Today is the silver jubilee of the International Day of Biological Diversity. Exactly a month ago, on Earth Day 22 April, we have just celebrated the fruit diversity of Goa and the rest of the Konkan region with the annual Konkan Fruit Fest. Biological Diversity also includes other plants, animals, fishes, birds, insects as well as microscopic life forms like plankton, yeast, bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes.
The Baobab, Adansonia digitata, fruit that many people enjoyed tasting for the first time in their lives showed how little we know of the biodiversity in Goa. It takes the death of just this handful of Baobab trees in Goa, at Morjim, Ribandar, Pilar and Quepem to reduce one species from the biodiversity of Goa. That is how fragile it can be. We need a proactive Goa State Biodiversity Board or GSBB to prevent this tragedy. Rajan Shelke of Don Bosco College of Agriculture, Sulcorna, has successfully germinated seeds of Baobab obtained from Morjim through Luisa Kumar. We hope to increase the Baobab population in Goa, where the decreasing population of the only branched palm, Hyphaene dichotoma Furtado, should also be a concern of the GSBB.
Puja Mitra is valiantly trying to protect the dolphins that every tourist wants to see gamboling at the mouth of the Mandovi estuary at sunrise. About a dozen of these dolphins are reported to have died due to injury caused by propellers. Puja is sensitising the tour operators. Is the GSBB doing something for this biodiversity in Goa?
In Goa, no one likes to follow the rules, even the ones we quote as empowering us to do what we are doing. Sample this. The GSBB website states thus, “Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB) is an autonomous body of Government of Goa under Department of Science, Technology and Environment. The Board works under the Chairmanship of Minister for Environment, Manohar Parrikar and Pradip V Sarmokadam is the Member Secretary of the Board.” It is hardly debatable whether the Chairperson, now or earlier, fits the requirement laid down in the Biodiversity Act, 2002, by which the GSBB is claimed to be constituted. One can Google search for their credentials.
On 14 August, 2007, Churchill Alemao became ex officio “an eminent person in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and in matters relating to equitable sharing of benefits” as the Chairperson of the GSBB by definition and requirement of the Section 22 (4) (a) of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (Act No 18 of 2003). He is, thus, in the same league as an IITian in metallurgy and a former school teacher as far as the state of Goa is concerned.
We need to protect what is left after Agacaim brinjal became a Genetically Modified ‘Event’ for Monsanto and Benaulim coconut became ‘Banawale’ and ‘Pratap’ varieties of DBSKKV-Dapoli, with no Access Benefit Sharing or ABS for the people of these villages that preserved these varieties. There is a lot at stake while the state of Goa moves around in circles with its people happily playing ‘Follow the Leader’ games with different leaders. It is hoped that judicial intervention will not be needed to rectify this defect.