Local associations against Latin Bishop at Vizhinjam

Thiruvananthapuram (Matters India): Divergent voices have emerged in support of the Vizhinjam seaport project even as the Latin Catholic Church is gearing up for a protest march to the Secretariat on Thursday against the port project.

Two organizations – Theeradesha Vikasana Ekopana Samithi, Valiyathura, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church – have come forward in support of the project.

They said the proposed Rs 7,525 crore project was for a good cause and would develop the area. They demanded that the church leadership correct its stand and support the construction activities.

“The Catholic church is spreading rumours and misleading the public against the Vizhinjam project, which has got all prerequisite environmental clearances and has carried out a comprehensive study considering all aspects of the project,” said Veli Varghese, chairman of Kerala Theeradesha Vikasana Ekopana Samithi.

He said the objections raised by the Latin Catholic church and some political parties were amateurish and defied logic. “The project was welcomed by a broad spectrum of people, including the fishing community. It has also allocated funds and rehabilitation packages for alternative livelihood and for the fishing community,” Varghese said.

The environment impact assessment report had earlier stated that the project would adversely affect 250 clam workers and that 75 fishermen will lose their job. Also, during the construction work, around 2,000 individuals of the fishermen community will be affected, The Times of India reported.

For rehabilitating these fishermen, the port authorities will pay Rs 7 crore. “Besides, the state government has approved Rs 128 crore as rehabilitation package for the coastal population. This includes better drinking water facilities, fish processing area, fishing training centres for youths, waste management and a new fishing harbour,” Varghese said.

He said the church and political leaders were not willing to accept these facts. “They are trying to create fear among the people against the project by even issuing a pastoral letter,” advocate Ledgar Bava, convener of Kerala Theeradesha Vikasana Ekopana Samithi, said.

Parishioners of Our Lady of Good Voyage Church, Vizhinjam, said the organization and Jama-aths will support the port project. They said the church should withdraw from the protest for the better future of the coastal population and fishermen community. “The church should call a meeting with the affected parties and discuss the issue with the government. They should halt the project which is good for the overall development of the country,” Antony A, secretary of Our Lady of Good Voyage church said.

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