Protests over delay in compensation payments affect work at Kerala’s Vizhinjam Port
Work at Kerala's dream project - the Rs 7,525 crore Vizhinjam project, coming up near the famed tourist destination at Kovalam, has been hit with local populace protesting over the delay in compensation payments and the damage caused by berth piling works.
On Wednesday, agitators stepped up their protests.
According to the protesters, the promised compensation is yet to arrive and after piling works started last week, several houses located away from the port site developed cracks and this has caused the local fisher community to take to the streets to stop the ongoing works.
Seven-time legislator PC George, who was also present, alleged that the project was cleared without a proper environment impact study and that huge areas of the coastline in and around the port site have been washed away.
"Even the Kerala High Court has expressed surprise in the agreement with Adani Ports. Its most unfortunate that the then Left opposition and the then Congress-led ruling alliance had been bought over by Adani and hence this one-sided agreement got cleared," alleged George as he interacted with reporters at the protest site.
Former Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who reached the area, could not reach the place of protest as police stopped him and requested him not to proceed further.
"There could be protests, so I have decided to return," he said.
However the state government has confirmed that the compensation payment would be distributed from first week of next month.
George also said that according to the agreement, Adani Port would operate the port for 40 years, while the state government would get a portion of the revenue from the port only after 15 years of operations.
"This is grossly unfair to Kerala and (Chief Minister Pinarayi) Vijayan should act soon," added George, currently an independent legislator.
The protests come even as the Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government has decided to conduct a judicial probe into the Vizhinjam port agreement which was inked by the then Oommen Chandy-led United Democratic Front regime with Adani Ports in 2015.
Adani Ports was the lone bidder and sought Rs.1,635 crore as grant for the project. Work on the first phase is fast nearing completion.
The LDF in May decided to initiate the judicial probe after a CAG report cited faults in the agreement which left the state in a disadvantageous position. The cabinet appointed Justice (retd) CN Ramachandran as the one man commission to study the agreement.
The proposed Vizhinjam Port is to be completed in three phases and once completed, the port would enable ships with a capacity of even 18,000 TEU (20-feet equivalent units) to dock.
The proposed port, located close to the busy international shipping route, is envisaged to handle 4.1 million containers annually.