The survival of the human race wouldn’t have been possible without trees.
Serving mankind since time immemorial with its shade and cover, food and livelihood resources, trees play a vital role in sustaining life on the planet.
As the population in India grows at an uncontrollable rate, the need for more infrastructure and living spaces continues to engorge whatever remains of the forest cover in the country.
In fact, according to a report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the total remaining tree cover of India that included forests and non-forest areas was 24.16% in 2015.
Van Mahotsav, the festival of trees, is celebrated every year in the country in a bid to raise awareness about the importance of trees and encourage people to plant more of them.
Usually held from July 1 to 7, the festival finds mass participation of people, including government agencies, civic bodies and educational institutions across the country who come together every year to plant saplings.
Plant a Tree and Gift a Living is an attempt by The Better India along side NAATA Foundation to plant 5000 fruit trees in Aarey Milk Colony, Mumbai. Each of these saplings need an approximate amount of Rs 100 for their nourishment over the next 2-3 years, after which they will be sufficient to supplement the income of the community by adding an additional source of livelihood, while also restoring the green cover of the area.
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But do you know how the festival came into being and who was instrumental for its conception?
Initiated in the year 1950, the movement was the brainchild of Dr K M Munshi, who had been the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food at the time.
Unnerved by the rampant felling of trees and the damage that was being caused to the environment, Munshi came up with the idea of an annual tree planting festival in order to raise awareness among the masses towards forest conservation.
Rendering the idea to that of a festival where the contribution of the silent sentinels towards the planet would be celebrated rather than just organising a plantation drive, he wanted people to be enthusiastic towards the cause just as one would be during other festivals.
Some of the objectives of Van Mahotsav as visualized by Dr Munshi were: to increase production of fruits, which could be added to the potential food resources of the country, help create shelter-belts around agricultural fields to increase their productivity, provide fodder leaves for cattle to relieve intensity of grazing over reserved forests, boost soil conservation and prevent further deterioration of soil fertility.
He also intended to inculcate consciousness and love for trees among the citizens and popularise planting and tending of trees in farms, villages, and municipal and public lands.
Interestingly, the term Van Mahotsav first cropped up in July 1947 after a successful tree plantation drive that was held in Delhi and saw participation of national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam Azad.
The choice of picking the first week of July to celebrate the festival was indeed a visionary move. Marking the onset of monsoon season in most parts of the country, most saplings planted during this period have more chances of survival than the ones planted during other times of the year.
An event that sees lakhs of saplings being planted every year, Van Mahotsav is indeed a celebration of life. With the ever-growing, life-threatening perils of global warming and pollution, the initiative flagged off by DR Munshi 67 years ago is what the world needs right now.