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Amidst Debates Over State Tree, Goan Coconut Suffers Larger Economic Setbacks

If Coconut is the state tree of Goa, then what is matti? As the debate continues, focus shifts from the primary problem at hand.

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What is the state tree of Goa?
As the debate over the state tree of Goa continues, focus seems to be shifting from the real problem. Wikimedia
  • Each Indian State and Union Territory has its own state seals and symbols that include state trees, animals, birds, etc
  • Goa CM Manohar Parrikar has announced that the Coconut palm will be conferred status of state tree of Goa again 
  • Coconut planters continue to suffer from scanty productions as states turn a blind eye

GOA, AUGUST 1, 2017 : Politicians in Goa continue to debate over the status of the tourist state’s beloved Goan coconut trees. Is it a tree after all?

Following an issue that has now stretched for over a year, Goan agriculture minister and president of Goa Forward Party (GFP) Vijay Sardesai said the Act under which the coconut palm was de-classified as a ‘tree’ would be re-amended.

However, caught between this symbolic fiasco, what is believed to be a larger economic problem is being ignored.

Background

  • January 2016: Coconut loses the status of a tree under the then Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led coalition government
  • August 2016: Government issues notification to farmers to get a no-objection certificate (NOC) before cutting coconut palms
  • June 2017: GFP and BJP release a common minimum program promising to re-designate the coconut palm as a state tree, among other things

The debate began when former forest minister Rajendra Arlekar pointed out that Goa already has a state tree, Terminalia elliptica.

For more than a quarter century now, the matti (Terminalia elliptica), also known as the crocodile bark tree, has enjoyed the status of state tree of Goa. In order to strip it of the status, the government will have to “de-notify the matti tree and then declare the coconut tree as the state tree”, he said.

However, while Arlekar believes that because the coconut palm tree is naturally associated with Goa and is extensively used by the tourism department to promote Goa as a destination, it would be unnecessary to declare it as a state tree, the GFP ministers believe otherwise.

“The promise to make the coconut tree a state tree is part of the common minimum program and it will be implemented”, said Vijai Sardesai, president of the GFP. He is supported by Miguel Braganza, Secretary of the Botanical Society of Goa and former agriculture officer who agrees that most people and foresters don’t know about the matti tree while the coconut is easily recognized and therefore, symbolic.

While this symbolic problem of giving the coconut palm the status of state tree has captured the attention of the state legislature, a larger economic problem is being ignored.

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Coconut production in Goa has remained stagnant in the last fifteen years. Between 2000 and 2015, the quantity of total nuts produced fluctuated within the range of 125 to 129 million nuts per year which did not grow even after the coconut tree was brought under the Forest Act in 2008.

A direct impact of the staggering production is seen on the coconut planters, who do not get enough for their produce. The yield is as low as 27 to 30 nuts per year, in comparison to an expected quantity of 137 nuts per year. This forces planter to sell their property to industrialists and builders.

According to government statistics, at least 50 lakh tourists visit the state every year. This generates a huge demand for coconut, easily fetching a price of up to Rs 35 per piece. Officials believe if the coconut planters get a subsidy, fertilizers, or any other help from the government, they will be able to produce better and earn at least four times more.

ALSO READ: Kerala accounts for 37 percent of total area under Coconut Farming in India, Still Chhattisgarh leads the chart

The coconut palm tree was devoid of any status till 2007 when Goa Bachao Abhiyan started after coconuts trees were felled in Nauxim village. It was only in 2008 that the coconut was brought under the Forest Act to prevent cutting it. However, the Act failed to prevent the feeling of coconuts which is why GFP has started the movement to protect and conserve the coconut tree.

 

Goan legislature ignore the real issue of the state.
Coconut planters are increasingly selling lands to industrialists and builders. Pixabay

While this politicization of coconut preservation has taken a front seat in state politics and the country wonders if coconut is a tree, coconut production and planters are not going to benefit from this development.

Caught in the current turmoil about the state tree, no one is addressing the economic aspect of the situation.

