Over the last six months, in the middle of a global pandemic-induced ‘lockdown’, multiple forests around the country have faced the danger of being axed down due to dubious environment, forest and wildlife clearances granted to various potentially destructive, commercial projects spanning large-scale mining, infrastructure, and industrial projects. The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) cleared or discussed more than 30 forest clearance proposals. Of the forests that faced danger were the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa for the double tracking of a railway line, the widening of NH4A and laying of LILO (Line In Line Out) transmission line. Two of these three projects were cleared virtually by the NBWL. As news of this depravity spread, Goans from all walks of life came to rally for Mollem, Goa’s largest protected area, which is special to Goans for biodiversity, memories, livelihoods, and culture.
Let us start off with visualizing the extent of the damage we are talking about. To help you visualize, a hectare (ha) is roughly one and a half times the size of an average football field.
• The double tracking of the railway line from Castlerock to Vasco will need 138.37 ha, requiring 22,882 trees to be felled of which 20,758 will be from the protected area.
• The four laning of the NH4A running between Karnataka and Goa will require 63.615 ha of forest land and will result in the cutting of 20,340 trees of which 12,097 trees will be cut down from the protected area.
• The laying of 3.15 km of a 400-kV transmission line as part of the Goa– Tamnar Power transmission project will require 48.3 ha of forest land from which the total number of trees to be felled are 15,772 of which 4139 trees will be cut down from the protected area.
Overall, this means that 59,024 trees will be chopped from 250.285 ha, specifically, with respect to the protected area, 170 ha are planned for forest diversion. Goa lacks land and resources to carry out compensatory afforestation on such a scale. One mature tree absorbs around 22 kg of CO 2 each year, while a young tree can only absorb 6 kg/year. Felling 59,000 trees will create a massive impact in this regard. Scientists and ecologists around the country, citizens of Goa, tourism stakeholders, students and many others were infuriated by the imminent destruction of the ‘Magical Mollem’. (Locally, this region has been lovingly christened ‘The magical Mollem’. Having been there a few times, I can tell you first hand that these forests are breathtakingly beautiful, they have the most amazing ‘sounds of silence’, you can hear a magical orchestra of birds, chirping close and distant and truly feel one with nature.) Here we discuss the efforts by different communities.
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