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India Plants a Record 50 Million Trees in 24 Hours

More than 800,000 volunteers planted saplings in public spaces in the state of Uttar Pradesh hoping to reduce greenhouse gases and reforest the countryside

A forest in India (Christopher Kray /Flickr)
smithsonian.com

There's no question that volunteers make a huge impact, but last week the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh undertook a 24-hour volunteer project that could one day be measured from space. The state coordinated the planting of almost 50 million trees by 800,000 volunteers in public spaces.

The tree planting frenzy is the beginning of a reforestation effort the nation of India agreed to during the 2015 Paris Climate Talks, reports Brian Clark Howard at National Geographic. During those talks, India made a commitment to reforest 12 percent of its land by 2030, a $6.2 billion commitment.

“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,” Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav told volunteers before the planting, reports Biswajeet Banerjee at the AP.

The planting is not just a publicity stunt, though the organizers do hope it raises awareness of reforestation efforts. Though the record won’t be validated for several months, it’s likely that Uttar Pradesh Guinness World Record has blown away the standing record for the most tree plantings in one day. That went to Pakistan in 2013, when volunteers planted 847,275 trees out of the water, reports Howard.

While Banerjee reports that there is usually a 60 percent mortality rate for saplings planted in these kind of projects, state officials say they are committed to monitoring the trees to make sure they survive.

Edward Parson, an environmental law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, tells Christina Beck at The Christian Science Monitor that the 50 million trees is at best just a "small contribution" to India’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it is one more sign the nation is moving in the right direction. Beck points out that besides the reforestation program, India has also implemented an ambitious solar-power program.   

As Anit Mukherjee, policy fellow with the Centre for Global Development tells Adam Boult at The Telegraph “It addresses many of the big issues for India: pollution, deforestation, and land use.”

If 50 million trees sounds like a lot, this is likely just the first of many tree planting events on the subcontinent. In May, the country’s Environment Minister announced plans to increase the nation’s forests from 21.34 percent to 33 percent of its land area  with a bill that's been passed by the Parliament of India's lower house and is now pending approval from the upper house.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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