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Van Mahotsav: The Festival Of Plantation Drive In India

The festival of 'Van Mahotsav' is celebrated every year in the country in a bid to raise awareness about the importance of trees and encourage people to plant more of them

  • The survival of the human race wouldn’t have been possible without trees
  • The festival of ‘Van Mahotsav’ is celebrated every year in the country in a bid to raise awareness about the importance of trees
  • Going by the Van Mahotsav history, the choice of picking the first week of July to celebrate the festival was indeed a visionary move

“A soil adapted to the growth of plants is necessarily prepared and carefully preserved; and, in the necessary waste of land which is inhabited, the foundation is laid for future continents, in order to support the system of the living world.”

– James Hutton

The survival of the human race wouldn’t have been possible without trees. Serving mankind since time immemorial with its shade and cover, food and livelihood resources, trees play a vital role in sustaining life on the planet. As the population in India grows at an uncontrollable rate, the need for more infrastructure and living spaces continues to engorge whatever remains of the forest cover in the country. In fact, according to a report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the total remaining tree cover of India that included forests and non-forest areas was 24.16% in 2015.

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The festival of ‘Van Mahotsav’ is celebrated every year in the country in a bid to raise awareness about the importance of trees and encourage people to plant more of them. The festival finds mass participation of people, including government agencies, civic bodies and educational institutions across the country who come together every year to plant saplings.

According to a report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the total remaining tree cover of India that included forests and non-forest areas was 24.16% in 2015. Wikimedia Commons
According to a report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the total remaining tree cover of India that included forests and non-forest areas was 24.16% in 2015. Wikimedia Commons

 Van Mahotsav History

In order to promote annual tree-planting movement, which is also known as Van Mahotsav, the festival was started on August 21, 1950, by Kulapati Dr KM Munshi, then the honoured Union Minister for Agriculture and Food, to create enthusiasm among masses for forest conservation and planting trees. He planted the first of 108 saplings donated by the Delhi Gujarati Samaj. Rendering the idea to that of a festival where the contribution of the silent sentinels towards the planet would be celebrated rather than just organising a plantation drive, he wanted people to be enthusiastic towards the cause just as one would be during other festivals.

Dr KM Munshi also intended to inculcate consciousness and love for trees among the citizens and popularise planting and tending of trees in farms, villages, and municipal and public lands. Interestingly, the term Van Mahotsav first cropped up in July 1947 after a successful tree plantation drive that was held in Delhi and saw the participation of national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam Azad.

Going by the Van Mahotsav history, the choice of picking the first week of July to celebrate the festival was indeed a visionary move. Marking the onset of monsoon season in most parts of the country, most saplings planted during this period have more chances of survival than the ones planted during other times of the year.

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It is now a week-long festival, celebrated on different days in different parts of India, but usually between 1 July to 7 July. The Van Mahotsav festival began after a flourishing tree planting drive which was undertaken in Delhi, in which national leaders participated. The festival was simultaneously celebrated in a number of states in India. That festival followed the plantation of millions of saplings of diverse species with the energetic participation of local people and various agencies like the forest department. The new awareness spread as the “Chipko Movement” rose in popularity as a crusade to save mother earth.

Van Mahotsav festival was started on August 21, 1950, by Kulapati Dr KM Munshi, then the honoured Union Minister for Agriculture and Food. Wikimedia Commons
Van Mahotsav festival was started on August 21, 1950, by Kulapati Dr KM Munshi, then the honoured Union Minister for Agriculture and Food. Wikimedia Commons

Aims Of The Van Mahotsav Day

The continuous demolishing level of trees in India has been a problem for a long time, and Van Mahotsav is important in creating awareness of the issues. According to the forest department, for every tree felled ten trees should be planted to make up for its loss. The festival raises the awareness of trees among people and highlights the need for planting and tending of trees as one of the best ways to prevent global warming and reduce pollution. It helps spread awareness about the harm caused by the cutting down of trees, and it is expected that every citizen of India will plant a sapling in the Van Mahotsav week.

Some of the objectives of Van Mahotsav day as visualized by Dr KM Munshi are as follows:

  1. Providing alternative fuel options

2. Provide fodder leaves for cattle to relieve the intensity of grazing over reserved forests

3. To increase production of fruits, which could be added to the potential food resources of the country

4. Aid in creating shelter-belts around agricultural fields to increase their productivity

5. Boost soil conservation and prevent further deterioration of soil fertility

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Planting of trees also helps to avoid soil erosion which may cause floods. Apart from all these aids, sowing trees can be extremely effective in slowing down global warming and trees also help in reducing pollution as they make the air cleaner. More than anything else, it offers a natural aesthetic beauty.

On 5th June 2015, Indian Naval Academy Ezhimala also came up with tree plantation drive. Wikimedia Commons
On 5th June 2015, Indian Naval Academy Ezhimala also came up with tree plantation drive. Wikimedia Commons

VAN Mahotsav India

In India, people celebrate Van Mahotsav day by planting trees or saplings in homes, offices, schools and colleges. The various organizations and volunteers have taken up the free circulation of trees as well. An event that sees lakhs of saplings being planted every year, Van Mahotsav is indeed a celebration of life. With the ever-growing, life-threatening perils of global warming and pollution. The festival aims at increasing the green cover of India.

The stress on planting native trees are more, as they most readily adapt to local conditions, supports local biodiversity and have a high survival rate. In order to supply saplings to various organizations and institutions such as schools, colleges and academic institutions, NGOs and welfare organizations for planting trees, state Governments and civic bodies play a vital role. In India, the most suitable time for tree planting in July, as it is the onset of the monsoon season and likely to be more effective.

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As at 2016, tree cover of India (including forests and non-forest areas) was 23.81%. The Government of India has set a target of 33% cover by 2020. In 2015 the State Government of Assam announced that it intended to plant 25 lakh(2.5 million) trees. The officials of Assam said, this would not only benefit the environment but also have a direct influence on the socio-economic development of Assam, which has 70% or its people working in the agricultural sector. Due to the recent state drought, the Maharashtra state government has taken upon itself to give the state a green makeover. The lack of green cover or forests not only disturbs the delicate balance of nature but also harms the ecosystem of the animals. Droughts and floods are a great indicator of this disturbance.

Van Mahotsav festival boosts soil conservation and prevent further deterioration of soil fertility. Wikimedia Commons
Van Mahotsav festival boosts soil conservation and prevent further deterioration of soil fertility. Wikimedia Commons

To lend some encouraging support, even the Indian Army has taken up the plantation drive and is aiming at planting lakhs of tree saplings in the state of Maharashtra. Reportedly, the army and the state government have already planted at least seven or eight lakh trees across Maharashtra’s state capital, Mumbai. On 5th June 2015, Indian Naval Academy Ezhimala also came up with tree plantation drive.

‘The Better India’ alongside ‘NAATA Foundation’ has initiated a program, ‘Plant a Tree and Gift a Living, by planting 5000 fruit trees in Aarey Milk Colony, Mumbai. Each of these saplings needs an approximate amount of Rs 100 for their nourishment over the period of 2-3 years, after which they will be sufficient to supplement the income of the community by adding an additional source of livelihood, while also restoring the tree cover of the area.

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