N Munal Meitei
“Connecting People to Nature”, the theme for World Environment Day 2017, implores us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the Earth that we share. Despite repeated global pledges to protect the planet’s environment, the trees, the animal and other living species and their habitats – and the goods and services they provide – the earth natural resources continues to decline at an unprecedented rate. Human activities are the cause. In such a grime situation, celebration of Vanamahotsova 2017 – provides a timely opportunity to focus on the urgency of safeguarding our valued environment for the wealth, health and well-being of living beings on the Planet.
Van Mahotsav celebration in India from July 1 to 7 was started as a crusade with the lofty purpose of saving the mother earth. 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 1.34 billion trees in this year only. It was also started to create awareness in the mind of the citizen of the country for the conservation of forests and planting of new trees. It is the festival of life to save the environment, to which we owe. 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 biodiversity. It is also the only viable option to promote fruit and timber trees. Moreover, trees also create decorative landscapes, offer shade and help protect soil from deterioration. With Van Mahotsav festival, open fields, river banks and barren lands can slowly be converted into integrated tree land or orchards or forests. Finally through Van Mahotsav, we can bring back our lost forests. So there is a dire necessity of festivals such as Van Mahotsav, to restore the forest cover in the country. 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, household construction and fencing. It helps conservation of soil and prevents further deterioration of soil fertility. 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. 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 emphasizes the 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, right from the seed to germination and growing up to a tree. 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, extreme situations have started arising to us. The survival of plants and animals is put in danger as humans with their greedy needs cut the rich forest to 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 and our national target is 33 percent as a threshold limits to maintain ecological balance by 2020. It is rally a challenge to achieve. On one side we are promoting afforestation and on the other side we are giving environment clearance to undertake for many industrial projects. More over the population is increasing at an alarming rate and climate is changing rapidly. Indeed at this juncture there is urgent need to bring back our lost forests. At this point, integrating tree component in to agricultural land i.e. agro-forestry 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 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.
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 has been started from the 1st July 2017 and main function will take place on the 7th July, 2017 with record breaking plantation of one lakh seedlings in one hour from 11.00 am to 12 noon all over the state. 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 and killing of wild life in our state.
Following points may be noted while doing Van Mohotsava tree plantations. The area selected should be well prepared and dug out pits should be properly maintained. As far as possible, the indigenous species should be planted. Tree guards should be provided for roadside plantations. Saplings should be watered regularly during the dry spell. But, unfortunately the festival has become more ceremonial and ritualistic. No care is taken of the planted trees after the festival is over which should not be repeated again.
Recently in a unique punishment, the Bombay High Court directed seven students of Army Institute of Technology, Pune who were allegedly caught for ragging to pay a fine of Rs 5000 and to plant 10 trees each in the campus and to make them survive instead of baring them from the college for three years. But in Manipur, our attitude is really reverse and here everyone acts at their own. In the schools, colleges and office campus and even in Municipal areas, the trees are cut without knowledge of concerned authority which a punishable offence. It is not the law to stop them but it is their mindset to do so.
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. Schools and colleges should adopt “one child one tree” scheme, where the responsibility of growing the plant lies with the student. This will be a learning experience for the student as well. They may organize house to house tree plantation programme. During the admission at nursery classes, 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 week and also nurturing the already existing trees.
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. Once Wangari Muta Maathai told, “You can make a lot of speeches, but the real thing is when you dig a hole, plant a tree, give it water, and make it survive. That’s what makes the difference”.
Therefore please come and join us in Van Mahotsav celebration 2017 to bring back our lost forests and ultimately our Environment.
(The writer is Range Forest Officer. He can be reached at [email protected])
Source: The Sangai Express