With a population of 1.3 billion, India ranks number two in the list of countries by population. In recent years, India has gone through a rapid period of economic growth. Unfortunately, the country’s environmental conditions have suffered greatly due to this growth. One of the most significant issues is deforestation. On July 31th, 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the importance of trees and ‘Mann ki Baat’ on a program broadcast on the government’s All India Radio.
Prime Minister Modi talked about how traditional Hindu scriptures such as Gita, Shukracharya Niti, and Anushasan Parv of the Mahabharta highlight the values of forests. He said that “I have repeatedly told my farmer that instead of wasting our land in building fences around our fields, why don’t we start planting timber trees there.” From 2009 to 2013, Forest Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad reported that India has “imported 14.7 million cubic feet of timber from abroad and from other parts of the country.” Today, India has to spend millions to import timber from across the world.
According to Global Export Import Market Intelligence, India has imported timber worth $14,926,485 just during July of 2016. Like Prime Minister Modi said, planting trees in India has not only become a new source of income for India’s citizens, but it can save India from deforestation and timber importation costs. If the Indian people start to plant more saplings, they can be utilized for the construction of homes and furniture in the future. Furthermore, these saplings can be cut and sold to other countries with the permission of the government when they reach maturity.
Before Prime Minister Modi gave his speech, various states had set up different projects and activities to let people plant more trees. For instance, more than eight hundred thousand students, volunteers, and government officials in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh planted over fifty million saplings in twenty-four hours, according to The Huffington Post. Furthermore, the Maharashtra government planted almost 20,000,000 saplings in the entire state, and will pledge to plant another 30,000,000 next year. According to The Telegraph, the Indian government has attributed $6.2 billion for tree-planting in order to increase “forestation in line with agreements made at the Paris climate change summit in 2015.” The Indian government has also passed the CAMPA law, which will allow about 40 thousand crores rupees (almost $6 Billion) will go to Indian states for planting trees.
As you can see, the Indian government has transformed reforestation into a people’s movement. Although tree planting is only a small contribution to India’s greater climate commitments, the biggest contribution of these tree planting projects is that they raise people’s awareness of many bigger Indian issues, such as pollution, deforestation, and land use.