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Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multi-purpose Port, Kerala, India


Description:

The project awarded to Adani Ports & SEZ in 2015 is touted by its supporters to usher in development, economic benefits and massive job creation in Kerala. 

Apart from the allegations of being economically unviable, the project is expected to have severe consequences on the fragile local ecosystems, coastal livelihoods including fishing and tourism. 

Almost 4 years since its inception, the anxieties on compensation, livelihoods, rehabilitation, loss of coastal landscapes are proving to be true. However, the responses from different stakeholders have been divisive and varied.

Moreover, the state government’s effort to set up a centralised waste-to-energy plant, which will be used to power the entire operations of the upcoming Vizhinjam International Seaport project in the state capital, has sparked widespread protest from local residents even amid the lockdown. Earlier, a similar attempt by the government to set up the waste plant at the ecologically sensitive Perimangala was dropped following disapproval by the local people.  The plan is to set up an Integrated Solid Waste Management Project with a waste-to-energy plant at Vizhinjam. The Port Department has leased out 15 acres of its land at Vizhinjam under its possession to Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC).[1]

By January 2020 [2], the shortage of limestone, the most important raw material for the construction of Kerala"s dream port project -- Vizhinjam -- affected the work at the port site, causing a delay in the project completion, which should have seen the berthing of a ship in 2018.

At the time of commencement of work on the port on December 5, 2015, Adani Ports owner Gautam Adani had announced that the first ship will berth there on September 1, 2018, in a record time of less than 1,000 days. This, however, did not happen, and the second important deadline was December 4, 2019, which was the original date of completion of the first phase, but that has also not been met.

M. Vincent, the MLA from here, told IANS: "The biggest issue is the huge shortage of limestone. The Adani Ports officials told us that even though the government has given license to 20 quarries, only one is working...

The project stalled in 2017 after cyclone Ockhi hit the construction site and a portion of the constructed breakwater was washed away. "The total length of the breakwater is 3.1 km and today what we saw was that only just 700 metres has been completed. We were told by the company officials that if there is an uninterrupted supply of limestone, it will take another 18 months for the port to be operational." The total cost of the port project is Rs 7,525 crore and the state government has contributed 500 acres of land.[2].

By 2015, Down to Earth had reported [3] that the ports would be an ecological nightmare. "The proposed port site is just 250 metres south of the ever-busy Vizhinjam fishing harbour. This would spell doom for the booming fishing industry and the marine biodiversity of the region. Over 20,000 fisher families live in 11 villages close to the site. Fishers say they will lose their means of livelihood if the government goes ahead with the ambitious project. Marine experts warn the port would damage the ecologically fragile coastal belt of southern Kerala, hurt the marine fauna and flora, change the shoreline and erode the popular Kovalam beach north of the project site. Just like Vizhinjam, Adimalathurai, a village south of the port site, too, is an important fish landing centre. “If the port is built here, the area will come under the port authorities and fishers will be denied access to the sea,” says T Peter, the state president of Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, an independent federation of fishers. Marine scientists say that underwater rock dredging, rock removal, reclamation of sea, sand mining, construction of breakwater and quay walls for the port and the resulting pollution will cause substantial damage to the coastline and the fisheries resources. “The affected coastline will most likely extend to 10 km north and south of the proposed port,” says Sanjeev Ghosh, former additional director of the department of fisheries of the Kerala government. He points out that the Wadge Bank, the main fishing ground in southern India, is just 50 km off the Vizhinjam coast. “It is a breeding ground for over 200 varieties of fish and is the largest coral reef of the Indian Ocean,” he says. The Wadge Bank is home to more than 60 species of ornamental fish and other oceanic animals. Commercially important fish such as squids, cuttle fish, carangids, tuna, anchovies and lobsters are abundant there. Ghosh wrote a letter to MoEF on July 10, 2012, pointing out the ecological importance of the area. “Wadge bank is currently being considered to be classified as a Marine Protected Area. The government should take the opinion of marine experts before going ahead with the project,” he wrote. K K Appukuttan, retired scientist of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in Kochi, says several endangered, threatened and protected species like Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, black pearl oyster and dolphins have been spotted on this coast. “The construction work will cause heavy silting up leading to massive biodiversity loss.”[3].

Basic Data

Name of conflict: Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multi-purpose Port, Kerala, India
Country:India
State or province:Kerala
Location of conflict:Thiruvananthapuram
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Ports and airport projects
Aquaculture and fisheries
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Ecosystem Services
Fish
Tourism services
Sand, gravel

Project Details and Actors

Project details

A port at Vizhinjam is a dream that has been touted for over half a century in Kerala and more recently since the 1990s. After three unsuccessful tendering attempts in 2004, 2007 and in 2011, it was awarded to the sole bidder Adani Ports & SEZ in 2015. The multi-purpose deep water seaport and allied infrastructure projects coming up on 351 acres of land- of which 131 acres is reclaimed land- is slated to be the largest of its kind in the country when completed. Being 12 nautical miles off the Persian Gulf–Malacca shipping lane that accounts for more than one-third of the world’s shipping traffic, with a depth of 20m, and the advantage of minimal littoral drift it is projected to attract a large percentage of transshipment traffic in the subcontinent.

The port is built through a Private Public Partnership (DBFOT-design, build, finance, operate and transfer) Landlord based Model where the Government of Kerala (GoK) through Vizhinjam International Seaports Limited (VISL) will own the land. Adani Ports & SEZ will build and manage the entire port for a period of 40 years including the 4 years of projected construction time. However, the cost of certain civil infrastructure will be borne by the GOK like breakwater and fishing harbor.

