Panaji: Over 58,000 trees were felled in Goa in the past four years to make way for mining, forcing the state animal gaur - or the Great Indian bison - to flee its natural habitat and enter villages, Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar said Wednesday.
Forest Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues, who was put on the mat by the opposition over the felling of 58,943 trees in the past four years, was later forced to impose a moratorium on diversion of forest land until a forest policy was in place.
Earlier, Parrikar told the Assembly that in the tenure of Rodrigues alone, nearly a lakh trees were permitted to be cut, with 58,943 of them in forest areas.
"Are you afraid of mine owners? You arrest common people for cutting trees, why don`t you act against mine owners?" Parrikar asked the minister.
The senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said the massive deforestation was forcing the state animal gaur out of the wilds and into villages bordering the forest areas.
"One lakh trees are cut, 58,000 and more for mining in the last four years...the natural habitat of gaur is shrinking. That`s why they are coming into villages nearby forests," Parrikar said.
Several thousand gaurs, which are huge black bulls with shaggy manes, weighing nearly a tonne each, are living in Goa`s forested area.
Rodrigues later assured the house that no more forest land would be diverted for mining until a state forest policy was in place.