The stillness of the Chopdem forest was punctured, not by animal sounds, but loud music similar to the genre played around Anjuna and Vagator on the northern coastal belt of Goa, as Echoes of Earth, a music festival touted to bring man closer to nature, started on Friday.
Organised over 100 acres of forest land, much of the festival area is, however, bereft of any tree cover.
The festival sound grew louder as the sun began to set with the volume getting pumped up and the bass sound drowning any echoes of discontent over the use of land for a festival of this proportion. But politicians and a few people in the area did raise their eyebrows.
“I was given the impression that there was going to be classical music during the festival. I think there will be some sitar recitals and other classical acts. One has to check from the Department of Tourism about DJs playing because they have given the permission,” stated Mandrem MLA Jit Arolkar, in whose constituency Chopdem falls.
Mandrem’s former MLAs were, however, more vocal. “The government must show control. Illegalities must be nipped in the bud. If habitat is not respected, the future generation will face the brunt. I intend to pay a visit in the evening,” disclosed Ramakant Khalap, former MLA of the constituency.
Former Chief Minister Laximikant Parsekar, who also represented the constituency in the past said, “There is definitely some setting. People get the representative of their choice and they need to pay for it. Such things never happened during my tenure. We were selective about who we accepted.”
The sounds emanating from the festival area have other unwanted effects too. “Loud sound is as offensive to animals as it is to humans. Humans have conditioned themselves to tolerate, whilst animals do not have a choice. They get distracted and go haywire,” said Dr Gustavo Pinto, reputed veterinarian of Goa.
He added, “The Supreme Court of our country has banned fireworks because of the noise it creates and its effects on animals that are studied. Loud music has telling effects on the fauna around the place.”
As animals in the forest scurried away from the loud music, the three-day festival witnessed a turnout out of tourists from India and a few foreigners, mostly from Russia.
However, by around 9 pm on Friday, Indian tourists were seen leaving the venue and walking towards an elaborate parking arrangement but for a change, no local tea stalls were seen anywhere near or around the festival venue.
“There was nothing spectacular. I brought my kids expecting something entertaining. It is just a party in the forest, something I have never seen before. I think, the experiment has not worked,” observed Rishad as he waited for his vehicle.
There were traces of Indian music early in the evening on the smaller stages created, whilst the main stage – from where the loudest sound emanated – was reserved for foreign artistes trying to entice guests with trance. With around 50 odd four-wheelers and a similar number of two-wheelers parked in the designated parking spaces, the traffic police had an easy evening as compared to chaos in some other festivals.
“We gave the organisers an NOC for three days till 10 pm only after permissions were granted by the Department of Tourism and other government bodies. They have paid us (Chopdem Panchayat) Rs 1 lakh for three days,” stated Sachin Raut, sarpanch of Chopdem.
There could, however, be simmering discontent in the panchayat too. “I know it is not right to allow loud music where wildlife lives but we agreed to toe the sarpanch’s line as he requested us,” stated a village panch on condition of anonymity.
Echoes of Earth, which first started in Bengaluru in 2018, by opting for Chopdem has moved from residential area of humans in Goa to home of the wild, little knowing they have a voice of their own – capable of silencing any such echoes.