The Opposition on Monday attributed the delay in the completion of the Vizhinjam transhipment terminal to what has been termed the "indifference" of the LDF government. The original deadline for the completion of the project was December 3, 2019, 1460 days from the signing of the agreement on August 17, 2015.
The concessionaire, Adani Ports, now says the project would be completed only by December 2023, which is double the construction period originally agreed to.
Minister for Ports Ahmed Devarkovil said the government was doing all that was "humanly possible" to expedite the project. He said unexpected events like the Ockhi cyclone, floods and COVID had delayed the construction. He also said the Adani Group had taken the issue of the delay to the arbitration tribunal. "They have given 17 reasons, including unforseen events like floods and cyclones, for the delay, " the minister said. "We have submitted our arguments also to the tribunal, " he added.
Even then, the minister seemed convinced of the Adani Group's arguments. "The company too stands to lose by the delay. So it cannot be said that the delay has been orchestrated, " Devarkovil said.
The minister said the major hurdle was the non-availability of rocks to construct the breakwater. The proposed breakwater is 3102 metres but only 810 metres have been complete. Without the full extent of breakwater, all other work on the port, including dredging, is not possible.
The minister said a Green Tribunal order in July, 2020, had mandated that there should be a buffer zone of 200 metres around quarries. "This has prevented us from granting clearances to the various quarries the company had identified for the mining of rocks, " the minister said. This necessitates the transport of rocks from other states.
Devarkovil said he had met his Tamil Nadu counterpart to ensure the smooth movement of rocks to Kerala. Congress MLA M Vincent, while moving the adjournment motion in the House, said that the minister had met theTamil Nadu port minister very late, long after the original deadline expired. "You should have done regular monitoring and identified the issues early, " he said.
He said the previous UDF government had done nearly everything by the time the LDF had taken over. "Not just environment clearance, the former UDF government had acquired 90% of the land required for the project, " Vincent said. Devarkovil said 97% of the land acquisition process was now complete.
Opposition Leader V D Satheesan, too, blamed the government for its poor supervision of the project. "Is it enough to assess the progress of work after the deadline is over, " Satheesan said. "You should have periodically monitored the progress of the project. You had no control over the concessionaire, " he said.
Though the minister had earlier said that work on the breakwater would begin this October, Devarkovil said on Monday that work had not yet resumed. "The heavy rains in October has prevented the resumption of work, " the minister said.
At the moment, the minister said that the company had a stock of 16 lakh tonnes of granite, stored at Vizhinjam, Muthalapozhi and Kollam. "The barges were all ready to ferry the rocks from these three sites to the project area but heavy rains have stood in the way, " the minister said.