Kerala: Church claims Vizhinjam deep-sea port project could affect 50,000 fishers

The Latin Catholic Church fears that the 4-km breakwaters for the Vizhinjam deep-sea port would wipe out the coastline from Poonthura to Veli.

ByK A Shaji

Published Jul 21, 2022 | 4:07 PMUpdatedJul 28, 2022 | 2:41 PM


The Latin Catholic Church in Kerala began an indefinite protest in front of the state secretariat on Wednesday, 20 July, demanding the immediate scrapping of the Vizhinjam deep-sea port project.

The church, which enjoys considerable clout among the coastal communities, claimed that 50,000 fishers are affected by the multi-crore international transhipment terminal at Vizhinjam on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram.

The protest came a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he would soon meet the Ahmedabad-based Adani Group that is seeking expedition of the constructions works of the project.

Protest against Vizhinjam deep-sea port

Priests protest against Vizhinjam port

Hundreds of priests, nuns and the laity attended the inaugural of the massive protest, which began at the Martyrs Column in the state capital.

Then they marched to the secretariat carrying placards that demanded the scrapping of the project, which the protesters said had turned into a severe threat to the environment and robbed fish workers of their livelihood.

This is the first time in recent years that the church has taken up a civil-society issue on which both the ruling and Opposition parties are silent.

Thiruvananthapuram arch-bishop Thomas J Netto told South First on the sidelines of the protest that the church would not retract the agitation till it yielded positive results.

He urged Adani and the state government to backtrack from the project, which adds to the misery of fisherfolk each passing day.

He said Adani was continuing with the project’s construction in connivance with the BJP government at the centre, the CPI(M) government in the state, and the Congress in the Opposition.

“Major political parties in the country have consigned the fate of the coastal communities to the corporate greed of Adani,” said Netto.

“People living on the coasts north of the project site are losing houses and livelihood due to the sea erosion caused by the massive breakwater under construction for the terminal,” he added.

According to Auxiolory bishop J Christhudas, the church decided to give the call for protest in the wake of the state government not conducting a thorough check on the feasibility of the port.

The rehabilitation package for fish workers, whose occupation and habitation would be affected when the project became a reality, was not anywhere in sight, he alleged.

“The government has failed miserably in removing the apprehensions of the coastal people. Thirty-two coastal villages with more than 50,000 fish workers are now badly affected by the environmental crisis aggravated by the massive infrastructural project,” he said.

Problems galore?

Though Kerala’s LDF objected to implementing the project in the private sector and levelled allegations of corruption in the deal when it was in the Opposition, it was implemented soon after Vijayan became chief minister for the first time.

Experts confirmed that building the breakwater to the north of the coastal line has led to a loss of a massive area of land.

The church fears that if the 4-km breakwaters are built for the Vizhinjam port, the coastline extending from Poonthura to Veli in the district would be wiped out.

In the long run, the church leaders believe that the project would pose a threat to the Thiruvananthapuram airport and the various space research centres on the shore.

It has demanded a quick social impact study by experts.