Protesters, police clash over Adani port in India's Kerala; over 80 hurt
Billionaire Adani's mega seaport project hit by protests
Police clash with protesters late Sunday as tensions grow
Dispute over port construction causing coastal erosion
Adani says has all necessary clearances for port development
By Jose Devasia and Munsif Vengattil
KOCHI, India Nov 28 (Reuters) - More than 80 people were wounded in India as villagers protesting to halt construction of the $900-million Vizhinjam port project by India's Adani Group clashed with police in Kerala state, the latest escalation in a months-long strike.
The protests, by a mostly Christian fishing community against the project led by billionaire Gautam Adani's $23-billion ports business, have forced the latter to stop work on the port, seen as a potential and lucrative rival to those in Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
Building has been halted for more than three months after villagers blamed the port's development for coastal erosion and depriving them of their livelihoods. They have blocked the entrance to the site by erecting a 1,200-square-foot shelter.
Over the weekend, police arrested some protesters who blocked Adani's construction vehicles from entering the port, despite a court order for work to resume.
The arrests prompted hundreds of protesters, led by Catholic priests, to march on the police station late on Sunday night, leading to clashes with personnel and leaving police vehicles damaged, according to a police document and footage on local television.
Joseph Johnson, one of the protest leaders, said at least 46 protesters were hurt. Senior local police official M R Ajith Kumar told Reuters 36 officers were wounded in the clashes.
Another police official who did not wish to be named said security was being beefed up after the incident, with more than 600 officers deployed across Vizhinjam.
Located on the southern tip of India, the port seeks to plug into lucrative East-West trade routes, adding to the global reach of the business led by Adani, Asia's wealthiest man and the world's third-richest.
The Adani Group did not respond to a request for comment on the protests over the weekend. The company has said that the port complies with all laws and cited studies that show it is not linked to shoreline erosion. The state government has also said that any erosion was due to natural causes.
In the latest clashes, the police's case document said the protesters "came with lethal weapons and barged into the station and held the police hostage, threatening that if people in custody were not released they would set the station on fire."
Eugine H. Pereira, the vicar general of the archdiocese and a protest leader, said police pelted the protesters with stones.
The port protests recall the backlash Adani faced in Australia over his Carmichael coal mine. There, activists concerned about carbon emissions and damage to the Great Barrier Reef forced Adani to downsize production targets and delayed the mine's first coal shipment by six years.
The Indian protests have continued despite repeated orders by Kerala state's top court to allow construction to restart. Police have largely been unwilling to take action, fearful that doing so will set off social and religious tensions, Reuters has previously reported.
On Monday, the court heard Adani's concerns again and asked the state administration why its order of ensuring that port construction continues was not being enforced. The judge asked state officials to file a response by Friday.
The Adani conglomerate is shouldering a third of the project's cost with the rest borne by the state and federal governments. It has a 40-year agreement to build and operate the port.
INSIGHT-Indian tycoon Adani's mega port hangs in the balance as
a fishing community protests
Graphic: Development of Adani's port in south India Link FACTBOX - Major industrial disputes in India
Writing by Aditya Kalra; Additional reporting by Arpan Chaturvedi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Miral Fahmy and Bernadette Baum
Disclaimer: The XM Group entities provide execution-only service and access to our Online Trading Facility, permitting a person to view and/or use the content available on or via the website, is not intended to change or expand on this, nor does it change or expand on this. Such access and use are always subject to: (i) Terms and Conditions; (ii) Risk Warnings; and (iii) Full Disclaimer. Such content is therefore provided as no more than general information. Particularly, please be aware that the contents of our Online Trading Facility are neither a solicitation, nor an offer to enter any transactions on the financial markets. Trading on any financial market involves a significant level of risk to your capital.
All material published on our Online Trading Facility is intended for educational/informational purposes only, and does not contain – nor should it be considered as containing – financial, investment tax or trading advice and recommendations; or a record of our trading prices; or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instruments; or unsolicited financial promotions to you.
Any third-party content, as well as content prepared by XM, such as: opinions, news, research, analyses, prices and other information or links to third-party sites contained on this website are provided on an “as-is” basis, as general market commentary, and do not constitute investment advice. To the extent that any content is construed as investment research, you must note and accept that the content was not intended to and has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such, it would be considered as marketing communication under the relevant laws and regulations. Please ensure that you have read and understood our Notification on Non-Independent Investment. Research and Risk Warning concerning the foregoing information, which can be accessed here.