Panaji: The criticism of the decision of the BJP-led government in Goa to de-recognise the coconut palm as a tree was a result of a campaign by “vested interests”, state BJP president Vinay Tendulkar said on Tuesday.
“It is a campaign by vested interests to defame the government. Nowhere does the amendment to the tree Act says that the coconut palm is now grass. The amendment was made on requests from coconut farmers, who were facing difficulty in cutting non-productive and old coconut palms,” Tendulkar told reporters.
The Opposition as well as civil society has repeatedly accused the Goa government of amending the Goa Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984, in January and dropping the tree status accorded to the coconut palm in order to unfairly hasten real estate and industrial development at the cost of the environment.
Forest Minister Rajendra Arlekar has defended the amendment, saying a coconut palm does not fit the definition of a tree even botanically.
The controversial amendment was also critiqued by Rajya Sabha member Ashwani Kumar, who is also the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests.
The Congress leader, during a visit of the parliamentary committee to Goa on February 6, had said that the law needed to be changed and the coconut palm needed to be re-classified as a tree.
“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 and we have recommended that a review of the definition of tree, under the tree protection Act be undertaken,” Ashwani Kumar 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 had said.