CPM’s eco-park in Kerala facing closure

via VR Jayaraj | Kannur - Daily Pioneer published on July 17, 2010

Kannur, which has witnessed seen incidents of Marxist violence in the past, is set to witness a campaign by the party for protecting a mangrove theme park a society under it is running. With Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh issuing clear instructions to close down the park, the party is preparing to withstand the move using people’s power.

Environmentalists and the Congress party allege that the Rs 5-crore park project of CPI(M)-controlled Pappinissery Eco-Tourism Society is dangerous to the sensitive ecosystem of the mangrove forest. But the CPI(M) argues that the park project is meant for the conservation and protection of the mangrove forest and for helping researchers. The park had started functioning two months back.

Jairam Ramesh said in New Delhi on Saturday that the mangrove park project was being run in blatant violation of the environmental laws and the Coastal Regulation Zone Act. He said that stringent measures would be taken if the society did not close down the park. However, the closure would happen only after the State Coastal Zone Management Authority gives it report to the Centre.

When Kannur’s Congress MP K Sudhakaran had produced a letter from the Union Minister to claim that the Centre wanted the park closed, the CPI(M) maintained that projects could not be shut down on the basis of friendly letters from a Minister to an MP. But, sources say, the CPI(M) had cleverly concealed the fact that the Centre had written to the society also to stop all park-related works immediately.

The land where the park is being developed is adjacent to the Valapattanam river in Kannur and has been listed as ecologically fragile where constructions are banned. The developers of the park, allegedly with the connivance of the local administration body and the State Government, had carried out constructions and development in the mangrove forest. Broad mud-roads have been constructed by clearing mangrove clusters in several places.

The CPI(M) fears that any failure in the efforts to protect the project would mean serious setback to the party just when the State is preparing for the local bodies elections in September. In this situation, the CPI(M) has formally come out to defend the park project, with district secretary P Sasi declaring that people’s movement would ensure its survival.

Though he had no official role to play in the issue of the park, Kerala Power Minister AK Balan of the CPI(M) took up the matter with Jairam Ramesh when he met him in Delhi on Saturday. He asked Ramesh not to be influenced by the demands of K Sudhakaran MP but to go by the facts concerning the project. However, Ramesh maintained that the park would have to close down.

The State Coastal Zone Management Authority would send a fact-finding team to Pappinissery to hold on-site assessment of the violation of the Coastal Zone Regulation Act this week. The decision on the continuance of the park would be taken on the basis of the report of this team. “The violation of the relevant laws and rules are so obvious that the CPI(M)-run society would have no justifications,” said a senior official in the State Environment and Forest Ministry.

The CPI(M) is already running several huge healthcare, entertainment and media businesses. The party-controlled Malayalam Communications Limited is running three television channels. Through a society, it is running an amusement park, Vismaya, at Parassinikkadavu in Kannur. Spread over 30 acres of land, this park also is facing allegations of over-exploitation of natural resources.

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