If you’ve ever journeyed to Mumbai by road on the NH66, there’s a very good chance you’ve passed the quaint village of Colvale. While doing so, at the very entrance of the village, a magnificent group of centuries-old mango trees rises like giants from the ground, welcoming passers-through and bidding them hello or goodbye in the most stunning manner. These trees have given close to 200 years of shade, fruit, and cover, and have become more than just a landmark in the area; they have been a source of pride for the locals – but all that is about to change.
In a recent bid to widen the highway from Patradevi to Karaswada, 3577 fruit bearing trees – including those beautiful mango trees that adorn the entrance to Colvale are slated to be axed down in the name of development. The PWD has committed to compensate for the loss of the trees by planting 4500 new trees instead – but is that really the answer here? Clearly, the locals don’t feel it is, with Colvalkars and other locals from the nearby villages coming out in numbers to oppose the slaughter. The impact of this so far has made contractors reluctant to begin any work, while the PWD is still looking for takers after having put the trees up for auction.
The road to petition
Wendell Rodricks, noted fashion designer and resident of Colvale has started an online petition addressed to the Goa Public Works Department (PWD) and Ministry of Road, Transport, and Highways to save the trees. In the petition which has already garnered close to 750 signatures at the time of writing, he talks about how he and his father stood in protest against the cutting of the trees once, forcing the authorities then to make the highway go around the trees. Rodricks is looking for at least 1000 (if not more) signatures on the petition, hoping that the volume gathered is sufficient to save the trees once again.
Smoke and mirrors
In addition to the trees, Rodricks in his petition points out that the century-old St. Anthony Chapel is also set to be demolished. Given the fact that novenas are still held there, he implores the government to uphold the Supreme Court Order that states no religious structures over 100 years can be demolished. He says, “In a game of smoke, mirrors, and lies, the PWD and state Government are not telling us Colvalkars the real plan and fate of our village. From a chapel to the trees, we are left in the dark. Doesn’t the Forest Department care for old trees? Doesn’t the Goa Government care about its own villages and villagers?”
If you’d like to sign the petition to stop the felling of these ancestral fruit-bearing trees, you can click here to add your name to the list. You can also share this article so that others can join in on the conversation, and together raise awareness about this campaign to save the trees.