Ban construction where coconut trees are cut: Goa NCP

Panaji, Feb 1 (IANS) Construction and real estate development in areas where coconut trees have been cut should be banned, the Goa unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) demanded on Monday.

The opposition, meanwhile, continued to badger the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government over the controversial new law which derecognises coconut palms as trees.

“To save Goa’s coconut trees, the BJP should come out with an ordinance to ensure that areas where coconut trees are chopped should be barred for construction. Only agricultural activity should be allowed in these areas,” Nationalist Congress Party senior vice president Trajano D’Mello told reporters on Monday.

The comment comes two days after forest minister Rajendra Arlekar, while denying any ulterior motive behind the change in official nomenclature, said that the Goa, Daman and Diu Protection of Trees Act, 1984 had been changed so that farmers could replace existing coconut varieties with newer breeds which have better yield.

“Goan varieties now produce on an average about 32 coconuts per tree every year, but new varieties produce 300 to 350 coconuts per tree, per year. The old trees need to be replaced with new ones and to do that under the earlier law needed a lot of formalities,” Arlekar said on Saturday.

During the recently concluded winter session of the Goa legislative assembly, the government had passed a controversial amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Protection of Trees Act, 1984, to formally derecognise the coconut palm as a tree.

The move had invited a lot of criticism from the opposition, coalition partners as well as from civil society both in India and abroad.

Soon after the act was passed in the state legislative assembly, Opposition MLAs as well as civil society activists alleged several instances where chunks of coconut groves were chopped to make way for development of the land for real estate and industrial projects.

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