By Jose Devasia and Munsif Vengatil
KOCHI, India, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Protesters from a fishing community have blocked attempts by India’s Adani Group to resume work on a $900 million transshipment port in southern India, a company spokesman said on Saturday, extending an impasse that has halted development at the port.
Construction on Adani’s Vizhinjam seaport in India’s southernmost state of Kerala was halted for more than three months after protesters, mostly Christians and led by Catholic priests, erected a large canopy blocking its entrance, saying the port’s development has caused coastal erosion and deprived them of their livelihood.
Adani Group, led by the world’s third-richest man Gautam Adani, tried to move heavy goods vehicles into the port on Saturday after a court directive this week that construction work should resume, but protesters blocked them from entering, an Adani spokesman said in the southern state of Kerala, Reuters said.
About 25 trucks tried to enter the port and were forced to turn back after two were hit by stones thrown by protesters, the spokesman added.
Calls to senior state police officials went unanswered.
Television footage from local news channel Manorama showed dozens of police officers in riot gear stationed outside the port and arguing with protesters. A group of protesting women were also seen lying on the road leading to the port.
“We won’t let them in,” a protester was seen shouting at police officers near the port’s entrance.
The Adani Group has said the project is in full compliance with all laws and that many studies in recent years have dismissed allegations linking the project to shoreline erosion. The Kerala state government says the erosion occurred due to natural disasters.
The impasse is a major headache for Adani, which runs a $23 billion port and logistics business and touts the seaport’s “unparalleled location” on a key global shipping route. The port is considered to be potentially well positioned to win business from ports in Sri Lanka, Singapore and Dubai.
In recent months, the Adani Group has repeatedly sought relief from a Kerala state court that said entry and exit to the port should not be blocked, but the protesters have refused to budge.
“We will not remove the protest shelter no matter what. It’s a matter of our lives,” Joseph Johnson, a protesting fisherman, told Reuters on Saturday.
The 1,200-square-foot structure, with a corrugated iron roof and banners announcing an “indefinite day and night protest,” has blocked the port’s entrance since August. A previous attempt by Adani in October to move trucks from the port also failed.
(Writing by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Edmund Klamann)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022.