Union minister engages with Latin Church to address Muthalapozhi harbour crisis

Congress workers oppose George Kurian’s visit, say BJP keeping MLA Adoor Prakash uninformed.
Muthalapozhi harbour
Muthalapozhi harbour Photo | Express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Union Minister of State for Fisheries George Kurian has reached out to the Latin Church to resolve the Muthalapozhi harbour issue, in an apparent move to gain the trust of the coastal community. He held talks with Archbishop Thomas J Netto as part of his maiden visit to the harbour where fatal sea accidents have claimed the lives of 73 fishermen over a decade.

K V Thomas, a former scientist with the National Centre for Earth Science Studies and the chairman of the Janakeeya Padana Samithi (JPS) constituted by the coastal protesters to assess the impact of Vizhinjam International Seaport, was also part of the discussion.

George Kurian faced protests from Congress workers during his maiden visit to Muthalapozhi.

The protesters alleged that the BJP has been trying to keep the Attingal MP, Adoor Prakash, uninformed of the developments. The Muthalapozhi harbour was a major issue during the recent general election.

Muthalapozhi harbour
Political stirrings force state government to act on Muthalapozhi

Church-affiliated organisations such as the Thiruvananthapuram Matsyathozhilali Forum and the Kerala Latin Catholic Association (KLCA) stepped up the protests in June after the measures taken by the government failed to stop accidents. They also remain sceptical of BJP’s outreach programme as the discussion failed to elicit any concrete action on the ground. The Union minister maintained that his visit was to understand the situation and listen to the stakeholders. “Our priority is to make the channel safe by dredging the sand accumulated. Without any specific steps, the lives of fishermen are at stake,” said Patrick Michael, diocese president of KLCA.

A resolution to the issue hinges on a Rs 164-crore project planned by the state and the Centre. While Kerala Fisheries Minister Saji Cherian had announced that the project would be completed in 18 months, KLCA has expressed reservations over the work in the sea, considering the rough season ahead.

Muthalapozhi harbour
Kerala govt promises permanent solution to Muthalapozhi harbour issues within 18 months

The state government had appointed the Pune-based Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS) to study the reasons behind the recurring boat accidents. The fishing community blamed the unscientific construction of the Muthalapozhi Harbour for the rise in sea accidents. The government intervened with comprehensive measures after the protest grew stronger last July.

The two breakwaters constructed to facilitate the harbour have sounded the death knell for the fishermen. As many as 73 fishermen have lost their lives in boat accidents in the channel since 2015.

The Harbour Engineering Department and the Adani Port agreed, in 2018, to make the channel between the sea and the backwaters navigable for fishing boats.

The latter was allowed to construct a berth to facilitate the transportation of rocks needed for the construction of the Vizhinjam port. In return, the port authorities could use Adani Port’s facilities to ensure a depth of five metres. The fishermen blamed both the Adani Group and the state government for their failure to honour the agreement.

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