|Press Release|: Value of Goa’s Intact Protected Area far greater than one which is interrupted by planned infrastructural projects

Press Release: Value of Goa’s Intact Protected Area far greater than one which is interrupted by planned infrastructural projects

In a letter to the MoEFCC regarding the diversion of forest land in Goa’s Mahaveer Bhagwan Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, a group of researchers, climate specialists and allied professionals called to attention the impact of the project on larger ecosystem services and functions.The letter reminded the Ministry that India is a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and has committed to fulfilling obligations towards its biodiversity.

“Nature has multiple values based on differing perceptions and its simplest to envision the value into economic terms”, said Rithika Fernandes a researcher. The Indian Government commissioned a study to estimate the Net Present Value (NPV) per hectare in 2013. They found that estimates ranged between INR 13.5 to 43.3 Lakhs per hectare for tropical wet evergreen, semi evergreen and moist deciduous forests in the Western Ghats. “We must remember that these were estimates from seven years ago. Present estimates will be much higher especially in the context of public health and preventing pandemics,” Fernandes added.
Provisional, regulating, supporting and cultural services are the many categories of ecosystem services that forests like Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park provide. They state that local residents from the panchayats of Mollem and Kalay within which Goa’s Mahaveer Bhagwan Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, will be among the first to face the consequences of these projects.

Residents are still reeling from the degradation caused by mining activities within the two Panchayats. Pre-mining, as much as 80% of the agricultural land in Mollem Panchayat was cultivable, they added. According to Shayeesh Pirankar, a local ecologist and signatory, “According to the Millenium Ecosystem Assesmen Report in 2005 degradation of ecosystem services is harming many of the world’s poorest people and is sometimes the principal factor causing poverty. For many people, especially the poor, living around this protected area, the forest and its surroundings are reservoirs of biodiversity resources for their daily survival and their income. They are connected in so many ways to the healthy functioning of this ecosystem.”

Rohan Chakravarty, a wildlife cartoonist and another signatory on the letters summarises, “Other than the fact that Mollem and Bhagwan Mahavir are central to conservation, life of people, ecotourism and public health in Goa, they could also be home to species of reptiles, frogs and invertebrates that are yet to be discovered, as new discoveries from the Western Ghats year after year have been consistently proven. We owe the forest to those species too, and not just ourselves.

Cartoon by Rohan Chakravarty

They conclude “that the contributions made by nature towards a good quality of life is viewed and valued differently (often conflictingly).” The signatories call for an informed review of the decision to grant clearance to these projects within the protected area given “the diversity of values of nature across various cultural and institutional contexts” and “that we cannot measure these different values by standardising them on the same scale.”