Thousands of villagers are vehemently opposing a plan to expand a port owned by billionaire Gautam Adani, raising concerns about the potential disruption to their lands and livelihoods.
The Kattupalli port, originally built by Larson & Toubro and acquired by Adani Ports in 2018, is now subject to an ambitious proposal that would expand its size from 330 acres to a staggering 6,110 acres, a move contested by the predominantly fishing-dependent communities in the region.
Adani Ports contends that the expansion is vital for enhancing trade connectivity in the area, with plans to increase cargo capacity and develop new rail and road networks. However, fisher people from over 100 towns and villages along the coast argue that the proposed expansion would significantly impact their work and further deplete local fish populations. Environmentalists join the opposition, expressing concerns about coastal erosion, loss of biodiversity, and potential harm to Pulicat Lake, the second-largest saltwater lake in the country.
In response to the accusations, Adani Port spokespersons dismiss the claims as “misplaced,” asserting that locals supporting the expansion are not adequately represented in the protests. The ongoing agitation, which initially began in 2018, intensified in September when the state government initiated the environmental clearance process for the project, prompting strong protests and the postponement of a mandatory public hearing by the Pollution Control Board.
While the company plans to reclaim portions of the sea for expansion, critics argue that the east coast’s geographical landscape, particularly in Tamil Nadu, is unsuitable for such extensive port construction. Dr. Ilango Lakshmanan, a hydrogeology professor at IIT Madras, warns that this could lead to disruptions in coastal topography and increased sea erosion.
Industry experts, however, suggest that the expansion could benefit the state’s economy and employment rates. Former president of Hindustan Chamber of Commerce, Valliappan Nagappan, acknowledges the economic gains but emphasizes the need for fair compensation and proper relocation of locals.
Protesters remain skeptical, expressing determination to protect their livelihoods. They accuse the Tamil Nadu government of not fulfilling promises made during elections to scrap the expansion plan.
This is not the first time Adani Ports has faced protests; a similar situation unfolded in Kerala in 2022. The Kattupalli protests persist as locals demand assurance for the protection of their livelihoods and skepticism remains regarding promises from port authorities.