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Churches' opinions divided over Kerala mega-port

21 August 2015

LUIDGER/COMMONS

Fishing heritage: the natural port of Vizhinjam

Fishing heritage: the natural port of Vizhinjam

A HUGE new port to be built in Kerala, in south-west India, has divided Christians in the area, press reports say.

The Roman Catholic Church this week led a protest march against the development of the Vizhinjam Port, which, it says, will displace thousands of families and destroy the livelihoods of 50,000 fishermen.

A delegation from the RC Church met the Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, to discuss the project. The priest who led the church delegation, Fr Eugene Pereira, said that he was given a patient hearing, and was assured by Mr Chandy that their concerns would be looked into.

Many of the fishing community belong to the RC Church. Members of the Church of South India (CSI) are found among the Nadar caste, which is more politically and financially influential, and is likely to benefit from the port development.

The CSI Bishop in South Kerala, the Rt Revd Dharmaraj Rasalam, has backed the project. Local news reports quoted Bishop Rasalam as saying: “We want development of the area. . . In my opinion, the mega-port project should not be delayed.”

The port scheme was first mooted 25 years ago, but has been subject to repeated delays and prolonged negotiations. Work on the port is due to begin officially on 1 November. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is expected to lay the foundation stone.

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