The project awarded to Adani Ports & SEZ in 2015 is touted by its supporters to usher in development, economic benefits and massive job creation in Kerala.
Apart from the allegations of being economically unviable, the project is expected to have severe consequences on the fragile local ecosystems, coastal livelihoods including fishing and tourism.
Almost 4 years since its inception, the anxieties on compensation, livelihoods, rehabilitation, loss of coastal landscapes are proving to be true. However, the responses from different stakeholders have been divisive and varied.
Moreover, the state government’s effort to set up a centralised waste-to-energy plant, which will be used to power the entire operations of the upcoming Vizhinjam International Seaport project in the state capital, has sparked widespread protest from local residents even amid the lockdown. Earlier, a similar attempt by the government to set up the waste plant at the ecologically sensitive Perimangala was dropped following disapproval by the local people. The plan is to set up an Integrated Solid Waste Management Project with a waste-to-energy plant at Vizhinjam. The Port Department has leased out 15 acres of its land at Vizhinjam under its possession to Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC)..
By January 2020 , the shortage of limestone, the most important raw material for the construction of Kerala"s dream port project -- Vizhinjam -- affected the work at the port site, causing a delay in the project completion, which should have seen the berthing of a ship in 2018.
At the time of commencement of work on the port on December 5, 2015, Adani Ports owner Gautam Adani had announced that the first ship will berth there on September 1, 2018, in a record time of less than 1,000 days. This, however, did not happen, and the second important deadline was December 4, 2019, which was the original date of completion of the first phase, but that has also not been met.
M. Vincent, the MLA from here, told IANS: "The biggest issue is the huge shortage of limestone. The Adani Ports officials told us that even though the government has given license to 20 quarries, only one is working...
The project stalled in 2017 after cyclone Ockhi hit the construction site and a portion of the constructed breakwater was washed away. "The total length of the breakwater is 3.1 km and today what we saw was that only just 700 metres has been completed. We were told by the company officials that if there is an uninterrupted supply of limestone, it will take another 18 months for the port to be operational." The total cost of the port project is Rs 7,525 crore and the state government has contributed 500 acres of land..
By 2015, Down to Earth had reported  that the ports would be an ecological nightmare. "The proposed port site is just 250 metres south of the ever-busy Vizhinjam fishing harbour. This would spell doom for the booming fishing industry and the marine biodiversity of the region. Over 20,000 fisher families live in 11 villages close to the site. Fishers say they will lose their means of livelihood if the government goes ahead with the ambitious project. Marine experts warn the port would damage the ecologically fragile coastal belt of southern Kerala, hurt the marine fauna and flora, change the shoreline and erode the popular Kovalam beach north of the project site. Just like Vizhinjam, Adimalathurai, a village south of the port site, too, is an important fish landing centre. “If the port is built here, the area will come under the port authorities and fishers will be denied access to the sea,” says T Peter, the state president of Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, an independent federation of fishers.
Marine scientists say that underwater rock dredging, rock removal, reclamation of sea, sand mining, construction of breakwater and quay walls for the port and the resulting pollution will cause substantial damage to the coastline and the fisheries resources. “The affected coastline will most likely extend to 10 km north and south of the proposed port,” says Sanjeev Ghosh, former additional director of the department of fisheries of the Kerala government. He points out that the Wadge Bank, the main fishing ground in southern India, is just 50 km off the Vizhinjam coast. “It is a breeding ground for over 200 varieties of fish and is the largest coral reef of the Indian Ocean,” he says.
The Wadge Bank is home to more than 60 species of ornamental fish and other oceanic animals. Commercially important fish such as squids, cuttlefish, carangids, tuna, anchovies and lobsters are abundant there. Ghosh wrote a letter to MoEF on July 10, 2012, pointing out the ecological importance of the area. “Wadge bank is currently being considered to be classified as a Marine Protected Area. The government should take the opinion of marine experts before going ahead with the project,” he wrote.
K K Appukuttan, a retired scientist of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in Kochi, says several endangered, threatened and protected species like Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, black pearl oyster and dolphins have been spotted on this coast. “The construction work will cause heavy silting up leading to massive biodiversity loss.”.