Hundreds of thousands of people in Uttar Pradesh yesterday attempted to plant 50mn tree saplings during the course of 24 hours to set a new world record.
Described as the “largest plantation drive on earth,” some 550,000 people were planting the saplings at more than 6,000 sites across 770sq km.
According to Guinness World Records, “the largest distribution of saplings across multiple locations” is also held by Uttar Pradesh.
The state planted more than 1mn saplings at 10 locations in November 2015.
“Schoolchildren, government employees and professionals are all involved to make the campaign for planting 50mn saplings across the state a success,” Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav told reporters in the city of Kannauj.
“At a time when the world is trying to mitigate climate change, it is a noble endeavour to protect our environment and ensuring the coming generations inherit a clean and green planet,” he added.
By yesterday evening, more than 40mn saplings had been planted at designated spots along roads and highways, train tracks and other public areas.
Officials said the effort was part of the state’s forestation and environmental conservation initiative.
In Lucknow’s Kukrail Reserve Forest, eighth-grader Shashwat Rai said he was planting a “peepal,” using the local name for the fig species Ficus religiosa.
“I’ve read in a book that this tree releases maximum oxygen,” Rai said. “There is so much pollution in the city, we need trees that produce oxygen.”
Shashwat said he would be checking on the tree frequently. “I don’t want this plant to die,” he said. The long-term survival of trees planted in such mass campaigns remains a concern, officials said.
Senior forest official Sanjeev Saran said the sites where the trees have been planted would be monitored through aerial photographs taken at regular intervals to check how many of the saplings were thriving.
Usually, only 60% of saplings survive, with the rest succumbing to disease or lack of water, officials said.
Meanwhile, auditors from Guinness World Records were moving around in the state to check on the numbers.
“We are trying to maintain full transparency,” Saran said.
“They are out in the field and are supervising the plantation drive,” he said. “We do not know who they are or where they are at this point in time. They are working incognito, and this suits us.”
The Indian government is promoting tree-planting drives across its 29 states as part of its pledges at last year’s climate summit in Paris.
It plans to take up tree plantation drives in 200 cities.