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Loutolim village in Goa protesting against amendment in forest conservation act 1980

Loutolim residents, along with children and older people, have risen up in protest against the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill 2023,

By groundreportdesk
New Update
Loutolim village in Goa protesting against amendment in forest conservation act 1980

Loutolim residents, along with children and older people, have risen up in protest against the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill 2023, voicing strong opposition and demanding its immediate removal. Fearful of the possible destruction of their village's forest cover, Loutolim locals express concern about the detrimental impact of the proposed bill.

Expressing their commitment to protecting the environment, concerned villagers gathered on Wednesday to voice their opposition to the proposed amendment. In recent days, citizens of neighbouring areas such as Camorlim, Raia, Sanguem and Loliem-Canacona, along with social activists, have been actively participating in protests against the bill.

Goa's Loutolim protests Forest Amendment

The town of Loutolim has already witnessed the depletion of forest cover due to construction activities, intensifying the need to preserve the remaining green spaces. Protester Ramiro Mascarenhas expressed his dismay to see that the same authorities in charge of protecting the environment are trying to weaken the forest conservation law, emphasizing the need to oppose the amendment.

Joyce, another protester, expressed her concerns about the potential destruction of the forest area and the environment in general if the act is weakened. She emphasized the importance of safeguarding the forest for the sake of future generations.

Social activist Xavier Fernandes claimed that passage of the bill could lead to the destruction of almost 20 to 40 percent of Goa's forest area. He passionately appealed to the central government to refrain from passing the bill, stressing the far-reaching consequences it could have on the state's natural resources.

Nationwide protest demands bill removal

The villagers have engaged in an email campaign targeting political leaders and members of parliament in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, using hashtags like #SaveIndianForests and #ScrapForestConservationAmendmentBill2023. Additionally, the united position taken by the villagers has led to active protests on the ground, which have spilled over into online campaigns.

The movement against the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill has transcended the borders of Loutolim. Rural and urban citizens of various states including Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, rural Punjab among others have come together to demand that the government remove the bill in its current form.

The protests have extended beyond Goa to regions like Lucknow, Hasdeo in Chhattisgarh, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, and the Western Ghats states of Maharashtra, all echoing the same demand.

Environmental experts have expressed deep concern about the proposed amendments. Joseph Hoover, president of the United Conservation Movement and a former member of the State Wildlife Board, described the bill as one of the most destructive laws in terms of the environment. He criticized the potential destruction of forests and biodiversity, and called on the Prime Minister to uphold the commitment to protect India's natural heritage.

Bill threatens sacred groves protection

Neelam Ahluwalia, a founding member and trustee of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens' Movement, raised the alarm about the potential destruction of protected forests managed by local communities if the bill is passed. The bill's implications extend to sacred groves and other vital forested areas, putting them at risk of destruction.

Local communities protect and manage around 39,063 hectares of forests under the sacred groves across India, even though they are not currently notified as forests. The Forest Conservation Amendment Bill will decimate such lands across the 690 kilometer Aravalli range spread over four states and the rest of the country. Additionally, 50,000 acres of Haryana Aravallis are at huge risk as these forests have not yet been notified as ‘deemed forests’.

“Warrior Moms staged a demonstration in Kolkata,” said Samiksha Acharya. “Unprecedented heat waves and extreme weather conditions are being dealt with in Kolkata. As mothers, we are extremely concerned about the change in clauses of the Forest Conservation Act 1980, as it would mean a total degradation of climatic conditions in our city. Mangrove forests act like a barrier to counter cyclones coming from the Bay of Bengal. The new amendment bill endangers mangrove forests, leaving nothing to counter high-speed winds that expose West Bengal's coastal areas to storms' mercy. Widespread devastation will follow, threatening the future of our young ones.”

Opposition to the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill continues to grow, fueled by a collective determination to preserve India's forests and protect the environment for future generations.

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