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Celebrating Van Moahotsav, celebrating life

INTRODUCTION

Van Mahotsav is a tree plantation festival that was started way back in 1950 by the then Union Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mr. KM Munshi. The purpose of this festival is to create awareness amongst people for forest conservation and planting trees. Across the country, this week long festival is celebrated on different days depending on the climatic conditions. In Goa it is generally celebrated in the first week of July, which is right in the midst of the monsoons.

During the Van Mahotsav Week, every citizen of the country is expected to plant a sapling and ensure that proper care is taken till the plant is big enough. Various awareness campaigns and rallies emphasizing the benefits and the importance of protecting trees and forests are held across the length and breadth of the country during this week. It is indeed - the festival of life.

Forests offer a range of services to us. Due to their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, they are referred to as 'carbon sinks' and are often compared to the 'lungs' of a human body. This process of carbon absorption is also known as carbon sequestration and is extremely crucial in dealing with global warming and climate change as they curb the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere. Forests also help in arresting soil erosion, protecting watersheds and stabilizing the climate. More importantly forests serve as a habitat that harbours floral and faunal biodiversity. India's thriving biodiversity has secured a position in the listing of the 17 mega-diverse countries of the world, identified by Conservation International. The importance of forests is thus very rightly captured by Franklin D Roosevelt, who said that "A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people".

If every citizen in the state plants and looks after a tree that he has grown during the week of Van Mahotsav, then the green quotient of our state and nation would definitely increase. Schools in Goa are making a lot of effort in promoting Van Mahotsav within the school and the community. Several schools in Goa have made this festival a part of their curriculum. Government departments such as Forest and Agriculture have helped schools in sourcing saplings. Another activity that has been carried out in a couple of schools in Goa is the creation of seed banks of local fruits. This exercise helps students identify, label and document the different seeds available in our state as well as learn about their use and value in the local context. Tree plantation and sapling distribution drives have been carried out in several places. Traditional knowledge of plants and their utility value is also being promoted in a few schools across the state. There is a need to further widen the outreach of this initiative to all educational and corporate institutions in our state.

  • Goa is under the influence of two major ecozones / biomes: The marine biome of the Arabian Sea and the terrestrial forest biome of the Western Ghats.

  • Around 38.48% of the state geographical area is under forest area, which also includes private forests (Goa Forest Department).
  • Goa has one national park (Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, Mollem) and six wild life sanctuaries (Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Dr. Salim Ali Wild Life Sanctuary, Chorao, Cotigaon Wildlife Sanctuary, Madei Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Mollem, Netravalli Wildlife Sanctuary).
  • The Western Ghats runs through the entire State of Goa.
  • The Western Ghats is spread across the six Indian States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • The Western Ghats is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and is one of the eight 'hot-spots' of biological diversity in the world and is an abode to several endemic species.

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