Asia

India plants 50 million trees in 24 hours, and sets a record

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on the river Ganges in Varanasi

Image: Shutterstock/D’July

India can be a confusing country to an outsider. The north has a stunning Himalayan backdrop with pristine rivers while the south has the evergreen Kerala, known for peaceful backwaters and Ayurvedic treatments. These are the places where travelers go to when they are trying to rediscover themselves, and find their inner peace.

But then there is the other part of India which you notice when you land at Delhi—the pollution, which has only escalated in the last few years. According to a World Health Organization report, six Indian cities are among the 10 most populated cities in the whole world. The list includes: Gwalior, Patna, Allahabad, Ludhiana, and Delhi. Gwalior being on the second position.

Many people think pollution is directly related to population, but this report proves that it’s actually not true. Born in Gwalior, I know for a fact that Delhi has five times more people than Gwalior, and yet Delhi takes the 9th spot on the most polluted list.

And air pollution isn’t the only issue, deforestation increased at a rapid rate as well. The country which had thousands of tigers once, has now declared the tiger as an endangered animal. There have been reports of lions and rhinos walking on roads, because as their forests get attacked, those poor animals do not know where to go.

As more and more environment campaigners urge the government to take stringent steps to curb pollution issues, the government is finally stepping up.

On Earth Day 2016, as a part of the Paris Climate Agreement, India pledged $6.2 billion towards afforestation in order to achieve 235 million acres of forest land by 2030, and with that commitment the goal to reforest 12% of the country really does not look so far-fetched from reality.

Making a real change

To show the commitment towards the pledge made on Earth Day, a 24-hour event was hosted in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh to plant 50 million trees.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populated state in India, and it also contributes highly towards pollution. The city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh is the third most polluted city in the world, according to the WHO report.

More than 800,000 volunteers took part in the life-changing event where they planted about 49.3 million trees of eighty different species. All the saplings were sourced from the local nurseries of the state.

The Reforestation event ended up breaking a Guinness Record of the most planted trees in 24 hours. The previous record was held by Pakistan for planting 847,275 trees in a single day back in 2013.

Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav was obviously elated with the event and said,

“The world has realized that serious efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of global climate change. Uttar Pradesh has made a beginning in this regard.”

Can large scale reforestation efforts really help?

Yes, and no.

While planting 50 million trees is obviously better than planting zero trees, it’s also important to take care of the saplings to make sure they live and become big trees.

800,000 volunteers might have come together to plant 50 million trees, but how many people will come forward to take care of these trees and water them every day?

The trees were planted at the right time with monsoon on its way, but with August, the monsoon in India is also coming to a close, which means, the saplings won’t be watered, at all.

Lack of care and water, and increase in diseases could lead to a 40% mortality rate. It is unclear whether the government will monitor these planted trees.

At the end of the day, planting 50 million trees was an incredible gesture, but instead of quantity, the government should focus on urging everyone to plant trees in their backyard or neighborhood where it is feasible to care for them.

Ritika is a 20-something Software Engineer by degree but she decided to quit her IT job to become a freelance writer and travel the world. She loves eating, walking her dog and watching Game of Thrones.