Nuts about coconut trees

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As part of the Save Guirim Coconut Trees Campaign, Goa Green Brigade has started the New Rooting process around this line of trees. NT BUZZ gets details

RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT BUZZ

The many coconut trees lining the Socorro- Guirim stretch of the NH17 have always made for a picturesque sight and a pleasant drive. However, in recent times, many of these trees have been drying up.

“The main cause for this was the dumping of debris right from the root level. A lot of concrete was put very close to the roots of the coconut trees in violation of the directives of the Principal Bench, National Green Tribunal, New Delhi to keep a radius of 1 X 2 metres around the stem of a tree, free from concrete/tar,” says coordinator, Goa Green Brigade, Avertino Miranda.

Thus in a bid to save these iconic trees, the Goa Green Brigade has initiated the New Rooting process from September 13, which received an encouraging participation from volunteers.

The New Rooting technique being adopted with the guidance of horticulturist Miguel Braganza involves digging one foot deep around the stem of the coconut trees and filling it with around 12 kilograms of organic manure. Once the organic manure is put, the coconut trees get fresh roots and the trees are expected to

rejuvenate. However, Miranda says the post-manuring care of the coconut trees is a huge task. They will have to regularly monitor the recovery of the trees. “Considering the valuable inputs from Braganza, we are sure of achieving this goal to save a substantial number of trees. Wherever we are unable to salvage the trees, we hope to plant new trees with the help of our large number of volunteers,” says Miranda.

In fact, the group had put out a call for 15 volunteers to be a part of their initiative. But 45 people turned up and they had to stop taking in more volunteers because of the safety concerns due to COVID-19. Miranda says: “The overwhelming response has given us a ray of hope that there are still a lot of people in Goa, both Goans and also non-Goans who have settled in Goa for its greenery and rich biodiversity, natural heritage, etc, who are keen to participate in saving trees, environment and our rich biodiversity.”

Incidentally, during their first session, they found several stones, plastic, cement, bottles, foils of package snacks and other debris dumped close to the roots of these coconut trees that were choking them to death. “For this reason, we have decided to undertake Phase II of our campaign this coming Sunday wherein the Goa Green Brigade is calling upon volunteers to give a helping hand in removing the debris,” he says.

The team will also continue with the task of building a mud ring around the roots/trunk of the 40 trees.

“We will need 20 volunteers to work around the trees on the coming Sunday ie September 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Volunteers must compulsorily wear masks and maintain social distancing. They must also carry their your own water bottles, cap, raincoat and other essential items,” says Miranda.

Besides this, the team has also requesting the road contractor MVR Infra Projects of NH 66 which has built the Guirim flyover to remove the debris dumped in and around the roots and stem of the coconut trees. “We are also demanding that MVR plant 10 times the number of coconut trees they have cut and also take care of them with manure and watering for the next five years at the least. Goa Green Brigade has repeatedly served several notices to the Public Water Department, MVR, Goa’s Chief Minister and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests to plant new coconut trees and protect the existing ones, but to no avail,” says Miranda, adding that the senior forest officials in Goa’s Forest Department have no passion for trees as is evident from the reckless manner they issue permissions to cut trees. “It’s only people’s power that can save Goa’s green cover.”

And the team hopes to mobilise people to replicate this initiative in other parts of Goa too.

“People’s power can be formidable and could be instrumental in building a powerful and peaceful force of resistance against Goa Government’s destructive and short-sighted environmental policies. The coconut trees in the past and now are playing a significant role in uniting people which is the only way forward to assert our rights, uphold the environmental laws and protect the defenseless trees,” he says.

(To volunteer one has to WhatsApp Goa Green Brigade @9823073265 mentioning full name and address/location. Preference will be given to those residing in Bardez and Tiswadi talukas to reduce the carbon footprint of traveling.)

Goa Green Brigade

Goa Green Brigade is a group of individuals who are concerned at the rate at which Goa’s environment is deteriorating. They not only fight for environmental issues, but look at how community action can significantly stop the damage to the environment and rich biodiversity, including Khazan lands, fields and agricultural lands, sand dunes, hills, water bodies like lakes, ponds, rivers, springs, groundwater resources.

Coconuts: A vital resource

Coconut trees play a significant role in Goa’s economy, food, culture, and tourism, says Miranda, and thus this initiative becomes vital. “The coconut  isa key component in making curries, oil, bebinca, doce, bolinhas, etc. Besides this, it is used in several crafts and in making cocopeat for manure,” he says.

The Guirim coconut trees planted in the early 1980s are also iconic, he states. “They became a part of Goan heritage when the straight stretch of road from Socorro to Guirim was built with both sides dotted with the coconut trees,” he says. Thus, given their importance, Goans are very sensitive to any form of destruction of coconut trees, he believes. “Imagine how terrible Goa will look without these trees which dot the entire 104 kilometres coastline of Goa.”