Opposition slams Goa governor's assent to coconut law amendment

Panaji: The Opposition on Saturday collectively condemned Goa Governor Mridula Sinha's decision to grant assent to the controversial amendment to the state tree Act that de-recognises the coconut palm as a tree. "With one stroke of a signature, the governor has made herself party to the destruction of Goa's environment and identity. It is ironical, that the de-recognition of our kalpvruksha coconut palm as a tree happened when a party which professes in the cause of Hindu religion is in power," Independent opposition legislator Vijai Sardesai told a joint press conference in Panaji. The press meet was attended by other opposition legislators, including those from the Congress party. The controversial amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Protection of Trees Act, which de-recognises the coconut palm as a tree, was passed by the assembly in January.  It was formally accorded assent by the governor earlier this week, according to chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar. The opposition and environmentalists have slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government for supporting the bill which, they say, will facilitate "mass massacre of coconut trees in the state". The legislators of the ruling coalition said the amendment would allow farmers to cut old and non productive trees without red tape. The opposition also alleged that the amendment was made to facilitate easy clearing of coconut groves, a common sight in Goa, to make way for real estate development. Green activists have been meeting Governor Sinha to apprise her of their concerns. The Congress has said that if voted to power in the 2017 assembly elections, it would accord the status of 'state tree' to the coconut palm.