- Adani port construction stalled for nearly four months
- Supporters say the port will bring jobs and investment
- Protesters say project is causing erosion
VIZHINJAM, India, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Hundreds of a Hindu group marched on Wednesday in support of the construction of a $900 million port in southern India, chanting slogans against a local Catholic church that is trying to prevent the project.
Police in riot gear set up barricades and blocked supporters before they reached the harbor entrance, where Adani Group construction has been stalled for nearly four months over objections from a mostly Christian fishing community.
They say the port, in Vizhinjam, is causing erosion that has undermined their livelihoods. Billionaire Gautam Adani’s conglomerate and the Kerala state government have denied allegations that the port is causing environmental damage.
Supporters of the port, including members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, say it will create jobs in the region. They set up makeshift camps on the road leading to the site. Christian protesters also built a large protest shelter blocking the entrance.
“This port, which takes India so far ahead on the global stage, cannot be sacrificed,” KP Sasikala, the group’s organizer, told the meeting, brandishing saffron flags in front of the barricades.
“We cannot risk a situation where people avoid investing in the state of Kerala,” he added.
Local police said they had not given permission for the Hindu group to act. The police, for the most part, are unwilling to take more forceful action against either side, for fear it could trigger social and religious tensions.
A spokesman for the Adani group did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The port is of strategic importance to both India and Adani, Asia’s richest man. Once completed, it will become India’s first container transshipment hub, rivaling Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka for business on the lucrative east-west trade routes.
Protest against the harbor continued despite repeated orders from Kerala’s high court to allow construction to resume.
The first phase of construction was due to be completed by the end of 2024. The Adani Group said in court filings that the protests caused “immense loss” and “considerable delay”.
Adani also faced protests in Australia, where environmental activists launched a “stop Adani” movement to protest his Carmichael colliery project in the state of Queensland.
Written by Miral Fahmy and Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Conor Humphries, Robert Birsel and Alison Williams
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