Local Goa News

Saturday, August 6, 2016

NOC must to cut over 2 coconut trees

PANAJI: After the declassification of coconut tree in January 2016 sparked off massive public outrage, the Goa government on Friday announced that farmers seeking to cut coconut palms for either replanting or to raise a new plantation will need its approval.

In a notification issued in the official gazette, the government has stated that as coconut is a horticultural crop, farmers will have to mandatorily follow the specified procedure to obtain a no objection certificate (NOC) from authorities at different levels. The notification comes into immediate effect.
As per the specified procedure, any farmer or individual wishing to cut two coconut palms in a calendar year will have to approach the zonal agriculture officer (ZAO) of the respective taluka.
In case, ten coconut palms are sought to be axed in a calendar year, the farmer will have to obtain NOC from the director of agriculture.
But, if the number of trees is more than ten in a calendar year, the government will refer the matter to an expert committee. "This committee will decide the applications on a case-to-case basis," an official said. Farmers will have to provide details of Krishi card or proof of landholding.
The government first made it public that it wished to declassify coconut palm (cocos nucifera) from the list of trees in the Goa Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984, in December 2015.
The palm tree, as an integral part of the state's landscape, enjoys an iconic status among Goans. Its palm-fringed beaches have been priceless tourism assets for decades.
Naturally, the move evoked public anger, as demonstrations and expressing of anger in public or social media followed for some time. A public interest litigation was also filed before the Bombay high court at Goa, challenging the government's decision.
But environment minister Rajendra Arlekar had dismissed the protests as being politically motivated, stating that citizens are not proposing any positive suggestions.
As part of that, after the bill had been passed in January, 2016, the government has issued the notification to farmers regarding axing of coconut palms.
In another notification issued by director of agriculture, Ulhas P Kakode, an expert committee comprising secretary (agriculture) as chairperson, a representative of Indian council of agricultural research - central coastal agricultural research institute ((ICAR-CCARI), Old Goa as member and director of agriculture as member secretary has been announced.
But, some activists, who were in the forefront of the agitation, said the notification is a cover up. "The government has realized that its decision has made them very unpopular," activist, Avertino Miranda said.
Arlekar had stated that farmers or anybody seeking to cut the coconut palm would be required to obtain NOC from the authorities when the bill was passed.
Activists said the assurance and the NOC criterion is irrelevant. "The forest department hardly rejects any requests to fell trees," an environmentalist said.
Meanwhile, Prajal Sakhardande of History Heritage Action Group, which has filed a petition in the high court against the declassification of the coconut tree, has said they welcome this NOC.

TOI Goa News

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