Now this is called taking matters into your own hands. In 2011, Ludhiana was tagged as “the most polluted city in the country”. To get rid of this tag, the residents of the city started a tree plantation drive, managing to plant around 1.5 lakh saplings within an hour! They might even make it to the Guinness book of World Records for this. Know more about the initiative and how they did it.
While for the authorities it may not have rankled, and could have been just another statistic, for the residents of Ludhiana it must have been a sharp jab in the heart to be painted as “the most polluted city in India” as per the WHO (World Health Organization) Report of 2011.
But, Ludhiana did fight back and on 20th July, 2014 it staked a claim in the Guinness book of World records for planting 1,00,000 trees throughout the city in one hour from 8 am-9 am.
There were apprehensions in certain quarters that the feat might not be achieved, but when the count was done in the evening, it was found that the target was overhauled by more than 50 percent, i.e. at the final count the residents of Ludhiana were able to plant 1,50,000 trees all over the city.
This could happen or became “Sambhav” (possible) owing to the lead taken by the NGO of the same name, along with V MAD or V Made A Difference. It was an effort in which each and every citizen participated and resources from various government departments were chipped in to make it happen.
Christened as ‘Earth Hour’, the initiative saw citizens venturing out of their homes, with buckets and small digging instruments to contribute in their own little ways in facilitating the makeover of the city from a barren landscape dotted by industrial chimneys and buildings, to hopefully oases of greenery in the near future.
Age was not a deterrent as even octogenarians stepped out to be a part of this drive, and all political differences sunk in for the sake of the city.
Famous Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi would have been mightily pleased with this effort as he had written about the virtue of trees thus: kuch rukh lagde putt mainu, kuch lagde maanva; kuch dheyan putt warge; kuch vaang bhraavan i.e. trees have a symbiotic relationship with me, some are like my sons, some like my mother, some like daughters and some are like brothers. Indeed, this must have been the guiding spirit for the feat that the citizens of Ludhiana strived to achieve.
Meticulous planning was done to find the right spaces and special diggers were deployed as it would have been impossible to dig more than a lakh pits manually to facilitate plantation of saplings in such large numbers.
The saplings chosen were predominantly of Burma Dek tree, which is a local variety that is used extensively by farmers in the rural areas on the bunds for plantations and for agro-forestry. Burma Dek grows quite fast and it was a good option for the occasion so that Ludhiana can attain a green cover in a short span of time.
While the first hurdle has been crossed and Ludhiana has taken baby steps forward to make its city green, the real challenge for the city would be to see to it that all the saplings that have been planted survive and tide over the teething trouble of the first year.
Even if 50 percent of the saplings that were planted survive, within a few years a perceptible change would be felt in the environment of the city and the notorious tag of being “the most polluted city of India” could indeed become a thing of the past.
But, to attain that, residents would have to monitor the saplings that they have planted and water them till the rains arrive or else they will wilt, and with that, so could the spirit of the city. We cheer the citizens on this tremendous effort and wish them a healthy environment.