Celebrate Van Mahotsav: Bring Alive the Spirit to Plant and Save Trees
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit Makes that extra effort to ensure the proper plantation of saplings during a Government led tree plantation drive.
“Sir santhe rooke rahe to bhi sasto jaan” (if a tree is saved even at the cost of one’s head, it’s worth it), noted Amrita Devi Bishnoi as she hugged the trees to stop them from being felled. Trees have been serving humanity since times immemorial. The very existence of man would not have been possible without trees and other green plants. Trees also play an important role in achieving human security and well-being.
Whether it is through the provision of livelihood resources like food, medicine, cooking fuel, construction materials or ecosystem services such as water and air purification, climate regulation and erosion control, trees undeniably provide security to humans and are a means of sustaining life. Consequently, loss of trees results in human insecurity leading to global warming, acute vulnerability to natural hazards and a polluted and unhealthy Planet.
With this understanding, K.M. Munshi, the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food in 1950, started an annual tree planting festival in the month of July and called it Van Mahotsav! Van Mahostav was initiated largely to create awareness for the conservation of forest and planting of new trees.
The dwindling number of rainy days and increase in the intensity of precipitation events raises serious question on the increasing developmental activities taking place at the cost of cutting large number of trees. India has long been vulnerable to floods, droughts, heat waves, cyclones and other natural disasters and this trend is increasing each day. With continuous human intervention against nature, the disasters can no longer be considered natural. An example that comes to mind is the colossal event we recently witnessed in Uttarakhand, which claimed the lives of thousands of tourists and locals and has left many stranded.
The Uttarakhand disaster has once again triggered the environment versus development debate. The hydroelectric projects undertaken in the region after clearing the natural forest as well as irresponsible tourism practices jeopardized the lives of millions. The calamity in Uttarakhand serves as a harsh reminder to reassess the role of trees in natural disaster prevention and mitigation. Indeed there have been people who saved themselves from the gushing flow of the river by holding on to a branch or climbing a nearby tree.
To further highlight the importance of trees, let’s take the example of dense mangroves forests growing along the coastal areas of the country. The mangroves helped immensely in reducing the devastating effect of the 2004 tsunami. The mangroves absorbed the oncoming waves and protected a large many human habitation. Mangrove forests grow where the ocean meets the land and act as a barrier against storm surges and coastal erosion. Mangroves, the oldest and the most productive wetlands on Earth, not only serve as a silent protector of our coastline, in fact their role extends far beyond.
Mangroves consists of world’s richest biodiversity of species and are a home to many fishes and support the livelihood of millions of people. Mangroves forests are known to contribute more than 80 million metric tonnes to the long term storage of carbon globally. The east coast of India hosts the largest mangrove ecosystem of the world: Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site and a biosphere reserve. Despite their ecological and economic importance, this ecosystem is under great pressure. The mangroves are being destroyed at an alarming rate. This is mostly due to deforestation, degradation and conversion to other land uses like intensive shrimp farming. If the mangroves disappear, much of the global primary productivity will be lost.
Trees have longed served humanity in one form or the other. Humans have only threatened their very existence. Now it is our turn to reverse the damage that we have caused and restore the balance between nature and man and the first step towards this change is to plant trees. So let us all welcome the monsoons by planting a tree during Van Mahotsav and nurture the trees that are already standing tall.
The history of the Van Mahostav plantation drive, which is purely an Indian festival for nature, goes back to the time of independence of our nation. The first such festival took place even before its formal announcement and a flourishing tree plantation drive was undertaken in Delhi in July 1947. Leaders like Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Jawaharlal Nehru participated in the festival in that year. The festival was simultaneously celebrated in a number of states in India. Since then, thousands of saplings of diverse species are planted with enthusiastic participation of the locals and agencies like the Forest department.
The Van Mahostav is a festival of trees and is a beautiful initiative to save the environment, to which we owe a lot. Everyone is encouraged to plant trees at home, in school, college, near offices and contribute in making your city greener and cleaner. If you do not find land around you to plant trees, you can adopt trees in your colony, school, college or workplace and celebrate Van Mahotsav with full vigour and enthusiasm by ensuring their protection. The first week of July gives us the opportunity to fulfill our duty towards environment and towards trees, on whom all of us and our coming generation depend. In the words of John Milton, accuse not nature, it hath done her part, do thou but thine.