Following a four-month-old protest by primarily Christian villagers blocking the entrance to the Adani Group project site, construction on a $900 million port is scheduled to resume on Thursday, according to the movement’s organizers.
Fishermen have been camped out at Vizhinjam in the state of Kerala since September. They have blocked traffic and stopped development on a project they claim is causing coastal erosion and harming their way of life.
The conglomerate owned by billionaire Gautam Adani has refuted both charges.
In order to allow work to continue while they await the findings of an expert panel’s environmental impact study, the fishermen agreed to remove the shelter, according to Eugine H. Pereira, one of the Catholic priests leading the protests.
He remarked on Wednesday that the walkout had only been temporarily ended. If the fundamental issues we presented are not addressed, we will go back on strike.
According to protest leader Joy Jerald, the protestors have begun to disassemble their 1,200 square foot (112 square metres) makeshift shelter, which was made of poles supporting a corrugated iron roof.
Construction will resume on Thursday, according to an Adani Group official who declined to be named. The port is crucial from a strategic standpoint for both India and Adani, the richest man in Asia and a close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
When finished, it will be India’s first hub for container transshipment, competing with Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Dubai for commerce along lucrative east-west trade routes.
The Kerala government has said it was committed to the project, which supporters say will create jobs in the region. But in a seven-point manifesto displayed at their shelter, the villagers say their protest will not end until plans have been made to resettle those who have lost their homes and land to the project and to coastal erosion. The villagers now live in industrial warehouses.
Despite several court orders for the protesters to disband, police have taken little action for fear of igniting social and religious tension. Security around the site, however, was beefed up more than a week ago after the villagers clashed with police. A Hindu group also held a rally in support of the project.
According to Pereira, the fisherman’s community called off the strike to address “misunderstandings” regarding the demonstration, including claims made by some state officials that the fishermen are against growth.
The Adani Group asserts that the port complies with all legal requirements and cites research demonstrating that it is not responsible for coastline erosion, which the Keralan government claims are the result of natural factors. By the end of 2024, the first phase of construction was supposed to be finished.
Environmentalists in Australia previously demonstrated against Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in the northeastern state of Queensland.
There, environmentalists worried about carbon emissions and harm to the Great Barrier Reef compelled Adani to reduce its output goals and postpone the mine’s first shipment for years.