Herald: Chipko comes to Goa to save mute coconut trees

Chipko comes to Goa to save mute coconut trees

28 May 2017 05:42am IST
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28 May 2017 05:42am IST
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Take a picture of any part in Goa and it cannot be without a coconut tree. It is an integral part of Goa’s ecology. Recently, on the World’s Biodiversity Day, several NGOs and activists gathered in Goa to protect these mute but beautiful coconut trees from being felled in the name of destruction. VIKANT SAHAY talked to several activists and learnt that the Chipko Movement which started in 1973 in Uttarkhand by Sunderlal Bahuguna has lately taken birth again here in Goa

Goa, apart from its beaches is identified by its beautiful coconut trees, both at the beach and in the hinterlands. In fact, many Goan companies and departments have proudly displayed coconut trees in their official logo. It is a matter of pride for the Goans and rightly so as none of the major Goan cuisine can be completed without coconut as its ingredient. It is an impeccable identity of Goa.  

Last year on January 11, 2016 the Goa Heritage Action Group, led by  Prajal Sakhardande, Head of the department of history at Dempe College came to know that a beer factory was proposed to be set up at Ambdai, Sanguem which could have led to felling of several hundred coconut trees.

“When we came to know about this, we decided to take a leaf out of the 1973 Chipko movement which was led by Sunderlal Bahuguna in what is now Uttrakhand and named our movement as ‘Save Coconut Tree Chipko Andolan’ and decided to stage their first Chipko movement in Goa. We along with several students and activist Kapil Korgaonkar of Goan for Education, members from Goa Forgiving and several NGOs participated in hugging of coconut trees in the Giri-Mapusa highway. We had also heard that these 200 coconut trees which were planted in 1980, were also supposed to be felled. At that time, at least four MLAs even though uninvited, joined the movement. Two of them are ministers in the present government and unfortunately none of these ministers had any word for us,” said Prof Sakhardande. However, he appreciated the support from Curtorim MLA Alex Reginald Lawrence.

The same thing was repeated in Nuvem on February 14, 2016, followed our protest in Goa Vellah.

Following all such movement, last year in November the then government of Laxmikant Parsekar came up with an amendment to the Tree Preservation Act of 1984 which mentioned that the coconut tree will be declassified as a tree. This meant that permission of the forest department will not be required to fell a coconut tree. This was draconian and it meant that felling of coconut trees can be done at ease by any one. “We have filed a case against the state government and the hearing is now going on in the High Court,” added Prof Sakhardande.

“This year Sidney Fernandes and Prasad Pankar informed us that about two hundred trees have been marked with yellow paints for felling. So we revived the movement and made our Chipko movement on May 22, which is World’s Biodiversity Day. About 100 people including Suraj Naik and Edwin Pinto participated in it,” added Prajal Sakhardande. On May 23, Mr Manoj Parab of the Revolutionary Goans also led the same movement and about 200 people joined it. Both these organisations the Revolutionary Goans and the Goa Heritage Action Group supported each other for the cause of saving the coconut trees. All the activist who gathered to protect the trees used social media like facebook and whatsapp to disseminate information on the programme and timings of the event. “Last year it was spontaneous but this year it was more well organised as there are several whatsapp and facebook groups active to protect Goa heritage. We invited all the groups, NGOs and activists,” said Prof Sakhardande.

The activists contested Chief Minister Parrikar’s statement that the instructions to PDW was given not to fell the tree before this movement shaped up. “This is not true. If that be the case then why were the trees marked with yellow paints. We will not allow anyone to cut even a single tree in Goa,” quipped one vocal activist.

“I am a civil engineer and how can I be against development? However,  the authorities need to find a way of doing development work without felling the trees. It may cost a bit more at the moment but it can save it from massive ecological damage. It unnerves me when I see this myopic outlook for development,” said Anagha Fernandes, an activist and designer by profession.

Ms Anne Ketteringham who is based in France but visits Goa every year said, “It is with distress that I heard of this wanton destruction of the environment in the name of development, yet again in Goa. Whatever happens, every effort must be taken to preserve these coconut trees.”

Sidney Fernandes believes that, “The coconut tree is an integral part of Goan’s lifespan and hence this indiscriminate felling of coconut trees in the name of development is very much detrimental to the ecological interest of Goa.”

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