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The Significance of Van Mahotsav for Biodiversity

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    The significance of Van Mahotsav for bio-diversity People of India have many festivals related to trees. One such festival is Van Mahotsav or the Forest Festival. Van Mahotsav was started in 1950 by K. M. Munshi, the then Union Minister for Agriculture and Food to create enthusiasm among masses for forest conservation and planting trees. Van Mahotsav, a week long festival of tree planting is organised every year in the month of July, across India when millions of trees are planted. As the monsoon progresses across the Gangetic plains, Van Mahotsav is celebrated n some parts in early July, in others, in August, and still further west, even in September. The main purpose for planting the trees during Van Mahotsav was to: Increase awareness about trees and love of trees amongst the • people. •Help soil conservation and arrest deterioration of soil fertility. •Popularize the planting and tending of trees in farms, villages, municipal and public lands for their aesthetic, economic and protective needs. Provide fuel and thus release cow dung for use as manure. • •Increase production of fruits and add to the potential food resources of the country.

    Help creation of shelter-belts around agricultural fields to increase • their productivity. •Provide fodder leaves for cattle to relieve intensity of grazing over reserved forests. •Provide shade and ornamental trees for the landscape. Provide small poles and timber for agricultural implements, • house construction and fencing. As a part of Van Mahaotsav celebrations throughout the country, afforestation drive was launched after the observations from 1950 in a bid to retain the vanishing forest covers of the country. Cutting down trees on a massive scale has greatly affected the environment around us and it has ecome imperative to do something about their conservation as well. In the competition of urbanisation and beautification of cities, trees were considered the greatest stumbling block. They came in the way of roads, flyovers, hoardings, pavements and all the other necessities of urban living. This resulted in the chopping of trees. The declining number of trees has also brought about changes in the climate. Planting of trees is a symbolic gesture to celebrate our reverence for all things that grow in the forest. Late K. M. Munshi had said, “trees mean water, water helps grow Wheat and bread, and it is bread that gives and ustains life. Without trees and forests Lord Indra’s clouds will not bless us. Without that water there can be no rivers and no rain-fed forests. We must all understand and recognize that the sustenance of human life on this planet cannot be arranged without trees. ” A quote from the 18th century British poet Christopher Smart who wrote of how plants and trees and flowers along with prayers can combine to make our lives beautiful and meaningful and profitable. “Trees, plants, and flowers of virtuous root; Gem yielding blossom, yielding fruit ……………. And with sadness of the gale enrich the thankful Sun,

    The World He made, The Glorious light the Soothing shade Dale, champaign, grow and hill, Where Secrecy remains in bliss And Wisdom hides her grace. ” The Vedas, teach us to seek….. “Bless me Oh Lord with lofty hills and mountains which give birth to rivers and forests with trees that bear fruit…… May peace fill the plants and the forests. May God’s ruling over the rivers be peaceful. May Lord Brahma be peaceful. May there be peace in the world. May peace manifest itself in every form…… ” But Van Mahotsav is not just about forest and tree planting. It is also about immediate surroundings.

    Trees are planted on railway lines, periphery of lakes, wastelands, forests and even in homes and balconies. At a time when trees are getting chopped, it is heartening to see almost everyone, from the President of India to young children huddled to plant trees. President Pratibha Patil launched 59th Van Mahotsav by planting a sapling of the Carribian Trumpet tree, commonly known as ‘Basant Rani’ in a school in Delhi. Native plants are planted which adapt easily to local regions and have a high survival rate while supporting the birds, insects and animals of the respective co-system. State governments, city administrations, villages and panchayat bodies, schools, colleges and academic institutions, scouts and guides, defence units, resident welfare associations, Joint Forest Management Committees all join in this movement. Every year free saplings are distributed all over the country by various units of the Forest departments, farmers and state governments. Various competitions on slogan writing and poster making are also organized. Approximately 50 percent saplings die due to grazing, intense eat, pollution and neglect. Yet, Van Mahotsav is a step towards protecting the green cover and our environment. “Van Mahotsava – towards a greener India. ” Let’s pledge to leave a legacy of a green earth to our future generations. Let’s save trees. Celebrate “Van Mahotsava” with us. Van Mahotsava is celebrated throughout the country in the first week (1st to 7th) of July every year. Every year lakhs of saplings of different tree species are planted with active involvement of government agencies like the Forest department.

    The first ever national awakening to the necessity of planting trees and attempts at tree rehabilitation on a national scale, came in July 1947, with a successful tree plantation drive in Delhi. This was the first tree plantation festival of India in which national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam Azad participated along with many others. The main objective of celebrating tree plantation week was to focus people’s attention on the national importance of planting trees and to make them tree-conscious.

    This objective was fulfilled to great extent by the first plantation drive. There was a scramble for seedlings at the nurseries and in many states the week was celebrated in a well organized manner. In the early 50’s this movement was renamed by late Shri K. M. Munshi, noted educationist and nature lover, during his tenure as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. Massive tree plantation drives were conducted with active involvement of the local population. People should definitely know the importance of trees in their lives and the observance of the estival should not become a mere ritual. The festival is not confined to cities and towns alone, it has seeped into the villages too, bringing home to the villagers the idea that trees mean better crops, better living conditions, better cattle and a more beautiful village. The Van Mohotsava is not like the other religious festivals, lasting for a day or two and thereafter developing into token rituals devoid of any meaning. It is a symbol of unending movement towards a greener India! By July, the SouthWest Monsoon affects the entire country.

    The time is just right for any kind of plantation activity or seed dispersal. The importance of trees in purifying the air, as natural resources, maintaining the ecological balance, preventing soil erosion, as medicines, habitats for faunal species, providing nutrients to the soil etc. is well known. People from all over the country gear up for planting trees at public parks, roads, railway platforms, hospitals, universities, colleges, schools, housing colonies, degraded forest areas, sacred groves around the villages etc. But mere planting of rees will not help. Proper care has to be taken of the saplings planted. Following points should be noted while doing tree plantations, anywhere in the country: ? The area selected should be relatively free from vandalism. ? As far as possible, the trees of Indian Forests should be propagated and planted. Trees like Eucalyptus,Australian Acacia, Lantana, Lucena, Mast tree (False Ashoka) should be avoided. ? Tree guards should be provided for roadside plantations. ? Saplings should be watered regularly during times of a dry pell. ? Well-drained deep sandy loams are best suited for plant growth. ? Soil or plantation area should be free of construction waste, debris etc. ? An occasional dose of organic manure like cow-dung or vegetable litter will result in good sturdy plants. ? Schools and colleges should adopt “one child one plant” scheme, where the responsibility of growing the plant lies with the student. This will be a learning experience for the student as well. The Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh planting a

    Zetrofa sapling to kick off Van Mahotsav in Raipur on July 11, 2005. Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, along with Lt. Governor B. L. Joshi, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, and Minister for Urban Development, Gulam Nabi Azad, launching “Van Mahotsav” on Shanti Path by planting a peach sapling, in New Delhi on August 28, 2004. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, pouring water after planting a sapling to launch `The Van Mahotsav’, in collaboration with BPCL, at its outlet at Shantipath in New Delhi on July 13, 2005.

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