Four artists from the Amchem Mollem citizen's movement, namely, Trisha Dias Sabir, Svabhu Kohli, Deepti Sharma and Nishant Saldanha have been awarded the Serendipity Arts Festival Public Art Grant 2022, titled ‘The Island That Never Gets Flooded’. As part of the grant, the artists will put up an installation which focuses on the endangered species which live in the forests of Goa.
In the last two years, the Amchem Mollem citizens-driven campaign has worked to safeguard Goa's biodiversity through various initiatives, backed by scientific and legal strategies.
The installation at SAF
Visual artists, Svabhu Kohli, from Batim, who is working on the visual aspect of the installation says, "It was during the pandemic, that the Mollem project was passed over a Zoom meeting. At the time, they did an environmental impact assessment that was proposed by the Central Government, and it had some bizarre facts. And, the crucial information was missing!”
"We researched and found that several endangered species, found in the forests were missing from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). And, some species, which didn’t belong to the forest, were placed in the forest,” Kohli adds.
The installation aims to give life to the species that are found in the forests of Goa and the Western Ghats, and how they are interconnected and keep the forests alive. “Through this installation, you will realize how the forest falls apart if you eliminate any of the species. It is network of connectivity,” says Kohli.
There will also be giant totem sculptures, created from natural materials. The indigenous practice of weaving and crafts, will also be incorporated to highlight the importance of camping and the biodiversity.
The audience will get to learn why and how these species are an important part of the biodiversity. “There will be aspects of interactions, wherein visitors can write letters to the forest, which will sort of address our natural environment and the place to which you belong, as it gives you identity,” Kohli mentions.
For the love of forest and biodiversity
Visual artist, Deepti Sharma, working on the installation, talks about how this project is close to her heart. She says, “We were introduced to the Mollem campaign through the lawyer, Anamika, and Marine Conservationist, Gabrielle D'Cruz. The way they laid out the facts, it was really shocking. And today, the movement has been driven by people who love the forest and facts that are undisputable.”
Sharma says that the species that you find in Mollem are not found anywhere else in the world, and that is why the forests are really priceless. What is being proposed or studied through the EIA has been very tokenistic.
“Unfortunately, what is happening now is that two of the three projects have had Supreme Court hearings. For the railway, the permission was revoked. And, they are doing a fresh impact assessment; but the study is being done by the first impact assessment team itself,” Sharma opines.
What’s keeping it going?
What keeps the Amchem Mollem campaign and the citizens going is the results. “The Mollem campaign has instilled a sense of belonging in me. In the past two years, we made it to the highest court of justice and got it to revoke the decision. And, if these efforts don’t motivate you to continue, then what else will?” Sharma adds.
Kohli further adds that this campaign has come from a place of power and hope. "The system will work as long as people work for it. And, the Amchem Mollem campaign is not a single artist's vision. There are many artists, and it is a citizen-driven movement. That is the sense of ownership everyone here has. "
The installation, made of bamboo will be placed at the Garcia De Orta, Panjim, during the Serendipity Arts Festival that will take place from December 15, 2022 to December 22, 2022.