Goa to classify coconut tree as 'palm'
BJP government in Goa tabled an amendment to the 'Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act', classifying the coconut tree as 'palms'. Goa's Forest Minister, Rajendra Arlekar said, inclusion of coconut as tree was an error by the Congress in 2008 as it does not qualify as tree in botanical terms. The bill also increases fines for felling trees from Rs.10,000 to Rs.25,000.
Goa cabinet approves amendment
In a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, the Goa state government approved removal of the coconut from the tree category. The government has justified the decision, saying the definition of tree includes main trunk with branches, whereas coconut palm does not have branches, making it a 'palm'. With the amendment, forest department's permission will not be required to cut coconut trees.
Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984
Section 1-A, of the Act, defines the coconut plant as a tree, and will now be omitted by the proposed amendment. Instead, coconut will now be defined as a palm, facilitating its cutting down under section 12-A. The definition of trees (under section 2(j)), will also be amended from 5cm diameter at height of 30cm to 10cm diameter at a height of 1m.
A multi-purpose plant
Coconut trees in Goa are often called 'Kalpavriksha', the mythical wish fulfilling tree, due to its immense utility across cooking, housing, handicrafts, etc.
Protests all around
Activists fear that the declassification may lead to large scale felling of coconut trees, which form an important part of the socio-cultural identity of Goa. Activists inspired by Chipko movement, hugged the trees along the NH-17 as a symbolic move to mark their protest. The Congress has criticized the government's move as it will cause degradation of both Goa's culture as well as environment.
Distillery or coconut tree?
"The deletion [of Section 1-A] is aimed at allowing an upcoming distillery project in Sanguem which will pave way to cut 800 tress of coconut and the decision will have the axe on all the coconut trees in the state," Vijai Sardessai, Fatorda MLA.