India joins UNEP's Billion Tree Campaign
The world's second most populous country plants for the planet
Nairobi 25 February 2010- The Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Mr. Vijay Sharma, announced today that India has joined the United Nations Environment Programme's Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign (BTC) by planting two billion trees since 2007, bringing the international campaign's total to date to over 10 billion planted trees worldwide.
India is one of Asia's fastest growing economies and is among the largest consumers of wood products. In addition, a large part of its population continues to depend on land, putting pressure on forests, especially in densely populated areas where people are cultivating on marginal lands. Overgrazing is also contributing towards desertification.
While the socio-economic pressures on the country's forests are tremendous, the government is clearly anxious to find solutions. Almost one third of the planted forests in Asia, mostly in China and India, have served the purpose of environmental protection. India has instituted a tree planting system to combat land degradation and desertification, including windbreaks and shelterbelts to protect agricultural land.
India has also launched a compensation afforestation programme under which any diversion of public forests for non-forestry purposes is compensated through afforestation in degraded or non-forested land. The funds received as compensation are used to improve forest management, protection of forests and of watershed areas. A government authority has been created specifically to administer this programme.
Forestry forms the second largest land use in India and the government actively monitors the growth of the trees. At the macro level it is done by the Forest Survey of India every two years. In general, indigenous species are planted in the forested area through the involvement of local people. Tree planting on public lands is also nationally monitored by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
The private sector is also engaged with tree planting. As part of the Green Commonwealth Games 2010 in Delhi, organizers have introduced an initiative to expand the forest coverage in the city.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "It is wonderful to have India join a campaign that will give so much in terms of trees and the future of the planet. In September we thought hitting seven billion trees was an enormous achievement but with this latest planting by India we have now reached over 10 billion in the Billion Tree Campaign that has galvanized governments and people around the world. It is this kind of solidarity that will make a difference for moving economies towards a low carbon and sustainable world."
Since its launching in late 2006, hundreds of millions of people ranging from scouts to presidents and from schoolchildren to city dwellers and corporate heads have been rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty for the environment through planting a tree as part of Billion Tree Campaign.
Citizens from 170 countries have joined the Billion Tree Campaign with China joining last September. The country planted 6.1 billion trees, of which 2.6 billion have been contributed to the campaign.
A number of other countries around the world have planted impressive numbers of trees since the campaign was launched. Countries that have planted more than a hundred million trees span from Ethiopia (with 1.4 billion trees) and Turkey (711 million trees) to Mexico (with 537 million trees) and other countries within this range including Kenya, Cuba, and Indonesia.
The Billion Tree Campaign was launched jointly with the World Agroforestry Centre during the UN climate convention meeting in November 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya, under the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Founder of the Green Belt Movement Professor Wangari Maathai and His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco.
The initial goal of the campaign was to catalyze the pledging and the planting of one billion trees as a way of giving public expression to the challenges of climate change and also forest and ecosystem degradation.
Since then the campaign has repeatedly, and thanks to the mobilization of communities on all continents, more than surpassed its aims evolving into a true 'People's Campaign' , with more than half (52 percent) of participants being private individuals.
Furthermore, tree planting has become both an inter-faith and an inter-generational activity, with the trees symbolizing connections between children and parents and bringing together people from different religious backgrounds, often in the name of peace.
Highlights of the Billion Tree Campaign
In the past months more groups have joined the campaign including the United Nations World Food Programme with 153 million trees planted for food security in areas where it delivers food aid in developing countries.
In addition to bringing governments to take concrete action to reforest their lands, the Billion Tree Campaign has succeeded in catalyzing tree planting by people from all walks of society, bringing together creative, original and pioneering initiatives around the world.
To name a few, the Replant New Orleans Initiative sponsored a planting of fruit trees to help breathe new life into a community struggling with the aftermath of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina; the Greening Soweto Campaign is transforming dustbowls into treed lanes in Soweto by capitalizing on South Africa's preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup; and 132 children in 56 countries have pledged to plant a total of one million trees as part of the 'Stop talking, Start planting' campaign, which was started by a twelve-year-old environmentalist, Felix Finkbeiner, of Germany.
In addition, the campaign has mobilized groups and individuals in post-conflict areas around the world, bringing the seeds of hope to communities in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia among others.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has planted 29 million trees in and around refugee camps around the globe, helping to plant hundreds of thousands of acres of trees in Asia and Africa since the 1990s.
The United Nations Departments of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and Field Support (DFS) have also participated in the campaign, with thirteen peacekeeping missions having pledged 117,848 trees. Of this number 33,184 trees have already taken root across various countries hosting peacekeeping missions.
The campaign, which encouraged the planting of indigenous trees appropriate to the local environments, has not only witnessed the participation and enthusiasm of UN staff, but also of the local communities in the different areas of operation.
The private sector has become a key player in the global campaign, accounting for almost 15 percent of all the trees planted. Multinationals, including ACCOR, Bayer, Toyota, Coca-Cola East and Central Africa and Yves Rocher have been active tree planters, along with hundreds of small and medium-sized companies from all over the world. Green companies such as Tree-Nation, Kinomé-Trees for Life have based their operations on tree planting in the tropics.
The campaign's universal appeal is clear from the echo given on social networking sites, with thousands of blogs adopting the cause from the start of the campaign.
Proving true to its motto that 'Every tree counts, and we count every tree', the Billion Tree Campaign's phenomenal success demonstrates the readiness of citizens all over the world to work in unison to protect our climate and collective home.
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