Panaji: The Goa Legislative Assembly today passed the 'Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Tree Act' which reclassifies coconut plant as 'palm' amidst the walkout by opposition which criticised the legislation as being detrimental to existence of coconut trees.
The Act was passed after an hour-long debate on the issue wherein opposition benches termed the government's move as "facilitation of the mass massacre of coconut trees" in the coastal state.
Defending the legislation, State Environment Minister Rajendra Arlekar said the reclassification did not give any easy permit to people to raze coconut trees.
"We had received representations from the government, due to which we decided to reclassify it (coconut) as palm and not as tree. But that does not mean we will give easy licences to destroy coconut plants," Arlekar said.
Unhappy with the reply given by the minister, the opposition staged a walkout from the House as the bill was passed with majority votes by ruling benches.
"This is a move to facilitate mass massacre of coconut trees in the state. The people of Goa will not tolerate it," independent legislator Vijai Sardessai said during the debate wherein majority of members were present.
The coconut tree was classified as tree till 2008. Arlekar had moved the Goa Preservation of Trees (amendment) Bill 2016 in the House on Monday, deleting coconut from the purview of 'tree' and to classify it as 'palm'.
The Bill seeks to increase the fee for felling of tree from existing Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000. It also seeks to omit section 1-A of the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act 1984.
"The bill also seeks to amend Section 12-A of the said Act, so as to bring coconut tree within the provision of the said section 12-A," it reads.
The Bill also seeks to substitute section 10 of the Act which stipulates that the person is bound to plant tree if he has felled or disposed of the tree as specified.
Last month, the state Cabinet had approved the amendment to Goa Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act-1984. Among other difference, unlike trees, palms have no bark or woody tissue.
The government's apparent logic behind reclassifying the coconut tree as palm is that tree is a plant with main trunk and branches, but a coconut palm does not fit into this criteria as it has no branches.