The need of the hour is to go beyond the symbolic gestures. Braganza believes that if benefits provided to mango growers like the subsidy of Rs. 2 lakh per hectare were extended to coconut planters, the situation might improve.

– prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala


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21st edition of India International Seafood Show to be in Goa in 2018

The 21st edition of India International Seafood Show (IISS) will be organised in Goa in 2018, it was announced here on Sunday

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The image is for representative purpose. Pixabay

Visakhapatnam, Sep 26, 2016: The 21st edition of India International Seafood Show (IISS) will be organised in Goa in 2018, it was announced here on Sunday.

“The coastal state of Goa, knowing for its scenic beauty, sandy beaches and thriving ports, would host the next edition of the IISS,” said Marine Product Exports Development Authority (MPEDA) Chairman A Jayathilak at this year’s event in Visakhapatnam, which is soon going to be the “aquaculture hub of the world”.

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The biennial event, first held in 1973 in Mumbai, is the largest seafood fair in Asia in which seafood importers and exporters of marine products, processors, manufacturers and other sectors gather under one roof to help boosting the countries marine industry.

The three-day, 20th edition here was jointly organised by the MPEDA, a statutory body under the Union Commerce and Industry Ministry, and Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) with the theme of “Safe and Sustainable Indian Aquaculture” to project the quality of aquaculture.

It was inaugurated by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and was also attended by Union Urban Development Minister Venkiah Naidu and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Babu among other dignitaries.

Sitharaman, while inaugurating the event on Friday, announced that a separate agency for development and management of aquaculture and fisheries will be set up under MPEDA in all coastal states of the country.

With India being world’s seventh largest seafood producer, the event aimed to boost value addition to marine products and promote sustained small scale aquaculture through empowerment of farmers.

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This year, the IISS was a huge success with a number of positives for all the stakeholders of the seafood industry in India and abroad.

The event saw the participation of nearly 30 countries and more than 2,000 delegates to boost the country’s aquaculture industry with the US, EU, Southeast Asia, Japan, and China as major seafood partners. (IANS)

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Goa govt’s de-recognising coconut palm slammed by parliament committee

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Panaji: Goa government’s decision to de-recognise coconut palm as a tree was slammed by a parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests on Saturday.

The committee, headed by Rajya Sabha member Ashwani Kumar, blamed the state government for its “tardy implementation of environmental laws and regulation”, and recommended a review of the controversial legislation.

Addressing a press conference, following a day-long discussion with state government officials, tourism and mining industry stakeholders and civil society groups, Ashwani Kumar said: “There was the issue of the definition of forests in which a coconut tree in Goa is not regarded as a tree, is regarded as grass which we found extremely unusual.

“We have recommended that a review of the definition of tree, under the tree protection act be undertaken,” he said.

“In law, we have to see the net effect of things. If the absence of a clear and an unambiguous description of a particular species, leads to its destruction, then surely the law will need to be changed,” he said.

The Opposition as well as civil society has repeatedly accused the BJP-led coalition government of amending the Goa Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984 and dropping the tree status accorded to the coconut palm in order to hasten real estate and industrial development at the cost of the environment.

State Forest Minister Rajendra Arlekar has defended the amendment, saying a coconut palm does not fit the definition of a tree even botanically.

Ashwani Kumar, then a union minister for law and justice in the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government, also found fault with the Goa government’s track record on implementation of green laws.

He said the parliamentary committee has directed that a representative of the union ministry of environment and forests should engage with the state government to “find ways and means to implement in letter and spirit all possible laws intended to protect the environment”.

“We have put on record our displeasure at the tardy implementation of environmental laws and regulation,” he said.

Ashwani Kumar also raised the issue of the Investment Promotion Board, which was set up by the Goa government to facilitate speedy clearances.

“We also discussed about the single window clearances accorded by the Investment (Promotion) Board of Goa whereby a general exemption was given (vis a vis) obtaining of various clearances.

“It’s not the right way to go about it. We believe that in non-notified industrial areas also, the requirement of obtaining all clearances was necessary,” he said.