Mollem - A Bulbul's Call to Save Her Home and Save Goa
Environmental damage to Goa
You probably know me, if you have grown up and schooled in Goa. You must have seen me in your text books. Even now you see me some times, if you look up. I bring back your childhood memories. Those of climbing trees looking for juicy Mankurad mangoes, crossing streams looking for the Shevto fish, playing barefoot like young Pele in the rains.
Let me describe myself to you. You will see me dressed in yellow finery with an olive green coat, with a yellow-orange bow, a black mane and sparkling white eyes. In his Book of Nature, Ruskin Bond has described me as "cheerful and greedy". He has also said about us, "Never still for a moment, they help me with my punctuation!"
You will often see me in Mollem National Park and Bhagwan Wildlife Sanctuary, perched on a Mimosa shrub, eating wild berries. I am the Flame Throated Bulbul. And yes, I am the State Bird of Goa. And my two large homes in the Western Ghats, Mollem and Bhagwan Sanctuary, may see large scale destruction. My family may get evicted and we may lose our homes.
My home is also the home for over 200 other birds, 80 odd reptiles, 80 odd mammals, 200 odd butterflies and over 700 types of plant species. Majestic creatures like the Tiger, Leopard, Black Panther, Macaque, Langur, Civet, The Flying Squirrel, The Malabar Giant Squirrel, Slender Loris and many others live here.
My family lives in harmony with friends such as Great Indian Hornbill, Paradise Flycatcher, Racket Tailed Drongo, Golden Oriole. Butterflies like the Malabar Tree Nymph, Mormon, Common Mime and many others have also made this their home. At nights, particularly in the monsoons, we also enjoy the sight of the forest floor glowing in the dark. Some unique fungi in the forest habitat make these forests Bioluminescent. The Malabar Gliding Frog appears and leaps from the tree tops, watching the King Cobra, Malabar Pit Viper, Indian Rock Python, Russell's Viper and the Common Krait slither past.
I heard from my human friends who are scientists and conservationists, and who regularly monitor my home, that there is havoc in the offing. Some chief representatives of the Humans wish to have a double track rail line, a 4 lane highway and a new power transmission line. All this is perhaps related to carrying more Coal across the states?
Coal mining is something that the Humans of Goa continue to protest against. It has caused untold harm to the environment and brought innumerable pollution related health problems. Some 80,000 trees will be cut over 170 hectares of lush green forest land? Many of them will be Keystone species supporting various organisms?
The tree felling will also affect seed dispersal and pollination. The construction will divide the forests into 4 different regions making it difficult and dangerous for my mammalian friends such as the Tiger, Leopard and others to cross over and to walk about freely. It will attract more Humans and cause more conflict. The cutting down of forests will also cause soil erosion leading to deposits in streams and rivers. In a place that is full of perennial water sources that support the livelihoods of over 250 million lives that inhabit the Western Ghats. And those which feed Goa's lifeline, the river Mandovi.
Over 1.6 million Goans depend on this lifeline. What about the effects on places that Humans from all over the world visit? Dudhsagar Falls, Tambdi Surla Falls, Devil's Canyon? What about the nearly 1000 year old Tambdi Surla Temple? Will visits of Humans to this great temple not get affected? Goa relies so much on tourism due to its pristine forests, rivers, hills and other landscapes and the biodiversity they support. These projects will irreparably diminish our habitats.
I plead with the four Humans, the Honourable Minster of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, the Honourable Minister of Road Transport & Highways and the Honourable Chief Minister of Goa, the Honourable Minster of Railways, to consider my rights. Article 51A of the Indian Constitution places a duty on every citizen to “protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.
The United Nations has called this decade the Decade of Biodiversity seeking that "biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all".
The haste and negligence behind the wildlife clearances of these projects is astounding. These have been cleared without proper Environment Assessment Reports and without public hearing, contrary to the nation's legal obligations as a responsible country supporting sustainable development.
India is a signatory to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. This is where the legal principle of Inter-Generational Equity was recognised. Where the earth is held in common and its natural resources and environment must be preserved for future generations. India has also signed the Paris Climate Change agreement. My Scientist friends opine that we are seriously lagging behind on increasing forest cover to create an additional carbon sink of 3 billion tonnes of CO2. We are trying to compensate this drag by creating plantations. Sorry, mono-species plantations are not forests. They cannot provide the ecological services that forests provide.
The world is also in the grip of a virus - the Corona, that has already caused untold misery and death. We non-humans respect the space occupied by other organisms. We recognise that it is inter-species conflicts that create epidemics. Please do not take away our spaces, our homes. We too have a Right To Live.
Let us recall the words of the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court at Panjim, "Goa's greatest asset is its environment and its ecology, its rivers and riverbanks, its beaches, its lakes and clear streams, its dense forests, its low hills and fertile fields, its boulders and even trees shrouded with moss and vines and lichen in the rains, its ridiculously brilliant sunsets. This is truly a land worth fighting for".
All the species are ready for the fight, if we have to. But we hope that better sense will prevail. Please do not destroy Mollem. Please abort these projects.
The Flame Throated Bulbul
on behalf of All The Species of Mollem in Unison
Illustrated by Derek Monteiro, Pomburpa, North Goa