For the love of nature

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Miguel Braganza

When one talks of plants in Goa, the name that pops up most often is the Botanical Society of Goa or simply BSG. Today, this association of plant lovers completes 31 years since its registration on May 4, 1990.

The idea of BSG was conceived in 1980 during a plant exhibition organised by S Z Qasim at the National Institute of Oceanography, or NIO, Dona Paula. It gave birth to non-identical twins – the Plant Lovers Association of Panjim and the Botanical Society of Dhempe College. In 1990, the head of the Biological Oceanography Division at NIO, Arvind G Untawale, brokered collaboration of the twins and the BSG was formed to lobby for the establishment of a post graduate department of botany at Goa University. It worked and the department was established with
S G Torney in 1990 itself.

In September, 1991, the BSG launched its first all-Goa Home Garden Competition. In 1992, the BSG organised a plant exhibition that inspired Alexyz Fernandes and Joel D’Souza to start the Festival of Plants & Flowers at SFX School, Siolim, that has been held every year since then. The home garden competition became an annual feature since 1996 and has even been held this year during the respite in the COVID-19 pandemic in February, 2021.

From 1997, the BSG started enrolling schools and colleges as institutional members. In 1998, its members from Goa University, colleges, higher secondary schools and Directorate of Agriculture helped prepare a syllabus for a vocational course in horticulture and floriculture at the HSS level with upward mobility to BSc in the Goa University-affiliated colleges. It also facilitated the establishment of an extension centre of YCMOU-Nashik for diploma and degree courses in horticulture in 2000 so that the students had options beyond botany and zoology. This paved the way for establishing Goa’s first and only college of agriculture in 2015, the silver jubilee year of BSG. One of its young members was the founding principal of the college.

The Plant Utsav, a celebration of plants since 1998, and the Konkan Fruit Fest since the summer of 2003 are the flagship events of the BSG that involve the general public like the home garden competition. They have helped to get scientists, extension workers, entrepreneurs, amateurs, and professionals on one common platform to interact informally. It published a book on the management of the coastal sand dune vegetation in Goa and familiarised its student members with this as well as the mangrove vegetation through hikes and nature trails. The webinar series with the Agricos Alumni Association helps to keep the activity going even during the pandemic and promote gardening at home. All for the love
of plants.