Celebrate a coconut tree-themed Valentine’s Day, urges Goa NGO

Panaji, Feb 3 (IANS) On Valentine’s Day, celebrated universally on February 14, a charitable trust in Goa has invited people to make coconut trees their valentine, to innovatively protest against the state government’s controversial decision to officially de-recognise the coconut palm as a tree.

Armando Gonsalves, who is part of the Goa For Giving trust, told IANS that apart from celebrating the coconut tree for its multiple uses and its significance to Goa’s cultural identity, a unique photo contest is being organised in which lovers and married couples were invited to hug coconut trees.

“Valentine’s Day is a befitting day to respond to this draconian law which the Goa assembly passed on January 14, to de-recognise the coconut palm as a tree. The ‘Coconut Love Coconut Valentine’ photo contest is just one of the initiatives we have planned for the day,” Gonsalves said.

The photo contest has three categories — the first one for lovers who can post a photo hugging a coconut tree, and the second for married couples.

“Those who don’t have a valentine, can make the coconut tree their valentine for the day, hug the tree and send us the photos. That is the third category. It is the duty of every Goan to protect the coconut tree and protest against the law which goes against the interests of Goa,” Gonsalves said.

On January 14, the Goa government amended the Goa, Daman and Diu Protection of Trees Act, 1984, dropping the coconut palm from the official list of trees.

The amendment attracted a lot of criticism from the opposition, coalition partners of the ruling BJP as well as from the civil society, both in India and abroad.

While critics insist that the amendment was pushed by real estate and commercial interests, Forest and Environment Minister Rajendra Arlekar defended the amendment saying the law was amended to benefit coconut farmers to cut old and non productive palms without having to undergo bureaucratic delays.

On February 14, civil society activists will publicly hug trees at two locations along the national highway-17, where nearly two dozen coconut palms have been earmarked for felling.

“Subsequently, we have organised another event on the same day where food, music, which will accompany a cultural show involving songs and music about the coconut tree,” Gonsalves said.

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