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Krzysztof Kundzicz/WikiCommons
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How India Planted 50 Million Trees in One Day

Picture of Sridevi Nambiar
Updated: 21 December 2016
While India spiritedly applauded most of the government’s climate change commitments outlined at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, skepticism and doubt was inevitable. The government’s pledge to drastically increase the country’s forest area particularly made one wonder if any miracles were in store. Cue hundreds of thousands of determined residents of Uttar Pradesh and a world-record setting forestation drive; planting 49.3 million trees across 6,100 sites in just 24 hours, India’s most populous state has set a precedent that puts the rest of the country to shame.

Some 800,000 volunteers partook in the drive, under the state government’s ‘Clean UP Green UP’ initiative spanning 24 hours. Volunteers included students, government officials and residents from towns across Mumbai. The 49.3 million saplings, from 80 different species, were grown in 950 local nurseries months in advance and planted along public facilities, including roads, railway tracks, walkways and parks.

Cities across the state were given specific targets and deadlines. Around 610,000 saplings were planted in Kanpur, where the drive was inaugurated by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. The districts of Rampur, Moradabad, Sambhal, Bijnor and Amroha planted about 250,000 saplings each. With the exception of Agra and capital city Lucknow, all targets were achieved – some even hours in advance!

Preparations for this impressive feat began at least six months in advance. About 90% of the pits for the plants were dug up as early as March. Moreover, they were selected after months of scouting – factoring in where they would contribute most to the government’s anti-pollution goals, as well as the chances of the saplings’ survival. Recruiting volunteers was also a challenge that began months before.

The record preceding Uttar Pradesh’s efforts was set at 847,275 trees planted in 2013 in Sindh, Pakistan. Though Uttar Pradesh has beaten this record by more than 58 times, it will take a few months for the new record to be officially validated. However, the state is no stranger to large-scale forestation related records on the Guinness Book of World Records as last year it created a record for the largest distribution of plant saplings in eight hours when it donated more than 1 million trees to be planted across 10 locations in the state.

Only a little more than half the planted saplings are likely to survive, as is usually considered to be the case in such mass plantation efforts. However, the state’s forest department will be tending to the trees, using aerial photography to monitor their growth.

India’s declared plan is to increase green cover to cover 33% of all geographical areas in the near future, specifically to cover 235 million acres by 2030. While the country’s forest cover has increased over the past years, the rate of growth isn’t sufficient to meet these goals. With the federal government’s allocation of about $6 billion for reforestation efforts, and its efforts encouraging states to launch their own reforestation initiatives, there lies hope for a greener future.