“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” ~Chinese Proverb
Van Mahotsav or Forest Festival is an annual tree-planting festival celebrated from 1 July to 7 July to spread awareness of forest conservation and to save the environment. Van Mahotsav was started back in the year 1950 by K.M. Munshi, who, back then, was a Union Minister for Agriculture and Food.
Trees and forests play a very crucial role in maintaining an ecological balance and providing oxygen to human beings on the planet. The Van Mahotsav week is a reminder that we must protect forests and stop deforestation and practice the 3R rule- Reduce, reuse and recycle.
With the onset of the monsoon, tens and thousands of saplings are planted all across India and the festival literally is the celebration and creation of new life. During this week, one can find children and elders planting saplings and taking part in the plantation drive to raise awareness about the importance of trees.
The main aim of this Mahotsav is to create enthusiasm and awareness amongst the masses. During this festival, each and every citizen of India is expected to plant a sapling during the entire Van Mahotsav week and pass it on to the next generation. It is the festival of life.
As a part of Van Mahotsav celebrations throughout the country, afforestation drives are launched in a bid to retain the vanishing forest covers of the country. Humans with their greedy needs have cut down a large part of the forest cover. In the name of urbanization and globalization of cities, trees were considered as the major stumbling block. They came in the way of flyovers, roads, hoardings and pavements and hence the easiest solution was to get rid of them altogether. This declining number of trees has brought a major change in climate too. So there is a dire necessity of festivals such as Van Mahotsav, to restore the forest cover in the country.
The dwindling number of rainy days and increase in the intensity of precipitation events raises serious question on the increasing developmental activities taking place at the cost of cutting a large number of trees. India has long been vulnerable to floods, droughts, heat waves, cyclones, and other natural disasters and this trend is increasing with each day. With continuous human intervention against Nature, these disasters can no longer be considered ‘Natural’. An immediate example that comes to our mind is that colossal event that has occurred recently in Northeast floods in Assam, Meghalaya and other states remained extremely critical.
To further highlight the importance of trees, we can take the example of dense mangrove forests growing along the coastal areas of our country, which helped in reducing the devastating effects of the Tsunami in 2004.
They absorbed the oncoming waves and protected a large number of human habitation.
The Van Mahotsav festival of trees is a beautiful initiative to save the environment, to which we owe a lot. Generally, native trees are planted as they readily adapted to the local conditions, integrate into eco-systems and have a high survival rate. Besides, such trees are helpful in supporting local birds, insects and animals as well.
How can we celebrate Van Mahotsav?
The government organizes various plantation drives at various levels to encourage people to plant trees. We can also do our part.
-Van Mahotsav can be celebrated by planting more and more trees every day and by telling more and more people to do the same.
-One can stop buying products that are produced or made by destroying forests and avoid using them.
-Plant trees at your homes, schools, offices and colleges and take part in various awareness campaigns. Initiatives like the free circulation of trees can also be taken up by various volunteers and organisations.
-Workshops can be conducted in schools to teach children about the need for planting trees and how it helps in preventing global warming and reducing pollution.
-We can also practice the 3R rule and lower the need for raw materials from trees and forests.
Let us join hands and save mother earth by doing this small contribution.
& Training Centre
Sechü Zubza, Kohima
(Soil & Water Conservation