“If a tree is saved even at cost of one’s head, it’s worth it” said the noted activist Amrita Devi Bishnoi. Van Mahotsav celebration in India from July 1 to 7 was started as a crusade with the lofty purpose of saving the mother earth.This movement was initiated in the year 1950 by India’s Union Minister for Agriculture, late Shri K. M. Munshi, noted educationist and nature lover, during his tenure as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. Actually, it was began prior to our independence in July, 1947 after a flourishing tree planting drive which was undertaken in Delhi, in which leaders like Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru were participated. In its original aim, every citizen of India is expected to plant a seedling during the Van Mahotsav Week. If it is so, then the country could plant 1.26 billion trees per year now. It was started to create awareness in the mind of the people for the conservation of forests and planting of new trees. It is the festival of life to save the environment, to which we owe a lot. Generally, native trees are planted as they readily adapted to the local conditions, integrate into eco-systems and have a high survival rate. Besides, such trees are helpful in supporting local birds, insects and animals as well.
Van Mahotsav will help in increasing forest cover and conserving biodivesrity. It is also the only viable option to promote fruit and timber trees. Open fields, river banks and barren lands can be slowly converted into integrated tree land or semi forests or orchards. Finally through Van mahotsav, we can bring back our lost forests.
Gujarat was the first state to implement Van Mahotsav. However, it was only in the 1970s that greater impetus was given to celebrate it on National level. This festival helps in creation of shelter-belts around agricultural fields to increase their productivity. Provide fodder leaves for cattle to relieve intensity of grazing over reserved forests. Provide shade and ornamental trees for the landscape. Provide small poles and timber for agricultural implements, house construction and fencing. It helps conservation of soil and prevents further deterioration of soil fertility. The festival inculcates tree consciousness and love of trees amongst the people. It also popularizes the planting and tending of trees in farms, villages, municipal and public lands for their aesthetic, economic and protective needs. The government of India promotes celebration of this festival among children, that’s why all schools, colleges and academic institutions are asked to supply with free seedlings. The concept of recently introduced the school nursery scheme also aimed to make acquainted the students with seedlings and plants. The festival educates the awareness of trees among people and portrays the need of planting and tending of trees, as trees are the best ways to prevent global warming and reduce pollution. Due to the celebration of this festival in the month of July, the onset of the monsoon, planting trees proves to be beneficial.
The constant felling of trees has been a problem for a long time now and as a result of that it is extremely important for us to create awareness for the same. The survival of plants and animals is also put in danger as humans with their greedy needs cut the rich forest for a size of a football ground globally per minute. In the name of urbanization and globalization of cities, trees were considered as the major stumbling block. They came in the way of flyovers, roads, hoardings and pavements and hence the easiest solution was to get rid of them altogether. This declining number of trees has brought a major change in climate too. So there is a dire necessity of festivals such as Van Mahotsav, to restore the forest cover in the country.
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 a large number of trees. India has long been vulnerable to floods, cloudburst, droughts, heat waves, cyclones, and other natural disasters and this trend is increasing with each day. With continuous human intervention against Nature, these disasters can no longer be considered ‘Natural’.
At present the forest cover of the country including the trees outside the forest is 23.81 percent. The Government of India as set a national target of 33 percent as a threshold limit to maintain ecological balance by 2020. It is a rally a challenge to achieve. On one side we are promoting afforestation and on the other side we are giving environment clearance for multinational companies to undertake industrial projects. More over the population is increasing at an alarming rate and climate is changing rapidly. The country is always trying for a birth of super power and for that development activities are compulsory. Hence there is need to find a way out to change this existing trend. Indeed at this juncture there is urgent need to bring back our lost forests. It means integrating tree component in to agricultural land i.e. agroforestry will be another option. This practice will help in maintaining the balance between sustenance of human beings from cultivating food crops and trees in their farmland. Moreover it reduces complete pressure on forests and controls deforestation and promotes afforestation.
Trees have longed served humanity in one form or the other. The very existence of mankind would not have been possible without trees and other green plants. Trees also play an important role in the achievement of human security. Whether it is through the provision of livelihood resources (e.g. food, medicine, cooking fuel, construction materials etc.) or ecosystem services such as water and air purification, climate regulation and erosion control, trees undeniably provide security to humans and are a means for sustaining life. Consequently, loss of trees will certainly result in human insecurity leading to global warming, acute vulnerability to natural hazards and a polluted & unhealthy Planet.
People should definitely know the importance of trees in their lives and the observance of the festival should not become a mere ritual. The festival is not confined to cities and towns alone; it has seeped into the villages too, bringing home to the villagers the idea that trees mean better crops, better living conditions, better cattle and a more beautiful village. The Van Mohotsava is not like the other religious festivals, lasting for a day or two and thereafter developing into token rituals devoid of any meaning. But it is a symbol of unending movement towards a greener India!
In Manipur the Van Mohotsava festival was started to kick off on the first day of July, 2016 at the CC Higher Secondary School, Imphal. Now the time has come to evoke every one of us to plant a least one seedling on the eve of this festival. The only viable industries that we hope to cope the huge unemployed educated youth of the state is tourism. Tourism means beautiful landscape and beautiful landscape means full of trees and wildlife. Therefore we should stop indiscriminate cutting of trees in hill areas.
Proper care has to be taken of the seedlings so planted. Following points may be noted while doing Van Mohotsava tree plantations: The area selected should be relatively free from vandalism. As far as possible, the indigenous species should be planted and avoid the exotic one. Tree guards should be provided for roadside plantations. Saplings should be watered regularly during the dry spell. Soil or plantation area should be free of construction waste, debris etc. But, unfortunately the festival has become more ceremonial and ritualistic. No care is taken of the planted tree saplings after the festival is over.
In Pondicherry, while drawing a house, trees are given priority not to cut down during the construction. In Goa, for felling of a tree, Rs. 3000 is to deposit to Forest Department and later while three trees are planted and survived, then only the amount will be refunded. As a symbol of respect to trees, one tree each is still growing within the boundary of world cup cricket venue at St. Pietermaitzburg in Kent and City Oval in South Africa. But here in Manipur, our attitude is really reverse and everyone acts at his own. It is not the law to stop them but it is their mindset to do so. Schools and colleges should adopt “one child one plant” scheme, where the responsibility of growing the plant lies with the student. This will be a learning experience for the student as well.
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. Here the role of the civil societies and NGOs will be very important. They may organize house to house tree plantation programme. During the admission at nursery class, students may be asked to produce “Tree Plantation Certificates” as we do birth certificates. If it is so, we could be able to achieve our national goal. So let us all welcome this coming monsoon by planting at least one tree during this Van Mahotsav and nurturing the ones that are already standing tall.
The ‘Van Mahostav’ festival will enhance the full vigour and enthusiasm by ensuring their protection. This festival gives us the opportunity to fulfil our duty towards environment and towards trees, on which all of us and our coming generation depends. In the words of John Milton, “Accuse not nature, it hath done her part, do thou but thine.” Therefore please come and join us in Van Mahotsav celebration 2016 to bringing back our lost forests and ultimately our Environment.
[The writer is a Range Forest Officer. He can be reached at nmunall(at)yahoo.in]