KOCHI - Construction on a $900 million port in Kerala, southern India resumed on Thursday after protesters from a mainly Christian fishing village ended a blockade of the Adani Group site.
The port has strategic importance for both India and Adani's owner Gautam Adani, an ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as on completion it will be the country's first container transhipment hub, rivalling Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
At least 20 construction vehicles drove into the site in Vizhinjam, an Adani official told Reuters, after almost four months of deadlock over the project, which villagers blame for coastal erosion and affecting their livelihoods.
Adani, a conglomerate which is owned by Asia's richest man, says the port complies with all laws and has cited studies that show it is not linked to shoreline erosion, which the Kerala government says is due to natural causes.
"Work has resumed in full swing. We are working 24/7 to complete the project as early as possible," said the Adani official, who declined to be identified.
Video footage provided by the official showed vehicles trundling into the site without any sign of a shelter which the protesters had used to block its entrance.
Father Theodacious D'Cruz, one of the Catholic priests leading the protest, confirmed the entry had been cleared.
A day earlier, another priest said the protests would be suspended while an expert panel conducts an environmental impact study, but D'Cruz told Reuters he did not support that decision.
He declined to elaborate.
The Kerala government has said it was committed to the project, which supporters say will create jobs. But in a manifesto, the villagers said they would not end their protest until plans have been made to resettle those who have lost their homes and land to the project and to coastal erosion.
Environmental activists have in the past held protests against another Adani project - the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, Australia. The campaigners, concerned about carbon emissions and damage to the Great Barrier Reef, forced Adani to lower production targets and delay shipments.
(Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by Alexander Smith)