From the 15th year, Adani will share 1% of the revenue to the GOK which will be increased by 1% annually. Multiple studies have projected that the port is economically unviable and that its benefits to the GOK with respect to its share in investments (GOK 57%, GOI 11%, and Adani 11%) are paltry and unfair. The Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) of India report has also pointed out irregularities in the Concession Agreement.

One of the mere 20 regions of marine biodiversity i.e, the Wadge Bank, lies off the coast of Vizhinjam and is a rich habitation and breeding ground for a large variety of fish and aquatic organisms. It is argued that the coastal pollution that is caused by the commencement of dredging and subsequently the maritime traffic will affect this fragile ecosystem. Of the 33 reefs, 15were completely destroyed due to sand deposition from dredging. Vizhinjam and its surrounding areas are largely fishing villages with over 14,000 fishing families of whom 62% lie below the poverty line. Thus changes in the marine ecosystem will adversely affect these communities. People who fish in the area between the shoreline and the breakwater are set to lose access to their traditional fishing grounds.

About 80% of the 70 lakh metric tonnes of granite needed to complete the construction of the breakwaters of the port is being sourced from local mines across Kerala. This needs to be read along with the massive landslides that happened in Kerala in the monsoon rains of 2019 which according to experts have all happened in locations in close proximity to one or more granite quarries.

In late August 2019, with just the completion of 600 m of the 3000 m breakwater that is needed to shelter the ships from waves and currents, the sea has been responding violently. The famous beaches of Thiruvananthapuram including Shankhumukham, Kovalam, Valiyathura, Bheemapalli, Vizhinjam, and Veli are gradually eroding. The last monsoon season (August 2019) saw 603 people from 143 families in the adjoining fishing villages have been shifted to relief camps due to incursion of the sea. Meanwhile, there have also been protests over the delays in dispensing the compensation packages.

Opposing or critiquing the project has been challenging as it has created a favorable appeal in local communities that are looking for upward social mobility. Additionally, since the project was articulated in the language of strong developmental gains, opposing it often risked being labelled anti-national.

Project area:145 (of which 52 ha is reclaimed from the sea)
Level of Investment:40,890,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:60,000 fisher people; 10,000 tourism related jobs
Start of the conflict:05/12/2015
Company names or state enterprises:Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited from India
Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL) from India
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Friends of Marine Life http://fmlindia.in/
Trivandrum Latin Archdiocese

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Environmental activists and lawyers
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Migration/displacement
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Compliance Audits on ‘Implementation of Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport Project’

May 2017
https://cag.gov.in/content/report-no4-2017-public-sector-undertakings-government-kerala-0

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

THE VIZHINJAM PORT: DREAM OR DISASTER- A Study of the Economic, Environmental & Social Impacts of the Port

The Research Collective (PSA), November 2017
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/559b6c31e4b02802c8b26ce9/t/5a2677114192028cc4afe57b/1512470498145/Vizhinjam+Report+Dream+or+Disaster+-+Nov+2017.pdf

Catholic Church, Fishers and Negotiating Development: A Study on the Vizhinjam Port Project

Ashni A L, Santhosh R, December 2019
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0972266119883165

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Vizhinjam Port Archives

Keraleeyam Masika
http://www.keraleeyammasika.com/tag/vizhinjam-port

Vizhinjam fishermen protest over compensation package

Times of India, March 2020
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/vizhinjam-fishermen-protest-over-compensation-package/articleshow/74421132.cms

Is the deep water sea project in Kerala an environmental and livelihood threat?

K A Shaji, August 2019, Mongabay
https://india.mongabay.com/2019/08/is-the-vizhinjam-port-in-kerala-an-environmental-and-livelihood-threat/

Adani’s Vizhinjam port still mired in controversy after inquiry into CAG report

Nileena M S, October 2018
https://caravanmagazine.in/business/adani-vizhinjam-controversy-government-panel

Adani’s Vizhinjam port still mired in controversy after inquiry into CAG report

Nileena M S, October 2018, Caravan Magazine
https://caravanmagazine.in/business/adani-vizhinjam-controversy-government-panel

Adani Group gets NOC for 19 quarries, mining begins in one

Salim Joseph, August 2019, Times of India
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/adani-group-gets-noc-for-19-quarries-mining-begins-in-one/articleshow/70488813.cms

Damage to Western Ghats makes Kerala floods worse

Nidheesh M K, August 2019, LiveMint
https://www.livemint.com/news/india/damage-to-western-ghats-makes-kerala-floods-worse-1565634396271.html

[2] Outlook. Shortage of limestone. 23 Jan.2020
https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/shortage-of-limestone-affects-work-at-adanis-vizhinjam-port/1715616

[1] New India Express. Waste-to-energy plant at Vizhinjam sparks protest. Earlier, a similar attempt to set up a waste plant at the ecologically sensitive Perimangala was dropped following disapproval. 8th May 2020.
https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/thiruvananthapuram/2020/may/08/waste-to-energy-plant-at-vizhinjam-sparks-protest-2140520.html

[1] New India Express

[2] Outlook. Shortage of limestone.

[3] Proposed seaport in Vizhinjam can spell disaster for fishers, tourism and biodiversity in Kerala. Down to Earth. M Suchitra. 7 June 2015

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Contributor:Gouri Ramkumar
Last update20/05/2020

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