Conceived three decades ago, the Vizhinjam port with 20-metre natural depth and 12 nautical miles away from the international ship channel is expected to be commissioned by October 2023
No plan to stall ongoing port work in Vizhinjam: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
As protests by fishermen intensified against the upcoming international transshipment project in Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday reiterated that there is no plan to stop the work.
The ongoing work, carried out by the Adani group, was disrupted for almost a week after protestors entered the site demanding suspension of all work. Due to large-scale construction and breakwater projects, fishermen alleged that their livelihood has taken a big hit, while earlier promises on rehabilitation were not met.
“The work of the port project is at a crucial stage now. Any attempt to scuttle it will be a great injustice to future generations also. We have contributed much to reach this stage and there is no plan to stall the works,” Vijayan said in the assembly while replying to an adjournment motion moved by Congress legislator MP Vincent.
Vijayan said the government is willing to talk to all concerned as several rounds of discussions have been held. The port work alone cannot be blamed for sea incursion, he ssaid, blaming climate change for rough seas.
“We cannot blame the port work alone for sea incursion and depletion of some beaches, including Shangumukham and Valiyathura. Climate change also played its role,” he said, adding that the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal have given their nods to the project and rejected claims of severe costal degradation. The agitation was well planned and most protestors were not from Vizhinjam, the CM alleged.
Opposition leader VD Satheesan said the government’s apathy led to such a situation and the Congress was not against the project. But the affected should be rehabilitated properly, he said, adding that the CPI(Marxist) government was undermining the strike of the fishermen.
“Some of the displaced people are still sleeping on cement benches in temporary shelters for more than two years. Promises made to them should be fulfilled,” Satheesan claimed.
Protestors and the Latin Catholic church, who are spearheading the agitation, termed the CM’s statement “insensitive and provoking. “The CM cannot fool poor people anymore. His insensitive words are really painful,” said convener of the action council Father T Dicruz. Auxiliary Bishop of Latin Catholic church R Christudas said coastal people want action, not mere promises.
The government has allocated 10 acres of land at Muttathara near the coast to build flats for the displaced. But protestors said they have been hearing this promise for the past three years and want the CM to be directly involved in this. They also want the government to conduct a fresh study into the environmental impact of the project and listen to coastal inhabitants properly.
Conceived three decades ago, the Vizhinjam port with 20-metre natural depth and 12 nautical miles away from the international ship channel is expected to be commissioned by October 2023.
At present, India depends heavily on Colombo, Singapore and Dubai ports for transshipment of heavy cargos, incurring additional cost and time. But Vizhinjam, 16 kms south of the state capital, will bridge that gap once commissioned.