The Goa Legislative Assembly on Wednesday hauled up Forest Minister Filip Neri Rodrigues for the rapid depletion of forest cover in the State due to mining with even the Speaker Pratapsing Rane intervening to term it as a “rape of Goa”, forcing the minister to announce keeping on hold all applications for diversion of forest land.
During Question Hour on Wednesday, it was revealed that over the last four years, one lakh trees were permitted to be cut of which a whopping 58,940 were for the purpose of mining activity. During the current year, the Forest Department cleared 482 of the 620 applications it received to cut trees in forest land for mining purpose.
However, the minister did not have any answer to BJP MLA Vijay Pai Khot’s question whether an equal number of trees were planted.
Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar also lambasted the department for justifying the permissions on grounds that mining contributes to the growth of Gross Domestic Product and pointed out that the Forest Department’s mandate was to protect the forests and therefore should have rejected the application as there were other departments to look after increasing the GDP.
Under attack from all quarters, the minister reiterated his promise made during the last assembly session held last month that no fresh permissions for diversion of forest land will be considered and also promised to ensure that the mining firms comply with all conditions.
He also promised to consider the recommendations of the National Wildlife Board while formulating the forest police to deal with the problem of wild animals encroaching human habitats, which Manohar said was due to the destruction of forest land, their natural habitat.