July 20, 2016

India’s Record-breaking Tree-planting Feat should be an Inspiration for Us

India’s Record-breaking Tree-planting Feat should be an Inspiration for Us

Plating trees is a must if we are to keep Malaysia amply forested. Photo Credit: Smart Life Ways

We keep hearing a lot about deforestation in Malaysia. Jungles are being cut down to make way for oil palm plantations. Loggers carry on decimating prime forests for timber. Relentless development keeps encroaching on woods around the country.

And once the trees are gone, they are gone forever, right? Not necessarily.

For inspiration, let’s look to nearby India. One recent day in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 800,000 people volunteered en masse with a simple goal in mind: to plant trees. This they duly did. And not just a few trees, either. They planted almost 50 million trees within 24 hours. That’s right: 50 million in a single day. With that they made environmental history and earned themselves a place in the Guinness World Records.

Indian villagers plant trees in a collective initiative to improve their environmental landscape. Photo Credit: AP

Indian villagers plant trees in a collective initiative to improve their environmental landscape. Photo Credit: AP

The volunteers took 49.3 million tree saplings (belonging to 80 different species) from local nurseries and planted them far and wide. The effort was part of a US$6.5 billion government initiative to improve the environmental landscape of one of the world’s most populous nations, which has been suffering from chronic air and water pollution. Six out of the 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India.

Admittedly, the record-breaking feat looks somewhat better on paper than in reality. Planting all that many trees all at once does not guarantee that new forests will now thrive. Many saplings will simply have no access to adequate water and nutrients and may wither and die as a result. In general, around 60% of saplings planted are likely to succumb to disease or drought. That said, the rest are likely to make it. And the more trees you plant, the more of them may survive and thrive … if, that is, they continue to be nurtured, protected and looked after. And if they don’t get cut down, of course.

“The biggest contribution of this tree-planting project is, apart from the tokenism, that it focuses on the major issues,” said Anit Mukherjee, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, a US think tank that focuses on international development. “It addresses many of the big issues for India: Pollution, deforestation, and land use.”

The collective tree-planting can also serve as inspiration for others, including Malaysians. If we are to keep the country a globally renowned haven of wildlife, we will need to preserve all the existing natural forest habitats. But we will also need to make efforts to regenerate degraded forests by planting new trees.

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