The festival of forest, Van Mahotsav, which started in 1950 in India, is celebrated from July 1 to 7 every year. This festival of trees, of peace and hope, aims to save Mother Earth. In this festival, every citizen is urged to plant a sapling for greening the motherland and to spread a message to conserve the forests. This beautiful initiative surely helps to save the environment to which we all owe. But, Forests without birds and animals are meaningless.
Forceful encroachment on nature leads to conflict, which spells doom to biodiversity, leading to environmental degeneration. To reduce conflict between man and nature, man and animal, we need to increase the green coverage. Here, we always remember Padma Shri Jadav Payeng, the Forest Man of India, who alone planted 40 million trees over 550 hectares in his 30 years of life.
The state government is planning to plant 75 lakhs seedlings in this festival along with children, students and youths. One of the silent beauties is the adoption model of molehills for schools and colleges. And also, during the celebration, seedlings will be planted in the premises of the universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, industries, courts, gram panchayats and other barren lands.
Plantation of native trees, however, is encouraged as they can readily adapt to the local climate, integrate into the ecosystem, have higher survival rate and support the whole local biodiversity.
No life is possible on the earth without plants. Thus, Van Mahotsav, is the festival of life, peace and hope and creates the enthusiasm among masses for forest conservation and planting trees. Seeing the present day numerous environmental catastrophes, preservation of nature has become an integral part of life.
The planting of trees provides alternative fuel, increases food resources, creates shelter for biodiversity and wind-belts around the fields to increase productivity, provide food for cattle, decorative landscapes, conserves deterioration of soil fertility etc. Trees provide fodder leaves for cattle to relieve intensity of grazing over forests and shades to increase the atheistic value of the landscape and provide small poles and timber for housing and agricultural implements.
Van Mahotsav will help in increasing forest cover and promote fruit and timber trees from non-forests. Open fields, river banks and barren lands can be slowly converted into integrated tree land or semi forests or orchards. Finally through Van Mahotsav, we can bring back our lost forests.
Humans with their greedy needs have cut down globally the forest cover at the rate of about 6 billion trees annually which is the size of 20 football grounds per minute. In the name of urbanization and globalization, such as construction of flyovers, roads, railway tracks, dams, hoardings and pavements, trees are considered as the major restrictive block and get rid altogether.
This declining number of trees has brought a major challenge in climate too. So there is a dire necessity of Van Mahotsav festival to restore the forest cover on non-forest areas of the country.
The festival has now seeped into the hills and villages too, bringing home to the villagers the idea that trees mean better crops, better living conditions, better cattle and more beautiful villages. Unlike the other religious festivals, Van Mohotsava is a symbol of unending movement towards a greener life.
Manipur has now become 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.’
The recent Marangching massive landslide claiming many lives was the meaningful signal.
Poppy plantation in the hill districts is one of the biggest social and environmental challenges facing the state today. If an alternative solution is not found out at the earliest, then we may face an irreparable environmental loss. It is not the law to stop them but it is the mindset to do so.
Schools and colleges should adopt the "one student one tree" scheme, where the responsibility of survival of the tree should lie with the students. This will link a learning experience and make an inseparable bond with the trees.
Now it is our turn to reverse the damage that we have caused and to restore back the balance between nature and man, the first step to change is planting trees. The civil societies, NGOs and meira paibis now need to be involved in the movements of saving the environment. We may also organize a house to house tree plantation campaign.
During the school admission, students must be asked to produce the “Tree Plantation Certificates” just like the birth certificates. This will surely pave the way to achieve our national goal of 33 per cent forest cover. Thus, let us welcome the Van Mahotsav festival by planting at least one tree and nurturing the already existing trees around us as trees are the easiest and best way to solve the environmental crisis.
The only viable industry that we hope to cope with the huge unemployed educated youth of the state is tourism. Tourism means beautiful landscapes full of trees and wildlife.
Therefore in this Van Mahotsav celebration -2022, please join hands for mass tree plantation along with all the family members for sake of the mother earth and for a green and beautiful Manipur.
(The views expressed are personal)