After a nearly three-hour discussion with fisheries minister V Abdurahiman on Friday, the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram has decided to continue their indefinite stir against the Vizhinjam International Transhipment Terminal near Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram.
Latin Archdiocese vicar general Monsignor Eugene H Pereira, who led the nine-member church delegation, said the minister was generally sympathetic to all their seven demands but said that the agitation would continue until their major demand to halt the port construction was met.
This demand was met with a tentative response from the government. Fr Eugene Pereira said their primary demand of conducting a scientific study on the impact of the port construction on coastal geology and livelihoods after stopping the construction work had been kept for a further discussion with the Chief Minister. "The minister said he would talk to the Chief Minister and get back to us in a week," Fr Pereira said.
Msgr Pereira hinted that the delegation had told the minister that stopping the Vizhinjam project would be less disastrous than allowing it to be completed. "The project was supposed to be completed by 2019.
Now, the question is will this ever be completed? Even if this gets completed, it will be only after destroying the whole of the Western Ghats," Msgr Pereira said. "The destruction this project will inflict on the coast and its people will be far greater than the supposed gains from the project," he said.
Like in the case of stopping the Vizhinjam project, the issue of providing kerosine at subsidised rate for fisherfolk, too, would be first discussed with the Chief Minister and then would be kept before the Cabinet for further deliberations.
There was no specific assurance in the case of Muthalapozhi erosion either, even though Msgr Pereira said that the minister had expressed shock at the continuing deaths in the area. The minister told the delegation that the issue could be sorted out through wide-ranging discussions.
However, the minister assured the delegation that the affected families now staying in camps would be shifted to rented houses before Onam this year. "The minister also said that enough land would be soon acquired to create permanent residences for all the project-affected," Msgr Pereira said.
A high-level meeting of six ministers will be held on August 22 to thrash out issues related to land acquisition and rehabilitation of project-affected people.
Msgr Pereira said that the minister had promised to compensate fisherfolk for the days they were forced to keep away from work in times of extreme climate conditions.