Activists protest as Goa strips coconut of tree status

Panaji, Jan 11 (IANS) A group of Green activists, agitated over the Goa government officially stripping the coconut palm of its universal recognition as a tree, on Monday staged protests on the National Highway 17 in North Goa and disrupted traffic.

Led by Prajal Sakhardande in Guirim village, the protestors condemned the move by the BJP-led coalition government last week to “de-recognise” the coconut tree as a tree.

They said they were inspired by the Chipko movement led by Sundarlal Bahuguna in the 1970s against tree felling in then Uttar Pradesh.

Sakhardande said the government’s move was necessitated by vested economic interests.

“The act of the Goa government makes it extremely easy to cut a coconut tree and will result not only in destruction of the trees but in Goa’s socio-cultural identity too,” Sakhardande said before police removed the protestors from the highway.

Later, the 50-odd protestors hugged the trees along the NH-17, as a symbolic mark of protest just like it used to be done by men, women and children in the Chipko movement during the 1970s.

Sakhardande demanded that the coconut palm should be re-included in the state’s official list of “trees”.

While removing the coconut palm from the official list of “trees in the state” by amending the Goa Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984, Goa’s Forest Minister Rajendra Arlekar said the coconut palm was in the first place wrongly defined as a “tree” by earlier governments.

“It was included in error as a tree by the (Congress-led coalition government) in 2008. We are correcting the anomaly,” Arlekar said.

The opposition, however, has alleged that the decision was taken to promote industrialisation and real estate development in the state by paying scant regard to environment.

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