An Attempt to Set a New Guinness Record by Planting 50 Million Trees in One Day

On July 11, thousands of people from Uttar Pradesh, a northern state in India, attempted to plant 50 million trees over 24 hours to get into Guinness World Records.

Although this massive effort needs to be officially certified by the Guinness World Records, Indian officials say that volunteers have planted a mammoth 49.3 million tree saplings in 24 hours, easily surpassing the previously held record of 847,275 tree-plantings in a day, set in Pakistan in 2013.

In a bid to increase the forest cover, officials had distributed millions of saplings across the state. More than 800,000 people volunteered for the occasion, including government officials, NGOs, lawmakers, housewives, students. Saplings raised in the local nurseries were planted at designated spots along the highways, country roads, rail tracks and forest lands.

Having lost a substantial part of the forest cover in the last century to make room for development and pastures and for firewood, this is a right move in the right direction to mitigate climate change. Officials hope this is a small but positive step to improve air quality in India – the country with 6 of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world.

Government officials water saplings after planting. Image credit: AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh
Government officials water saplings after planting. Image credit: AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

The state’s top elected official, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav addressing volunteers said, “The world has realized that serious efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of global climate change. Uttar Pradesh has made a beginning in this regard.” He hopes that planting 50 million trees will spread awareness and enthusiasm about afforestation and environmental conservation.

As part of commitment made at last year’s Paris Climate Conference, the government is encouraging all the 29 states in the country to start tree planting drives to increase the countries forest cover. Also, having signed an agreement on Earth Day 2016, India is willing to spend $6 billion to reforest 12 percent of the land, there by bringing the total forest cover to 235 million acres or about 29 percent of the country’s territory by 2030.

“The biggest contribution of this tree planting project is, apart from the tokenism, that it focuses on the major issues,” Anit Mukherjee, policy fellow with the Centre for Global Development told the Telegraph. “It addresses many of the big issues for India: pollution, deforestation, and land use.”

Para-military force soldiers plant saplings. Image credit: AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh
Para-military force soldiers plant saplings. Image credit: AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

It is great to plant 50 million trees, but without adequate procedures in place to take care of the plants and protect them, the whole exercise will turn out to be futile. One of the major concerns in such mass planting campaigns is the long term survivability of the planted trees. On most occasions, only 60 percent of the saplings survive and the rest succumb to lack of water and diseases.

Addressing these concerns, forest officials have plans to monitor the planted trees by taking aerial photographs at regular intervals and take note of the number of saplings thriving and the areas which may need special attention.

Women plant saplings. Image credit: AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh
Women plant saplings. Image credit: AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

It’s not only India, other countries are also on the move to replanting trees on a massive scale. In December last year, African nations took pledge to reforest 100 million hectares. In September 2014, a wide range of stakeholders from countries to companies also signed the nonbinding New York Declaration of Forests with the goal to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020 and strive to end it by 2030. Additionally the declaration seeks to restore at least 350 million hectares of degraded land with healthy forests.

Finally, it looks like we humans are waking-up from our deep slumber and are on the go to set our act right!!

1. Associated Press.
2. National Geographic.
3. Science Alert.
4. The Telegraph.

Feature Image: Women plant saplings on the outskirts of Allahabad, India. Image credit: AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

Ravindra Krishnamurthy

Ravindra Krishnamurthy is a freelance science writer covering science, tech, the environment, health, food, and culture.

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