Not amusing

a rs 25 crore amusement park coming up in Kerala's Kannur district, sponsored by local Communist Party of India-Marxist (cpi-m) leaders, has raised environmental and health concerns. The water park is to be set up near the famous Parassinikadavu temple. Promoted by a cooperative society called Malabar Pleasures Private Limited (mppl), the nine hectare facility will open in the second half of 2005.

N Balakrishnan, a technical consultant to the project, says its water needs will be met by an artificial lake at the park site. "Considering the area gets an annual rainfall of 3,000 millimetre, the water stored in the lake will be enough for 180-210 days even if one considers evaporation loss,' he explains. But the project's opponents are not convinced. "The world over, such parks are known water guzzlers and are set up in water surplus areas,' argues Berlin Kunjanandan Nair, a local leader who was expelled from cpi-m recently. While mppl says the park's water requirement will be 0.2 million litres daily, opponents believe it will be up to 1 million litres daily.

This will burden groundwater resources. Anthur panchayat, where the park will come up, already suffers water scarcity. Besides, infectious diseases may spread through the park if its water is not treated properly. It is also feared that the project, the initial paid-up capital for which has come from cpi-m- controlled cooperative societies, might become unviable, wasting people's money. Most devotees at Parassinikadavu temple are from the society's poor strata and they won't visit the park because the entry fee of such facilities is usually high.

Strangely, amusement parks don't need environmental impact assessment. Such recreation centres are less likely to damage the environment in rural areas, reasons Kerala's acting chief town planner Eapen Varughese. "Even if the environmental impact of the project is minimal, as the promoters claim, they should have volunteered to come out with an environmental impact statement,' feels T Gangadharan, former president of Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishat, a pro- cpi-m environmental movement. It is also surprising that cpi-m, at the forefront of the anti-Coca-Cola struggle in Palakkad district to fight groundwater exploitation, is supporting this project.

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