The controversial mangrove theme park set up by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-controlled Pappinissery Eco-Tourism Society on the mangrove-rich northern bank of the Valapattanam river was reopened on Sunday.

The park had been closed on July 20 after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, through the State Coastal Zone Management Authority, served a closure order on the society.

The reopening of the park at a function attended by senior CPI(M) leaders, including Central committee member E.P. Jayarajan and jubilant party workers, marked yet another phase of the park which had been mired in controversy ever since it was opened on April 4 last. The reopening of the park, set up on a 4.85-hectare ecologically fragile mangrove area close to the National Highway near the Valapattanam bridge, followed a decision of the High Court to grant a stay order against the Union Ministry's directive that the park be closed as it was a clear breach of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.

Mr. Jayarajan inaugurated a Mangroves Study Research Centre as part of the reopening of the park. The society claimed that the research centre would start functioning from Sunday. Saplings of all species of mangrove plants available in the State would be planted in the park in one month, society office-bearers said.

Mr. Jayarajan, in his inaugural speech, said protests against the park that led to the directive of the Union Ministry and subsequently to its closure had been sponsored by people with anti-development mindset and politicians driven by jealousy. Party leaders P. Sasi and M. Prakashan, MLA, were among those present at the function.

The opposition to the mangrove theme park, initially raised by local environmental groups, had assumed a political dimension when the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League and their affiliates took up the issue and brought it to the fore.

The jubilant mood that marked the reopening function was apparently a payback for the district leadership of the CPI(M) which had faced embarrassment when the park was closed on the basis of a report of a team constituted by the Ministry on a petition filed by Kannur MP K. Sudhakaran, the CPI(M)'s archrival in the district, alleging that the park was operating in violation of the CRZ norms.

The society had already said that it would strictly abide by the directions of the High Court which had ordered that no commercial activities be carried out in the park.

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