India branches out with record number of new trees

Volunteers planted over 50 million saplings to try and address the root of the climate change problem

India branches out with record number of new trees

Image: sandeepachetan.com/Flickr

India has broken the world record for tree-planting, with over 50 million trees planted as part of deforestation initiative.

An estimated 800,000 volunteers in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh planted 50.4 million trees in just 24 hours. The previous world record, set by Pakistan in 2013, was 847,275 trees.

More than 80 different species of sapling were raised at local nurseries and planted at over 6,000 locations across the state in 2016.

The effort was part of India’s commitment to the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. In that agreement, India agreed to spend $6 billion (€5.6 million) to regrow forests on 12% of the country’s land and bring total forest cover up to 29%.

"The world has realized that serious efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of global climate change," said Akhilesh Yadav, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, speaking at an event promoting the planting.

More than 2,500 square kilometres of very dense and mid-dense forests have been wiped out, according to India Today.

Despite this, the Indian government reports that the total area of forested land has increased and new efforts are being made to expand them even further. The ultimate aim is 33% forest cover.

Planting versus pollution

According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), six of the 10 most polluted cities on Earth are in India. It’s hoped that the trees will improve the country’s air quality. Trees are known to remove pollutants from the air in addition to converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. There is also evidence that urban trees can reduce power consumption by shading buildings in summer, and blocking cold winds in the winter.

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

The planted saplings will be monitored using aerial photography. Up to 40% of them are expected to die within a short time of being transplanted due to their susceptible to contracting diseases and their need for a regular supply of water.

How do they compare?

Last year, African nations promised to expand forested land to up to 100 million hectares. In the same month, a wide range of interested parties, from companies to countries, signed the New York Declaration of Forests.

Though non-binding, the agreement aims to halve deforestation by 2020, and bring it to an end by 2030. It also sets an objective to reforest at least 350 million hectares of land.