A team of experts constituted by the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) on Tuesday visited the controversial mangrove theme park on the northern bank of the Valapattanam River to assess the damage it has caused to the ecologically fragile area there.

The expert committee headed by KCZMA member B. Madhusoodhana Kurup reached the park in the morning, a day after it was closed down when it was served by the district administration a copy of the order of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) that steps be taken to stop all activities of the park which it found was established in violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.

The seven-member team was constituted by the KCZMA chairman C.T. Sivasankaran Nair following a directive from the MoEF on July 14 that the authority form a committee to assess the damage caused to the fragile mangrove ecology in the area and submit a report by July 24.

The closure of the park run by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-controlled Pappinissery Eco-Tourism Society on July 19 followed the delivery of the KCZMA’s instruction along with a copy of the MoEF direction to stop the functioning of the park to the secretary of the society.

The team members spoke to office-bearers of the society inside the park. Mr. Kurup told reporters that the report would be submitted by July 24. The team would hear views of people supporting and opposingthe setting up of the park, he said adding that representatives of political parties and environmental groups would also be heard by the team as part of its efforts to examine all aspects of the issue.

The park inaugurated by film star Suresh Gopi on April 4 last was beset with controversies as environmental activists and Opposition United Democratic Front alleged that the park was in violation of the CRZ Rules. The opposition to the mangrove theme park, envisaged as part of a comprehensive eco-tourism project of the society, had received an impetus after the MoEF ordered that the park be closed as it was a violation of the CRZ Rules. The MoEF’s direction was based on the finding of a two-member team it had sent to the park following a complaint lodged against the park by local MP K.Sudhakaran.