KOTTAYAM: A walk via sinuous walkways leading through a wide variety of flora and fauna is undoubtedly a peaceful experience for all who come to Mango Meadows agriculture theme park in Kaduthuruthy in Kottayam. However, Covid has cast a shadow over the very existence of the park as its operations have gone off the track ever since the pandemic hit the state.
The Covid-induced lockdowns and restrictions for the past one-and-a-quarter years have adversely affected the functioning of the park and its operational loss and the pending loans have accumulated to a whopping Rs 25 crore by now. “We have as many as 4,800 species of plants including 700 trees and 900 flowering plants, 64 varieties of fish and almost all domestic animals and birds here. Unlike other ventures, we can’t cut down on the expenses even if the park is closed as we have to take care of all these plants, animals and fish varieties. We incur an expense of nearly Rs 6 lakh per month even if the park is closed,” said N K Kurien, owner of the park.
Though financial issues of Mango Meadows had commenced shortly after the first flood in 2018, the issues aggravated with the outbreak of Covid. “While Nipah affected our hospitality wing, back-to-back floods not only inflicted damage to our properties but also led to income loss. Meanwhile, the Covid outbreak has put us in deep trouble,” he said.
All these affected the repayment of loans availed from a non-banking finance company (NBFC) putting Mango Meadows in huge debt. With the finance company securing a favourable order for confiscating the property, Kurien is seeking a government-level intervention to tide over the crisis.
“As my loan has been moved to non-performing assets (NPA) category, only a one-time settlement option is available for which I have to find around Rs 25 crore immediately. I request the government to assign any of its financial agencies such as Kerala Financial Corporation (KFC), Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation or Kerala Bank to take over the loan so that I can repay it in instalments,” Kurien said.
Industries Minister P Rajeeve said he had directed the district industries centre general manager to look into the issues of Mango Meadows. However, Rajeeve said he was unable to comment on taking over Kurien’s loans by KFC as it comes under the Ministry of Finance. Kurien puts all his hopes on Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who has agreed for a meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday to hear about the issues.
Claimed to be the world’s largest agricultural theme park, Mango Meadows is a unique place of biodiversity that brought pride to Kerala for being the best example for conserving the environment.
Being a repository of rare species like the Ficus alii tree, Beggar’s bowl or Calabash, Rhododendron and Damas, the park had found place in the URF World Records and Limca Book of Records for developing the maximum number of agriculture and horticulture species in a minimum area of 30 acres.