Echoes of tree cutting surround green festival in Goa

Billed as an eco-friendly festival, Echoes of Earth wades into controversy over tree cutting and trance music visuals in advertisements
The venue of the festival has a very healthy tree cover.
The venue of the festival has a very healthy tree cover. Photo: Augusto Rodrigues

Echoes of Earth, a festival styled as a celebration of Goa’s rich biodiversity through art, culture and music scheduled from February 2 to 4 at Agarwado in Chopdem, is set to start on a piercing falsetto with complaints of tree cutting in the property dating way back to 2018.

The three-day festival, the press release says, will take place on four stages and “is nestled in hundred acres of green landscapes of the scenic Brahm Farms in Chopdem.” The reality may be different.

The venue of the festival has a very healthy tree cover.
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The venue was barricaded on Wednesday with the security personnel restricting access to the media, and what could be seen from the adjacent plots would make the greens see red. The festival site is enclosed in a forested area with metal sheaths separating the two.

Though the area where the festival is being held has been fenced, a walk through the forest gave us a view through the cracks in the tree cover and from atop a tree. Even such a cursory observation made it obvious that trees had been cut. It was, however, not possible to ascertain a time frame as to when the trees were cut to make the land habitable to guests.

The dense canopy of trees seen from far.
The dense canopy of trees seen from far. Photo: Augusto Rodrigues

There have, however, been complaints of illegal tree felling in the property for long. “The owner of the place has been discreetly felling trees for the past four to five years and after doing that they have the temerity to call it an eco-festival,” says social activist Swapnesh Sherlekar of Goencho Awaaz that has in the past complained of tree cutting here.

An earlier letter by them to the Forest Department states, “We strongly condemn the reluctant approach and inaction by the authorities concerned of Forest Department in protection of trees, natural covers, hills of our Goa.”

The venue of the festival has a very healthy tree cover.
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It further states, “The land survey No 17/1 of Chopdem village of Pernem taluka, admeasuring 2,64,197 sq mts is purchased by one Brahm Enviro Constructions Limited and ….as a result of illegal felling of more than 300 of trees using acid and chemicals.”

Noted conservationist Rajendra Kerkar, when contacted, said, “I do not get myself involved in activities aimed at the cost of nature. Wherever I go, I voice my apprehension about environmental degradation. I have no idea about this festival.”

The venue of the festival has a very healthy tree cover.
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The festival is being advertised across media channels – from print to electronic – and on certain premium movie channels with visuals of trance parties. Echoes of Earth has an extensive line up of DJs and art and installation artists and is also being partnered by Department of Tourism, Government of Goa.

“The logo of our department has been used but we are not really aware of what sort of a festival it is apart from what is being advertised,” stated a source with the Department of Tourism on condition of anonymity. “If we do receive complaints, we will definitely act,” the source added.

The venue of the festival has a very healthy tree cover.
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In the vicinity of the festival, the locals prefer to turn a blind eye to what is happening. “We know something is happening there but it is better to keep quiet. We have complained before and it was of no use,” stated a local as he sipped a bottle of water.

Three men sitting near a banyan tree opposite the festival venue at first displayed innocence of knowledge of any activity taking place in the surroundings but later confessed that their land was being given to be used for parking during the festival.

Provision for parking across the road.
Provision for parking across the road. Photo: Augusto Rodrigues

“Around 4,000 cars can easily fit in this place,” said a man who just minutes earlier had been feigning ignorance.

Roshan Netalkar, says a press release issued here, is the founder and festival director of Echoes of Earth. Efforts to contact him proved futile, but Gomantak Times Digital head PR of the event. "It is not going to be a rave party . We will be following the sound norms set by the Supreme Court . We blocked access to the media due to security concerns because of the cranes and other heavy machinery at the venue," stated the PR when contacted for Netalkar's comments.

The venue of the festival has a very healthy tree cover.
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“What is the link between loud music and diversity? There are literally pages and pages of research about the detrimental effect of loud music on nature especially an animal that hear differently and are traumatised by it,” wrote a woman named Alcurmally on the website of the host while reacting to the event.

According to the social media handle of the organisers, some 50 artistes from India and abroad are expected to perform during the three days with 18 acts on the last day. Single-day tickets are priced at Rs 2,499 and for all three days the festival ticket is priced Rs 5,900.

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