The entrance to billionaire Gautam Adani's projected Vizhinjam mega port on the southernmost tip of India is blocked by a shelter built by the local Christian fishing community, halting further building.
The country's first container trans-shipment port, a $900 million project that aims to swipe into the extremely profitable shipping trade flowing between juggernaut manufacturers in the East and wealthy consumer markets in the West, has been hampered since August by the simple 1,200 square foot structure with a wraparound porch.
Up to 300 police officers armed with batons assemble nearby every day to keep a watchful eye on the situation, even when there aren't many protesters. The Kerala state's highest court has repeatedly ordered that the work should go without interruption, but the police have refused to do so out of concern that doing so could fuel up social and religious tensions that have been building up around the port.
The building of the port, according to protest leaders, has caused substantial coastal erosion since December 2015, and additional construction threatens to severely damage the livelihood of a fishing community. They want the government to cease construction and undertake objective research on how the port's expansion will affect the marine ecosystem.
In deliberation with protesters, the state government of Kerala has argued that erosion has taken place as a consequence of cyclones and other natural calamities.
In a statement, Adani Group claimed that no environmental or social breaches have been detected by India's National Green Tribunal, which has been monitoring the project's repercussions. It's a high-stakes impasse for Adani, who is the third-richest person in the world according to Forbes, and there does not appear to be an easy and quick way out.
It has been stated that the protests have resulted in "immense loss" and "massive delay" to the project. It has also been stated that protestors have threatened port officials with "dire implications" and a "constant and ongoing militant" threat.
The Adani conglomerate has also demanded the deployment of federal police, calling the Kerala state police "silent spectators." The next court hearing addressing Adani's complaints is timetabled for Monday.