THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The coastal community led by the Latin Archdiocese organised a huge protest that led to the suspension of work by the Vizhinjam International Transhipment Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport project, on Tuesday. The coastal people from Pozhiyoor to Valiyathura gathered at the project site at Vizhinjam to press a seven-point demand to address their livelihood issues. The youths led by priests came with black flags and raised slogans against the project. The protest was part of an ongoing agitation started by the community members.
They demanded that the project should be halted and a proper study should be carried out on its negative impact because they are convinced that the project has led to intense sea erosion in the area. They also wanted the rehabilitation programme to be expanded to all affected people. Eugine H Pereira, Vicar General of the Latin Archdiocese, said the fourth phase of the protest was held with the slogan ‘Vizhinjam Chalo’. The protest was observed as a black day with priests hoisting black flags in front of churches and households under the diocese. The protests got support from other locations in Alappuzha and Ernakulam where the church has a significant presence.
When the protest gathered momentum, it started affecting construction activities. The port officials informed the protest leaders about halting the work. The representatives went inside the project area to verify the company’s version.
The protesters said that the protest will continue till the end of the month.
Meanwhile the government has agreed to hold talks with the protesters. The talk is scheduled to be held on August 22. A cabinet sub-committee has decided to hand over the 17.5 acres of land belonging to the animal husbandry department at Muttathara for rehabilitation measures. Ports Minister Ahammed Devarkovil said that the government has an open mind to talk to protestors. He said that sea erosion was a global phenomenon and it was not due to the port project. However, his statement that the protesters came from outside angered the protesters. “The minister is out of his mind. His statement shows that he is out of touch with the hard reality the fisherfolks are facing,” said Monsignor Eugine.
Transport Minister Antony Raju said that the issues faced by fisherfolk would be addressed in a time-bound manner. “The state government cannot take a unilateral decision to halt the project. The Centre is also involved. The project has the approval from the Supreme Court and Green Tribunal,” he said. Last week, the fishermen laid siege to the Secretariat to protest against the neglect of the community by the government.