South Asia

Tensions rise over construction of Indian port project

Photo: Reuters

A march is expected to take place in India by the country’s ruling party over a controversial $900-million port project by the Adani Group that has been stalled by Christian protesters.

Amid rising tension among protesters at the construction site in the past few days, at least 80 people have been wounded.

Work on the project in Kerala state was stopped four months.

The protesters blame the port’s development for coastal erosion that has hit their livelihoods, an accusation billionaire Gautam Adani’s conglomerate denies.

Supporters of the port, including members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party and Hindu groups, have set up their own shelters, as the two sides face off across a street. They say the port will create jobs in the region.

The port is of strategic importance to both India and Adani, Asia’s wealthiest man and the world’s third-richest. Once completed, it will become India’s first container transhipment hub, rivaling Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka for business on the lucrative east-west trade routes.

The march by the Hindu United Front on Wednesday will have more than 1,000 people calling for construction to resume, the group’s convener K P Sasikala told Reuters.

Kerala state police have already sent reinforcements to the Vizhinjam area after villagers stormed a police station late Sunday in clashes that left 80 people injured, including 36 police.

A senior police official outside the port confirmed he was aware of the march plans of the Hindu United Front, adding they remain on high alert to prevent any possible clashes between protesters and supporters at the port entrance.

The protests have continued despite repeated orders by Kerala state’s top court to allow construction to restart.