‘Coconut not a tree’: Threatens identity or human life?

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 31 December 2015 20:30 IST

The move of the Bharatiya Janata Party government to delete ‘coconut’ from the definition of a tree has created furore across Goa, posing a pertinent question: If not a tree, then what is coconut?

Opposition has alleged that the move is aimed at cutting coconut grove (Kullagar) for the benefit of industrial and real estate lobbies, while destroying Goa’s identity – the Kalpavruksh.

Forest minister Rajendra Arlekar however tells goanews.com that the move is aimed purely to ease common man of Goa, who has to face hardships to remove a coconut tree endangering his house or human life.

While impression has been created that the government has already implemented the decision taken at the cabinet meeting held on 18 December, Arlekar has said it could be implemented only if the Assembly permits to amend the act.

“I am moving an amendment bill in the forthcoming winter Assembly session to amend the act”, he said.

While the five-day winter session ends on 15 January, Fatorda independent MLA Vijai Sardesai has threatened to launch a state-wide agitation if the government does not reverse its cabinet decision by 16 January, the Opinion Poll Day.

“Coconut is the identity (Osmitai) of Goa and the BJP government is all out to destroy our identity and Goenkarponn”, alleges Sardesai.

Addressing a press conference today morning, Sardesai also alleged that the changes are made for the benefit of a distillery proposed in a property in Sanguem, which has around 1000 coconut trees.

Refuting this allegation, Arlekar says he is prepared to amend the act further by imposing a limit on the number of trees allowed to be cut without getting into legal hassles of the forest act.

According to Miguel Braganza, Goa’s renowned botanist and tree lover, there is nothing wrong in deleting coconut from the definition since tree needs to have branches.

The Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984 (Click to read the Act) defines the tree as follows:

“tree” means any woody plant whose branches spring from and are supported upon a trunk or body and whose trunk or body is not less than five centimetre in diameter at a height of thirty centimetres from the ground level and is not less than one metre in height from the ground level.

“Coconut is a palm thus was not considered a tree even before 2008”, says Braganza, but still wonders why the government has forth with these amendments.

THE CABINET NOTE

The cabinet decision primarily proposes to delete section 1A, which includes ‘coconut’ in the definition of a tree but intends to include the word ‘coconut’ in section 12A, which deals with “removal of trees, etc., which are in ruinous state or likely to fall.”

The cabinet note states as follows:

“During the amendment of Goa Preservation of Trees Act during 2008, Section 1A was inserted in the Act to include provision for removing and disposing of trees which pose imminent danger to life or property. The provisions of the original Act were not applicable to coconut tree, and was brought under the purview of the Act in 2008 by insertion of Section 1-A regarding definition of term tree and Section 12 A regarding removal of trees etc which are in ruinous state or likely to fall. Though the amendment was intended to include coconut tree only for this specified section of the Act all the other provisions of the Act became applicable due to lack of adequate clarity. Hence it is now propose to delete Section 1-A and include coconut trees in Section 12-A.”

Following was the section inserted by amending the act during Congress regime in 2008:

1-: Definition of the term “tree”: Notwithstanding anything in the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984 or in any other Act for the time being in force, the term “tree” used in this Act, shall, besides other trees, include coconut trees.

The word coconut however would be added now to Section 12A, which deals with “removal of trees, etc., which are in ruinous state or likely to fall.”

It states:

“…if it appears to him  (Tree Officer or the Deputy Collectors) at any time that any tree over any land or its branch or a part thereof is in ruinous state or is in such condition that it is likely to fall and thereby cause injury to a person living or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passerby or to a building or house or any public place, he may, by written order require the person owning or possessing such tree to lop or cut down such tree or portion of a tree, which is in such condition that it is likely to fall and thereby cause injury to persons living or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing by.”

According to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Ajay Saxena, the changes are proposed since the word ‘coconut’ inserted in definition was applying to the whole act when it needs to be related only to the issue of cutting it when it endangers human life. 

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We Goans should ask a few questions to ourselves. How many cocoa nut or other trees have been preserved by us in Panaji,Margao, Vasco etc? Where have all the cocoanut pluckers and toddy tappers (padeli and render) gone? We Goans have killed our parents and now shouting and crying for becoming orphans. We Goans are not ordinary citizens but cent percent pawns of some political party.

- Madhav Bastodker, Ponda | 01 st January 2016 08:04

 

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