Nairobi, 11 August 209 - On Wednesday August 12, villagers in the small city of Dungarpur in Southern India will attempt to plant 600,000 trees in one day, a feat which if they accomplish, could earn them a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Last July, volunteers from Pakistan set a twenty-four hour world record by planting 541,176 trees in twenty-four hours without using any mechanical equipment in the vast wetlands of the Indus River.
Nevertheless, Dr.Arushi Malik an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official coordinating the Indian tree-planting drive said, "We just want to plant. This is not about beating Pakistan's record. It's about creating livelihoods and providing the people of Dungarpur with food security."
The volunteers will be planting Mango, Neem, Teak and Jatropha trees; all indigenous species that will eventually provide food, medicinal value and timber to the community.
"The land in Dungarpur had become barren as a result of deforestation, and this led to water shortages and food scarcity. By planting trees, we will ensure this does not happen again. It will also help the fight against climate change," said Dr. Malik.
Once planted, the trees will be 'adopted' by local villagers to ensure that they are watered and maintained. The after-care will be supervised by the Indian Forestry Service. The trees will also be registered under UNEP's Billion Tree Campaign, and will go a long way to helping it meet its target of 7 billion trees planted by December 2009.
"Volunteers will be given pledge forms to record their commitment to looking after the trees they planted. We hope that this sense of ownership will make them good stewards of the environment", added Dr. Malik.
"From the onset, the Billion Tree Campaign has engendered a lot of emulation between communities. In fact, people at the grassroots level often approach the campaign as a competition, and proudly visit UNEP with a sheet of paper listing the trees planted, said Meryem Amar, Coordinator of this global tree-planting initiative, which won the UN 21 award in 2008.