In what would be a shocking act in any Indian state, in Goa, the local population treated the coconut palm act with a resigned forehead tapping. A few weeks prior to the act being passed in the Goa Winter Assembly, noises were audible that the act was in the offing. At that time, it seemed incredulous to us Goans that even the thought of such a scandalous farce was being mooted - the Act permits the felling of coconut trees without the permission of the Forest Department.
Then the facts began to trickle out.
That almost 500 trees needed to be felled for a brewery plant. That many trees needed to chopped for the proposed new airport. That the building and hotel lobbies wanted land cleared for their projects.
So the proposal was put up in the Assembly, and amazingly, the Opposition walked out. Leaving the Act to be passed.
Personally, I wish the Goan Assembly were conducted in Konkani. If the state language were used, the word for coconut tree ("maad" or "rukh") would have ended the debate to declassify it from a tree to a palm. Unfortunately, the English language does distinguish a tree from a palm. Considering that most of our Goan politicians are against a convent school education and are more comfortable in Konkani, it is ironic that their proficiency in the English language is conveniently pushed to the fore regarding a tree and a palm. Politicos with election funding foremost on their mind for 2017 ignore the cultural, mythic and religious emotion of a Sankrit-derived word. In Konkani, the word "kalpaviukshra", used for the coconut tree, translates as "the tree that grants your wishes".
In the span of three days, the coconut became a palm, and the Assembly considered declaring monkeys as vermin (O Hanuman, please forgive their insolence); there was also the daft insinuation by Forest and Environment Minister Rajendra Arlekar that Goa will be better off if the green cover is reduced. Arlekar seems incredibly ignorant of worldwide green concerns and opinions.
In view of these comments which have incensed honest Goans to rise in protest and save Goa from destruction, I wish to remind our government that God created the coconut trees, the monkeys and the green cover. You have no right to now control, regulate, manipulate and destroy what was created by God. There is no point in praying at places of worship, offering coconuts, or breaking them for auspicious and religious functions when your hands have been bloodied with the destruction of this land that God created and bestowed with such ample, natural beauty.
I implore all Goans, Indians and international citizens who love Goa to rise in protest till the coconut tree Act is reversed and removed. We cannot have a Goa without our beloved coconut trees swaying on our beaches and rivers, lining roads and fields, beautifying our groves and orchards, and above all, flavouring and enriching our famed Goan Curry rice. Raise your coconut water or coconut feni glasses, and save Goa.
(Wendell Rodricks is a fashion designer, writer and environmental activist. He lives in Goa.)
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