Can’t stop Vizhinjam port project, says Kerala CM; Govt forms expert team
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the state government is sympathetic to the fishermen but a section is deliberately trying to create problems
As protest by fishermen stalled the maiden transshipment project in Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram district, the Kerala government on Tuesday announced an expert study to assess the geological and social impact of the port construction.
Replying to a question in the Assembly, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the government will constitute an expert team considering the concerns of fishermen. He said sea erosion was a global issue and no scientific study found a link between erosion and the new port work. He said the government has met most of the demands of agitating fishermen and requested them to call off the strike in the larger interest of the state. But he reiterated that there is no question of stalling the work.
“We have met most of their demands. The new study is also part of them and the expert team will submit its report in three months. The government is sympathetic to the fishermen but a section is deliberately trying to create problems,” he said. One of the main demands of fishermen is to stop work and constitute an independent study to assess ecological and geological impact on the coast. “We cannot stop the work of the project at a crucial stage. It is illogical and unacceptable,” he said.
At this point, Opposition leader V D Satheesan said the United Democratic Front (UDF) never tried to politicise the issue but it only highlighted the pathetic condition of the displaced. “We are not against the project but we cannot ignore the travails of the displaced,” he said.
The chief minister agreed to this saying all parties were on the same page and requested protestors to call off their protest. Without naming the Latin Catholic church, which is spearheading the agitation, he said “certain sections of protestors were behaving with vested interests and portraying the government in bad light”. He said displaced families lodged in rented houses will be paid a monthly rent of ₹5,500. He also asked the protestors to heed the order of the high court that ongoing work should not be hampered.
Work of the multi-utility mother port has been disrupted for the last 15 days after angry fishermen and church activists entered the site demanding suspension of the work. They alleged that large-scale construction and breakwater projects has hit the livelihood of coastal people and earlier promises on rehabilitation were not met by the government. Though the government held a series of talks it failed to placate the protestors.
The government insisted that the work was started after getting all clearances and it cannot be stopped when it entered a crucial stage. The first phase of the project is expected to be commissioned by October 2023. The high court will again hear the plea of Adani Port Private Limited and contracting firm Howe Engineering Projects on Wednesday questioning protests at their work site, which disrupted the work.