chief minister’s call to end the agitation and join negotiations to sort out the issues concerning the fisherfolk. “We will not go back on our demand to stop work at the seaport,” said T. Nicholas, a priest of the archdiocese, who was present at the protest site.
“The chief minister’s announcement of a study to assess the impact of the project is tantamount to admitting that there have been lapses. We are not challenging anyone and are seeking our basic needs. We have never shied away from negotiations,” he told reporters.
The agitation has already stalled work at the Rs 7,525-crore seaport being built in the public-private-partnership mode by the Kerala government and Adani Vizhinjam Port Pvt Ltd. The sit-in, a short distance away from the main gate of the port, has stopped the movement of trucks carrying construction materials.
The protesters have also been breaking the locks of the gates to march into the project site almost every day.
In the Assembly, the chief minister said the government would remain focused on rehabilitation projects, and a committee headed by the chief secretary and made up of the secretaries of fisheries, water resources and the district collector would conduct a monthly evaluation of the work to rehabilitate displaced families.
Vijayan urged the protesters to withdraw their agitation and to avoid any confrontation. “While the government is careful enough to avoid any confrontation with the protesters, one section among the protesters is trying to trigger a confrontation at any cost. We cannot ignore the fact that some of them have political motives,” he said, adding the police have been instructed to tackle the situation very carefully.
The chief minister announced that the government had decided to provide Rs 5,500 as monthly rent to each of the 335 displaced families now accommodated in a godown in Thiruvananthapuram. Their houses were destroyed by coastal erosion allegedly caused by construction linked to the seaport.
He said the state government had already announced the Rs 2,450-crore Punargeham housing project for the displaced. As part of the project, each of the 335 families will be provided a flat in a cluster of 3,000 flats on a 10-acre plot in Muttathara along the seacoast near Vizhinjam.