A unique annual event that brings everyone together to build a greener future
In Bibhutibhushan’s epic novel Arannak there was a character named Jugolprashad. To his surprise, the narrator of the novel found Jugolprashad planting different trees inside the forest of Lobotulia Boihar! When he was asked the reason behind that seemingly crazy exercise, Jugolprashad replied, “This forest lacks some flower trees, if I plant those, then the forest will look more beautiful.”
Lobotulia Boihar had only Jugolprashad to enhance the beauty of the forest and he did that for nothing, no material gain. The land locked country of Bhutan, however, has many Jugolprashads, and in June 2, they come out in numbers to plant trees to enhance the beauty of an already very beautiful country.
The unusual scene
As a tourist in that country, I didn’t know much about their tree plantation programme. On the morning of June 2, my second day of at Thimpu, it was business as usual for us. Our guide came early in the morning to take us sightseeing in and around Thimpu.
On our way up to Buddha Point (one of highest points of Thimpu valley, offering great view of the city), we saw a good number of people clad in white tea-shirts and doing something in the hills. I didn’t understand anything at that point.
Right after that, we were going up to another hilly area named Modithang at the northern part of Thimpu, I saw the same scene, a good number of people in white tea shirts doing something in the hills. I then asked our guide Yogesh as to what was happening there. He replied that people were planting trees.
I said why? He replied, “To enhance the beauty of the hills.”
“Also there is a world record at stake,” he added.
The world record
The Bhutanese did indeed break the world record.
With a motto of “Let’s begin a greener Bhutan”, the country had entered the Guinness Book of World Records for planting the most number of trees in an hour. The official record says 49,672 trees were planted at Kuenselphodrang, Thimphu, although 50,000 was the number attempted.
The event was organised by Bhutan Eco-Green Initiative Network (BEGIN), an environment conservation project under Peoples Initiative in Celebrating the Sixtieth Anniversary (PICSA), together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
PICSA was formed under Her Majesty Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck as the royal patron to supplement the government’s initiatives for the 60th birth anniversary celebrations of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
PICSA’s project coordinator, Karma Tshering, said a group of 100 volunteers were specially trained for breaking the world record. Those volunteers underwent rigorous training for about three weeks. The men were divided into ten groups and placed at strategic locations to carry out the plantations.
“We could have planted 50,000 saplings, but some weren’t planted properly in line with the Guinness World Record guidelines,” Karma Tshering said.
An official from Guinness World Records in London, Pravin Patel, was present to assess and verify the plantation. Two Bhutanese witnesses, police chief Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel and former minister Kinzang Dorji, and ten stewards from various organisations assisted the official in verifying and assessing the plantations.
The happy volunteers
One of the volunteers, a 20-year-old school drop-out Penden Wangchuck, said he was happy that the team’s effort paid off. “I tried planting about ten trees in a minute. It was tiring but we were confident of beating the world record right from the start,” he said, adding that, during their training, some even managed to plant about 30 trees in a minute.
About 160 volunteers registered for the event, of which 111 were selected. Eleven were kept on standby, should anything happen to the 100 volunteers on the finale.
Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck and Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck witnessed the event, along with cabinet ministers, parliament members, and other dignitaries.
Namgyen Dorji, another volunteer said, it was a great honour for him that he was chosen as a volunteer for the attempt to break the world record. “If I was not chosen, I would have still planted some trees in the hill to beautify our country. It’s a practice and tradition in our country. I have seen my father doing it.”
June 2, the World Environment Day is observed as Social Forestry Day in Bhutan. Forest plantation records date back to the late 1940s, when the first plantation was carried out in Gelephu across 3.20 acres of land.
The annual tree planting activity was re-enforced after June 2 and was declared as Social Forestry Day in 1985 to commemorate the coronation of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, a visionary environmentalist.
The nursery run by the Forestry Department provides saplings free of cost, and this has encouraged people to plant trees. “It may be near their house or school or office, but everyone will share the benefits of a greener community,” said Karma Tshering, the project coordinator of PICSA.Shared from Dhaka Tribune