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The Goa Coco `nut' controversy: State government removes coconut from protected trees list
The BJP led state government of Goa has recently come under fire from angry residents of Goa and environmentalists after it removed the coconut tree from the list of protected trees which require prior permission before being felled.

The BJP state government has amended the Preservation of Trees Act by removing the coconut tree from the protected trees list, drawing flak from activists and opposition parties alike.

Social activist and Aam Aadmi Party member Dr Oscar Rebello said, "Distillers want to use coconut groves to set up their factories and unless they cut them down they cannot. This amendment helps them do that."

The Congress party has claimed that it's government had brought the coconut tree under the preservation act in 2008 to curb illegal felling of trees, which meant that a coconut tree could only be felled after seeking permission from the Forest department, if it posed a threat to life or property.

Congress spokesperson Sunil Kawanthankar said, "Now the law allows anyone to cut the coconut tree as it is no longer preserved."

The Goa government has defended its decision by saying that the amendment had been done to check the abundant growth of coconut trees which had grown precariously throughout the state, causing threat to life and property. The amendment according to the state government is a move to remove unnecessary hassles of seeking permissions for felling a precariously grown coconut tree.

The state government has also clarified that it had ensured maximum protection of coconut trees by increasing the penalty of illegal felling of a coconut trees from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 lakh per tree.

A fashion designer by profession and one of the well known residents of Goa, Wendel Rodericks said, "I presume that people want to cut coconut trees to sell off land or to further projects... it is distressing."

Famous Goan singer Friz Love has recorded and released a song on YouTube in English and Konkani, urging Goans to save the coconut tree.

Coconut is a fruit which is very dear to Goans, who use it in curries and its oil as a medium of cooking. A majority of the green cover in the state of Goa comprises of coconut tress which were protected by the Goa Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984. Whether this green cover remains intact after this new act comes into force, is a big question!

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